My friend Dave told me about this town long before this dream of an adventure road trip came to life. “Go see Bodie. The hair will rise on the back of your neck. It’s a real bonified ghost town. It’s like the people just left everything as it was, and disappeared.” Needless to say, that stayed with me in the back of my mind, and came to the forefront as we were closing in on the surrounding area. That is, the eastern sierras.
There was a late season snow storm, dropped nearly 30 in. of snow in some higher elevations. Our plans to cross through Yosemite via Tioga Pass, Highway 120, were delayed. Wondering what to do with our time, the logical thing to do was visit the nearby hot springs and Bodie, the famous Ghost town. Having never been to a ghost town, maybe once on a school field trip in Massachussetts. I remember seeing a large pane of glass that had been lying against the side of a barn, sinking, sagging, slowly dripping as it succumbed to the pressures of gravity. Visual proof that glass really is a liquid rather than solid.
Entering town, seems like classic old west, just like you imagine it. The post office, the hotel, cantina, church, school house, the old mine, sawmill, everything still there. Preserved by the high desert climate and isolation. Bodie at one point was destined to be capital of California, but the gold ran dry and the weather too extreme to hold any kind of settlement. Near the end, the only business that was doing well was the morgue and funeral home. Famed to be one of the roughest towns in the west, stories of gun fights, betrayal, and the discovery of gold are the legacy of this forgotten place.
The mystery is as you walk through the town, you look in the windows, and you see everything as they left it. It hardly looks like they took anything, they just simply up and left. Or disappeared. It’s hard to describe because you’ve never seen anything like it. Kitchens left with food on the table, teapots on the stove, decaying furniture, and curtains in the windows, forgotten children's toys, bed frames, carriages, mirrors, clothes, bookcases filled with books, I mean these people literally must have just jumped ship or just flew out of dodge, because it’s eerie looking. Where did they go? Why did they leave so fast? Well, sloshing through 20 inches of melting snow in early May, it wasn’t hard to figure out. The weather was brutal, no denying that. And it was sunny and warm in the mid-day. Can you imagine January? and if the supplies didn’t make it to town, you better guard what you have with your life if you want to survive till spring… Here’s to the people who inhabited this town, my hats off to them. To have the courage to finally admitted defeat after trying so hard but never reaching the golden carrot hanging from the string, probably wasn’t that hard when they were starving and miserable winter after winter. On another level, we left New York for similar reasons.
Truly remarkable, a memorium of antiques that is now dedicated to the souls that lived and died there. And a testament to the people that inhabit the surrounding area to this day. It made me think about the early settlers, and the people with enough imagination, grit, hope, dreams, and determination to make the nearly impossible journey across wild America, and settle it. Thinking not of themselves, but the generations that followed. I hope one day we as Americans can come back to that way of thinking, with the knowledge that has been acquired through sacrifice and experience, and expand upon the great foundation that was laid in place physically and spiritually by the first free Americans.