So, this isn’t exactly a hiking trip – but anyone who’s even mildly interested in the history of the American West owes it to themselves to visit this unique State Park just outside the eastern boundary of Yosemite National Park.
The town of Bodie, north of Mono Lake, was a bonafide boomtown. Named for W. S. Bodey, a New York prospector who discovered gold in the area in 1859 and promptly died in a blizzard that winter, the town had a colorful past. In it’s heyday, the town had two banks, a jail, an electric line, a railroad, schools and fire departments – oh, and 65 saloons on a mile-long stretch of Main Street. It had a bustling red light district and Chinatown, and was populated by thieves and cheats of all stripes – the owner of the most profitable mill won it in a crooked lawsuit against his former partner.
Over time, due to a lackluster gold lode and pretty miserable living conditions, the town dwindled down to a few remaining residents, and was eventually taken over by the California State Park System in 1961. The park itself is unique in that the rangers are keeping the remnants of the town in a state of “Arrested Decay” – that is, none of the remaining buildings have been restored, but they are all being kept as they were when Bodie residents moved on to greener pastures.
The end result is that you as a visitor get to walk around the 170 remaining buildings with views that many Bodie-ites probably shared as they were getting ready to leave.
I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most fascinating places I have ever been in California. The history is remarkably well-preserved, and rangers and volunteers are on hand to answer questions about the town’s history, or provide you with a fact-packed walking guide of the town. Fans of California history, ghost towns, or people who just like getting creeped out by looking in old abandoned houses owe it to themselves to make a Bodie pilgrimage.
Bodie State Historic Park is open year-round, but it’s usually only accessible by ski and snowmobile in the winter, and the dirt road you have to use to get to the ghost town is often impassable in wet weather – so be sure to call ahead before you drive out.
See some more pictures I took on my trip last fall by clicking here.