In June, 2012 my family took a family vacation to the Eastern Sierra area. This was the site of many past family vacations throughout my life and I am fortunate enough to travel in this area with my entire family again. For this trip, I am thrilled to bring my wife and son. Although Heather visited this area a few times before, she and I had never been here together and I was really looking forward to sharing my memories of the area with her and Ryan.
After a quick drive from Las Vegas to Lone Pine via Death Valley, we met my folks and brother and sister-in-law in Lone Pine, California. We took a few side trips including a drive up to Whitney Portal and the Alabama Hills. The next day of the trip north on the 395 highway found us in Lee Vining, CA and prepared ourselves for Bodie, CA.
Bodie, is an old west ghost town settled in the hills about 20 miles north of Mono Lake. Built during the Gold Rush of the 1870s Bodie was a rough and tumble old west town which boasted many saloons, brothels, churches and even a “chinatown”. Time and a few fires significantly reduce the town in size. The town slowly lost its population until the Post Office closed in 1942. In the 1962 Bodie was designated a State Historic Park. Under control of the State of California, Bodie is in a state of “arrested decay”. The goal is to preserve the buildings which were standing in 1962 by replacing roofs, windows etc…
In Lee Vining, we fueled up the jeep and “powered” up Conway Grade. Once on top, we proceeded to the turnoff to Bodie, The drive in is now mostly paved, as you continue to climb in altitude. On the way in we spotted a few deer in the high prairie. You can tell when you are getting close when the road turns to dirt. Over one last hill and you can see in the distance the famous stamp mill on the hillside over Bodie.
Exploring Bodie is new every time you visit. I have been at least 10 times in my life and each time it is different depending upon who you go with, time of year, weather and most importantly the number of other visitors. Slowly Heather, Ryan and I explored the remains of the town. Artifacts are placed in the windows and invite you to visit each building to see the remnants of a by gone era. The most striking thing of each building is the rustic, decrepit condition of the buildings is contrasted by the quality of some of the ruins. In one building exists the most ornate wood burning stoves you will ever see.
One of the fun surprises of this trip was that I got to drive the roads of Bodie. My mom has a medical condition that makes it difficult for her at high elevations. Considering the Bodie is at 8400 ft above sea level she was doing very well, but her explorations where limited. For her consideration, the rangers at Bodie allowed us to driver her into the center of town to drop her off and pick her up. I was more than happy to volunteer to pick her up, it is not every day you get to take you jeep into the center of Bodie.
Ryan and I walked back to the parking lot and got loaded up into the jeep. We left the parking lot and down the main road around the town. As I approached Green Street, I made a left and was soon on my way back in time. I slowly drove Green Street and paused in front of the old Methodist church. I was more than happy to pause and wait for other visitors to cross the road as this would slightly prolong my tour. As I proceeded into town, I noted how narrow the streets are compared to modern towns. Almost everyone waived and Ryan and I, as if we were some form of royalty.
Soon, I found myself in the center of town to pick up my mom at the Bodie hotel. While there, I asked my sister-in-law, Kelly to snap some pictures of the jeep in Bodie. I am pretty sure my brother was laughing at me, but I really didn’t care, this was just too cool.
I was only in town for a few minutes. The purpose was to pick up my mother. The reason for the ban of cars in town is undoubtedly to prevent congestion, but also in my mind to create the illusion of being back in time. I did not want to ruin the experience for other visitors any more than I already had.
All too soon, I was back at the parking lot waiting for everyone else to get back together. Once we gathered up, we drove down the road towards the picnic area. As a special treat for Ryan, we allowed him to ride in the front seat of the jeep for the short trip to the picnic grounds. This made his day. After a quick-lunch, we loaded up and headed out towards Masonic.
But that is an adventure for another time. Please be sure to see more of my photos of Bodie on my photography site.