Bodie "Nothing Endures But Change"


When we went to Yosemite awhile back, Mike had wanted to stop at Bodie on the way home. It ended up being too far for the time that we had left on that trip, so we skipped it. To be honest, a ghost town sounded cool, but it wasn't on my top 10 to see, and Yosemite was so mind-blowing, I was fine with that.

Last weekend we were in June Lake (more posts on that to follow at some point), which is about an hour south of Bodie, so this time we mosey'd on over. We took his truck because he had been there before and was familiar with the terrain. The road in is off of the 395, and is about 10 miles of paved road at the start before transitioning into 3 miles of a dirt/gravel bumpy washboard of a "road" before you get to the historic park entry station to get in. After having seen it, I feel like a smooth, paved road would just not be an appropriate entryway for the town you're about to see after.

Just to backtrack for a minute, the 395 (the freeway essentially from LA to June Lake) has a number of abandoned buildings and ghost town-ish groups of structures in varying states of decay along it. However, Bodie is a concentrated group of about 100 of them. It was a mining boomtown and went from about 7,000 residents at its peak to 120 people in 1920 shortly before it had a fire and became abandoned. There is also a graveyard on a hill, and a cluster of homes that belonged to Chinese residents (set apart from the rest of the town which must have been highly segregated).

After the lumpy drive in, there's a parking lot situated between the town and the cemetary. From the parking lot there are a few roads in that are lined with former houses, businesses, the mine buildings, a church, a gym, a schoolhouse... a self contained city, basically. All abandoned, spooky and amazingly cool.

There was only one home that we saw that we were able to go inside of (the one with the baby crib in it- see photo below). The rest of the photos here were taken through windows (so any figures you see in them are, unfortunately, probably reflections and not ghosts). The striking thing about the town is that it is in what they refer to as "arrested decay"; meaning that they are leaving everything untouched and allowing it to disintegrate over time. To me, that's a bit of a shame as there is so much in the homes and structures that is of historical significance and even just aesthetically beautiful (carved pool table, inlaid furniture, etc). But I'm sure restoration is cost prohibitive, and there's an impact to seeing decaying homes and rooms that doesn't necessarily lie in perfectly preserved museum exhibits.

As you walk through the town and look inside the structures, you can't help but wonder about the life that was in them. I read a bit about the town, there's a good amount of facts and stories online, but it's just such a fascinating place for the imagination to wander. I used to get this overwhelming feeling of insignificance in history class when we would learn about "the people of the day" who "used to (blah blah blah)" (clearly I paid a lot of attention in those classes)- but it seemed so minimizing to me to just say "people of the day" as if they weren't individuals with thoughts and emotions and wants and loves and losses- but rather one mass group that all did or didn't all do the same thing. Walking through Bodie makes you wonder who those individuals were, what they went through and if one day anyone will be paying $5 a head to look at a room full of my dusty stuff that is around long after I'm gone (doubt it- it's mostly Ikea- that stuff won't hold up).

While we were there, the day turned from sunny and hot to cold and stormy with loud cracks of thunder and lightening over the hills (GHOSTS!)

They do have a museum/gift shop that had amazing objects in there. From a black hearse carriage to clay marbles, they are possessions of the people who lived in the town. One of the most mesmerizing for me was a vial with a cork on it. It was a "tear catcher" or a "weeping bottle". Meant to do what the name implies, and catch tears of grief after a loved one's death. On the first anniversary of the death, the tears were poured out of the vial and onto the grave. Judging by the cemetery's headstones, a vial wouldn't be enough for some of the deaths, there were many, many babies and toddlers in there.

There was also a letter with beautifully inked penmanship that was a poem for an aunt, "When the golden sun is setting, And your mind from care is free, When of others you are thinking, Will you sometimes think of me?" Written by Myrtle Summers in 1890, who probably never imagined a stranger would be posting her words on a blog 125 years later. Or maybe she did, she sounds like a smart girl.