I think we were on the way to Virginia Lakes that July afternoon in 1970, Dad driving his '56 Ford pickup north on Hwy 395 until he saw another dirt road, this time heading east, that grabbed his sense of adventure. It was how we spent our mid-days every summer vacation, between morning fishing and evening camp fires - finding the road less traveled between Bishop and Lee Vining in the Eastern Sierras.
There were no signs (per usual) telling us where we were going or that we weren't welcome. The pickup bounced through the ruts, and up the side of a steep hill. We traveled for a very long time - especially in teen-age-girl-time. Near the crest we stopped when we came to old mine tailings, and a couple very weathered wood buildings. I remember we both thought we had found a hidden treasure! It didn't look like anyone had been there in many years.
We continued to the top, and couldn't believe what else we had "discovered" - a ghost town of maybe fifty metal and wood structures, more tailing piles and mine equipment, and.....wait, is that a US flag and a California flag blowing in the breeze? Just where are we?
It seemed like several minutes that the little town was all ours, but it was probably only a few seconds before Dad said "Oh Geez! I bet this is Bodie!"
Which of course it was, and we'd just snuck in the back door :-)
I don't remember if we spent much time looking around, and I don't remember going back to the highway through the front door - but the memory of "finding" that ghost town is one of my favorites.
|A well outside the morgue with the Cain residence to the left and the Boon Store and Warehouse across the steet|
I couldn't wait to see it with Bill. After those last three miles when the pavement is replaced with dusty washboard (felt sorry for that white Prius behind us), we both said "Oh wow" at the same time.
45 years later, and it is still an amazing discovery!
|Marked only as "Kelley" on the map, this is one of many buildings with siding made of vegetable cans, cut and rolled flat - early recycling at its best|
Since becoming a State Park in 1962, Bodie has not undergone any restoration, instead it is maintained in "arrested decay". Rust is not removed, wood is not protected, roofs are repaired but not replaced.
|Weather and age take their natural toll|
|A glimpse into the past|
|Boone Store on the corner of Green and Main|
|Old globe on a desk in the school house - last students here in 1942|
|Toys remain in a back room of what became a boarding house in the 1920's, originally a general store in 1880|
|Geological and historical items preserved in the museum/visitors' center|
Peeling wallpaper, brittle velvet chairs, and crystal bar ware show signs that Bodie was quite the civilized town in its heyday. There were several transitions before the last resident moved away - A telephone switchboard, gasoline pumps, and power poles reflect the several transitions Bodie made before the Cain family sold the whole town to the state.
|Several residences had wallpaper in every visible room|
|Switchboard in hotel lobby|
There are a couple dirt roads visible beyond Bodie, but I have no idea if one of them is our "back-door route", I doubt that road still exists.
The preservation of the past makes Bodie a photographers' dream, and every other person had a camera. Many had tripods or unipods with big, expensive equipment. One such gentleman asked if he could photograph Tessa with a couple who are visiting from England and miss their doggie.
So now Tessa will be known in another country as she is apparently known here. See, just 15 minutes before, we were on the boardwalk outside the museum when we heard "Is that Tessa?" from the street in front. Uh, yes it is!
We quickly realized it was a neighbor from the RV park who had shared a morning doggie walk. Of course they don't know our names, and we don't know theirs. But Tessa......
The sun was very bright, but with lots of shade it was a perfect day to enjoy a couple hours in this wonderful place. The stories of so many are captured here. Miners and businessmen, school teachers and bartenders, gun slingers and law men, morticians and doctors - and a dad and his teen-age daughter who, for just a flash, discovered all of it on a warm July afternoon.
|The remaining firehouse was rebuilt by the CCC in the 1930's. Lack of adequate water systems resulted in devastating fires in 1892 and 1932|