Bodie is indeed a classic. At its peak in 1880 it had a population of around 10,000. Nearly thirty major mines worked round the clock on Bodie Bluff. A few years later the veins were exhausted, and Bodie began its slow slide to a different sort of fame. This slide was precipitated by the fire of 1932. Finally, in 1962, when the Bodie State Historic Park was created, only about five percent of the buildings from its peak remained. But even this small percentage is impressive in ghost town terms, particularly when you realize that there is virtually nothing left of Aurora, Bodie’s next door neighbor!
So people once again flock to Bodie, even though this time it’s only to gaze on the surviving relics. Admittedly, the thrill of discovery is gone. This is a civilized ghost town now. If you can block out your fellow tourists and let your imagination take over, the experience is priceless. You are once again back in the gold rush, and the sights and sounds crowd in. This is certainly a “must see.” And don’t forget the cemetery. Its poignant collection of hopes and dreams makes an ideal spot to look out over the sleeping remains of Bodie below, and to reflect on our own lives as well.
Bodie is easy to get to. Follow Highway 395 to the Mono Lake area. The Bodie turnoff from 395 is between Lee Vining and Bridgeport and is well signed. Part of the thirteen mile entry road is unpaved, but well graded. This is a summer adventure. We went in July to escape the Southern California heat. The Bodie Plateau is 8,000 feet, so it is much cooler. Winters are dreadful. The prospector who first discovered gold at Bodie perished in a blizzard shortly after his discovery. We even had a taste of winter in July! Rain, hail and very cold temperatures greeted us as we arrived. We had come up to do Bodie, Aurora, Masonic, Chemung, and Success. This entailed some wilderness camping and four wheel drive roads, so we were very happy when the storm passed that night and brought perfect exploring weather for the next four days.
Click below for a look at Bodie, and a peek at our campsite on the back side of Bodie Bluff by the old tailings pond.