Bodie is a gold mining ghost town nestled between the hills of the Eastern Sierras. At its heyday during California’s gold rush in 1800’s Bodie had a population of 10.000 and quite an unsavory reputation. Killings happened on a daily basis. Robberies, stage hold ups, and street fights made life exciting for Bodie residences.
A visitor in 1881 wrote that Bodie was “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion”. “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”, a little girl wrote the phrase in her diary as her family was taking her to this remote town.
Of course now, it’s hard to tell that all of this wickedness happened.
Jack and I arrived in Bodie slightly ahead of the impending afternoon storm.
As we approached the entrance, we suddenly realized that we didn’t have enough cash to pay the $7/person entrance fee. I begged, cajoled, and finally after I tried to hand over a $20 Canadian bill (left over from my Quebec roadtrip), the ranger waved us on and told us to pay at the museum where they do have a credit card machine.
Phew, that was a relief. I didn’t think he would seriously not let us through. Seriously, this town was in the middle of nowhere and I felt like we’d driven forever from our campground in Yosemite.
The sceneries we passed was impressive: sage dotted rolling hills with snow-capped peaks of the Sierras in the background. There was not much of nothing else. It was a barren and a forbidding land.
I’d wanted to visit Bodie for as long as I’d known of its existence. It didn’t disappoint. Even though only 5% of the buildings remained, there was still plenty to see. The buildings in Bodie just begged to be photographed. Each one is unique in character, the red of its wood construction stands in contrast against green grass and blue sky.
There’s a self-guided tour pamphlet that tells you about the previous occupants of each building on the site. You can even go inside some of the houses and catch a glimpse of life in gold rush era. Some of the furniture and paraphernalia are remarkably well preserved.
Nowadays, Bodie isn’t abandoned anymore. The historical park receives 200.000 annual visitors. Hardcore ghost town aficionados might be disappointed in Bodie’s seemingly sterile situation: areas that are deemed dangerous to visitors have been cordoned off and on weekends the site can appear overrun by visitors.
I’m not hardcore enough to be disappointed. I was having a blast exploring the town, peeking into windows, trying every doorknob, and imagining the shenanigans that have taken place right here in Bodie.
Would you visit a ghost town? Here’s a ghost town in Chile that’s also worth a visit.
Bodie Ghost Town
Self-guided tour map: $2
Guided tours: See here for prices and schedules
Driving time: 7 hours drive from San Francisco. The last 3 miles is unpaved but 2 wheel drive should be fine.
No food or water.
What’s really cool is that Bodie is even open to visitors in winter, during which time it’s only accessible by skis, snowshoes, or snowmobiles.
NOTE: Even if you’re not a ghost town fan, the drive up and down Highway 395 is so scenic it’s worth doing if you’re ever in California. Highly recommended.