Friday, May 06, 2011


Bodie, ghost town of the gold fever era
Ghost town experts will tell you that Bodie is one of the best if not THE best ghost town in the world. Located near Mono Lake on the California Nevada border, it was one of those old mining towns that sparked up like a flame, burnt brightly with gold fever, then flickered and died.

Bodie is off the beaten track. On Tuesday 3 May 2011, it was particularly off the beaten track. Melting snow and mud meant visitors had to walk the last mile and a half of the dirt road just to reach the town. Parts of the road were dry, parts muddy quagmires, parts covered with snow that threatened to slip you up or swallow your foot up to mid shin as it broke through the icy crust. The high altitude makes your heart pump and has you gasping for air. It took us nearly an hour to walk that mile and a half.

Once there we found the town only accessible in parts. Icy streams gushed on either side of the path and parts were marshy with water. Snow drifts huddled up against the northern exposures of crooked houses and buildings. The best footwear would have been Wellington boots as it was slippery, wet, treacherous. Of about a dozen other explorers, only a few wore adequate footwear. A German couple wore waxed hiking boots but I saw one girl in sandals and a young man had decided to go barefoot rather than ruin his shoes.

But it was worth it. This is what Virginia City would have looked like in about 1860, when the tents had given way to wood buildings but brick or stone edifices were still rare. Certain vistas reminded me of Grafton T. Brown's 1861 lithograph of Virginia City, where you can see outhouses and mine equipment behind frame houses on a steep hill. The boardwalk at Bodie was welcome and when we arrived in Virginia City later that day I realized how deadly her steep streets would have been with icy snow and mud on them.

The firehouse at Bodie was especially gratifying because it still had some hose carriages and jumpers inside, plus a row of hanging coal oil lamps. Here are a few more pictures of this amazing ghost town of the gold-fevered West.

Bodie's Firehouse on a snowy spring day
Coal oil lamps in Bodie's firehouse

Bodie's firehouse with Mine Buildings behind

On Bodie's boardwalk 3 May 2011
Richard & Jennifer enjoying a breather

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