The car struggles on the slight uphill. We pass rugged hills with little wind-torn bushes, large herds of disheveled sheep grazing in roadside ditches and cracked roads. Here in California at 2500 meters above sea level, the weather is not kind. Hot summers with strong sun, cold nights and snowy winters eat away at the landscape. In fact, this area in the Sierra Nevada Mountains has the most cold nights per year in the entire United States, even in the summer the nights drop to freezing. The paved road ends and a shaky and unplaned dirt road takes over. It shakes so much that we have to crawl forward with the car, it would have been almost as fast to walk. But now we see the goal. Out on the open plain are the houses scattered from the ancient town of Bodie. Once one of California's largest cities, now a ghost town.
Bodey's history began in 1859 when William Bodey found gold in the mountains just above Mono Lake. Gold mining began in the area on a small scale, but by 1877 word had spread around the world and Bodie had become the hottest place in North America for prospectors, prospectors, saloonkeepers and general crooks. In 1879, there were almost 2000 houses here and nearly 8000 inhabitants. Bodie flourished. But all the gold brought not only wealth, but also a lot of crime. Shootings occurred almost daily. A little girl in San Francisco, before moving to Bodie, wrote a quote in her diary that later became known throughout the Wild West: "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie."
Today, not all 2000 houses remain on the plain, only 200 houses have survived over the years. It is almost unbelievable that any houses at all have survived all the fires, earthquakes and inhospitable winters. Many residents froze to death here in the winters, mostly on foot to and from Bodie in heavy snowstorms, but also inside their houses at night. There isn't a tree for many miles, so firewood was both expensive and hard to come by. The nearest sawmill was three miles away on non-existent roads. Far, far worse than the terribly bad dirt road we drove here on.
Bodie was a thriving Wild West town for nearly 10 years, before new gold veins were found elsewhere in the country and the gold diggers began to move on. However, the shrinking population survived until 1932, when a fire destroyed almost the entire town. Those who had not yet left saw the fire as a sign that it was time to abandon Bodie. The houses were left wind by wave and after 1950 no one lived in Bodie anymore. Today you can walk around and look into the windows and still see tablecloths on the tables, peeling wallpaper, bullet holes in the walls and coffee pots on the stove. It feels like you just left everything and left in a hurry. The city was preserved over time. The only thing missing to fill all the senses with the glory days of the mining town is the song of the mine, a few gun shots and the smell of horse shit and gunpowder.
In one of the old buildings, a summer open museum has been built, with old newspapers, photos, logs, tools and paintings. Otherwise there is no service here in Bodie. Neither water nor souvenir t-shirts are available for purchase and although there was once a gas station in the village, the pump has long since rusted to pieces. There are also no costumed summer workers here playing gun-toting villains – this is purely a ghost town, not a theme park. Here you pay entry and travel back in time. A paradise for all photographers and a chance for the whole family to get close to life in the truly wild west.
On the way from the city, you can stop and walk in the old cemetery. About 80 headstones remain to testify to the short and hard lives that many lived here in Bodie.
Bodie is a long way from the main tourist routes and is not easy to find, but if you are passing through Yosemite on your way north in California or on the way to Las Vegas, Bodie is a must. It's fine if you have a 8WD car and bring cash for entry ($5/$XNUMX per adult/child). Don't forget water either!
Have you been here? What did you think of the destination?
Travel blogger, gastronaut, photographer and family adventurer with over 55 countries in his luggage. Eva loves trips that include beautiful nature, hiking boots and well-cooked food. On the travel blog Rucksack she takes you to all corners of the world with the help of her inspiring pictures and texts.