Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Road Trip: Bodie, California!

Last week I shared some photos of our recent road trip through California and Nevada. It was a trip to show Denis more of his adopted country, and it was a trip that had periodic stops along the route that reminded me of my ten-year-old self. 

That trip when I was ten was very memorable. My maternal grandparents, my mother, and I loaded up the Chevy and drove from central Illinois to visit some relatives in Grass Valley, California. There were a lot of stops... a lot of memories. It was wonderful for me to revisit places like Lake Tahoe, as well as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, but I had even more fun exploring new places like Yosemite and the place I'm going to share with you today.

Ever since I lived in Utah, I've loved to visit old ghost towns. One of my favorite places here in Arizona is an old mining town that came oh-so-close to becoming deserted, but it proved too tough to die. When I learned that there was a ghost town that is a state historical park in California, I couldn't rest until I learned more. Once I'd visited a few websites and seen some photos, I knew that Denis and I simply had to visit Bodie State Historic Park.

Denis and I headed south on U.S. Highway 395, and somewhere between Coleville and Walker, we spotted our favorite sign of the entire trip: WELCOME TO THE QUIET SIDE OF CALIFORNIA. The difference between the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada and the eastern slopes could not be more profound.  When we made the turnoff onto State Route 270, we were ecstatic when the last few miles into Bodie were unpaved AND we had to put the Jeep into four-wheel drive. (Yes, we are a bit strange, but we're happy.)

Bodie is at an elevation of 8400 feet, and to the west and south we could see the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada. At one point on the road we could see Mono Lake in the distance. It was stark and quiet and beautiful and lonely. 

(If you want to see any of the following photos in their original sizes, left click any one of them, and you'll be able to see them in a new window that "magically" appears.)

Bodie, California

The old Standard Mill in Bodie

Gold was discovered in 1859 by William S. Bodey. By the 1870s the gold was running out until a fortuitous cave-in exposed a rich vein of ore that turned Bodie into a boomtown. At its height, Bodie boasted 7,000 to 8,000 residents and somewhere in the neighborhood of sixty-five saloons.

The gold ran out for good in 1942, and everyone left. This is when a miracle of sorts happened. The family of Bodie's last major landowner, James S. Cain, hired caretakers to watch over the town and protect it from looters and vandals. In 1962, California State Parks purchased the town to preserve it.

Now Bodie is in a state of "arrested decay." Buildings have had their roofs repaired, and walls have been stabilized, but nothing has been restored. Walking through Bodie's streets is absolutely fascinating!

Methodist Church
One of the first buildings you come across is the old Methodist Church. 

Bodie's Methodist Church

The McDonell/Dolan House

The D.V. Cain house

(L) the Miller house (R) the James Stuart Cain house

The James Stuart Cain house

The James Stuart Cain house was my favorite in Bodie. I imagine that if I show you another photo of the place, you'll understand why!

James Stuart Cain house
I always did prefer a house with plenty of windows!

Main Street, Bodie
This is definitely a photo that needs to be seen in its original size. There are four main buildings. From left to right-- starting with the brick building in the distance-- the Dechambeau Hotel (originally the Post Office), the I.O.O.F. Hall right next to it, the Miners Union Hall is the building with the "three-stepped" roof, and on the right, you can see a window of the Morgue. 

L to R: Dechambeau Hotel, I.O.O.F. Hall

Swazey Hotel

The Swazey Hotel is right across the street from the Dechambeau, I.O.O.F., Miners Union, and Morgue. Today it's rather popular due to its "lean"-- and I'm not talking Jack Spratt's wife. As I said earlier, Bodie is in a state of arrested decay, and the Swazey Hotel is one of the best places to see this.

Nearest building: the Miller Boarding House for single miners
Building on right with cupola: the Schoolhouse

A glimpse inside a schoolhouse window

Look at me full-size!

The photo above definitely needs to be seen full-size. From left to right: the wooden building is the Firehouse, in the background is the Standard Mill, and the big building to the right is the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel.

Inside the Wheaton and Hollis Hotel
Inside the Dechambeau Hotel

Looking through the window of the Boone Store & Warehouse

Looking through the window of the Boone Store & Warehouse

You could fill your tank at the pumps outside the Boone Store

The Wheaton and Luhrs Store is in the background

See what I mean about this place being a time capsule? Whenever I'm in a place like Bodie, my imagination runs absolutely wild! But remember what I said about the ride into Bodie? When we left, I had to have Denis stop the Jeep so I could take a photo of the view of the Sierra Nevadas from the dirt and gravel road....

The road to Bodie
Since Denis and I didn't get a chance to visit Death Valley National Park, I'm thinking about taking a trip back to see it-- and I want to add another visit to Bodie. Why? Because I completely forgot to stop by the gift shop!

With that last laugh, I'll end this visit to my favorite ghost town on the quiet side of California. I've got to start planning our next trip!



  1. Those 'photos are fabulous, Cathy! ANd what a great reminder that California is a lot more than palm trees and Hollywood. I love those smaller places and out-of-the-way towns, and I'm glad you and Denis got to see some of them.

  2. Never heard of Bodie before, how interesting, I like ghost towns and old western towns.

  3. Really enjoyed reading about and seeing the photos of Bodie. Thanks for sharing them with us.

    1. You're welcome, Lynn. Glad you enjoyed them!

  4. Thanks for the travelogue and the photos. I knew nothing of this part of California, not about old mining towns, not about this one, certainly.
    So, appreciate the information and photos. And I like the Cain house with many windows, too.

    1. The Cain house is quite fancy compared to the others. Hopefully those windows didn't let in the bone-chilling winter cold!


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