Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Last time, we said we'd talk about two days of exploring south of Coleville. The first day kind of got cancelled, although we took a little trip out a side road into the Slinkard Wildlife Range. It is a winter retreat for deer, but the only wildlife we saw that day was one coyote.

The big trip was Tuesday, down to Bodie State Historic Park, a genuine California gold mine ghost town.
First view of Bodie - four photos stitched together.
Bodie was named after Bill Bodey who discovered gold here in 1859, and a lot of gold was taken out over the years. Bodey never got rich, however, as he froze to death in a blizzard three months after finding his gold!

First order of business, after a few pictures, was to watch a 30 minute movie about the history of the town. One thing was stressed in the film: Bodie was a wild and wicked mining camp for sure, but more than that, it was home to as many as 10,000 citizens (in 1879). It was a real home, where people went to church, joined the Masonic Lodge or the Odd Fellows. They had cultural events, they attended theater, they went to dances sponsored by the Miners Union. We were urged to remember this and to look on Bodie as a home as well as a wild west town with 65 saloons, a number of gambling halls, and a row of one-room cabins called "cribs" behind Main Street where the miners and others could spend the last of their money with the loose ladies!
J.S. Cain residence. Cain was Bodie's principal property owner.
Kept in a state of "arrested decay."
The iconic view of Bodie: the Methodist Church, erected in 1882. The only other church in town was Catholic, also built in 1882 but destroyed by fire in 1928.
Seldom have we ever spent five and a half hours in any single activity, but this was one that could have taken us many hours more. Our regular readers will remember that Suzy's mobility scooter, Big Red, has had some problems lately, but new batteries and a new motor / transaxle took care of that. Big Red did the job all day long with power to spare.

Readers may also remember that I've had trouble with the knee that was replaced over a year ago, and walking is not always easy. With my handy walking stick (I hate to use the word "cane") I stumped around that town and its cemetery without a hitch.

Early in our visit, we were greeted by the local Ranger, whom we call Ranger Jim. He probably saw these two elderly handicapped individuals bravely facing the day and took us under his wing. Ranger Jim talked to us quite a while, pointing out this or that feature, making suggestions for easy access.

He pointed out the metal siding on many of the buildings, explaining that it was old tin cans, opened and flattened out, then nailed or screwed to the wooden walls. Winters get so cold in Bodie (down to minus 20 degrees) that the residents used anything they could get their hands on for insulation. Fruit and vegetable cans, oil cans, 5-gallon kerosene and gasoline cans from Carson City, big cans, little cans. Waste not, want not for sure!

When Suzy began to drive up the ramp to the boardwalk to get into the museum and visitors center, Ranger Jim jumped to help push her up the ramp (not necessary at all) and again up another ramp into the building itself. And when we exited, he was right there to guarantee that she would not drive straight off the edge of the boardwalk and crash to the ground below!
Ranger Jim and Suzy in front of the Miners Union Building, now the visitors center and museum.

Toward the end of our town visit (and before our picnic lunch and visit to the cemetery) we met up with Ranger Jim again. I commented that it sure would be delightful to be able to tour more of the old buildings; most of them are closed, but "through the window" views are available in some.
Closed building, but note the large sheets from old tin cans.
Through the window" shot at a residence. I had to hold the camera tightly against the window glass. 
I was able to get into the Methodist Church, but only as far as the vestibule, the Miller Home, and the Miners Union Hall, which housed the museum and visitors center. With more access, visitors would actually be able to count the poker chips, see the poker hands, and look at the whiskey bottles. Ranger Jim agreed that it would be splendid. His response was, "That's why I'm glad I have all the keys! In the winter when I'm often the only person around, I can enjoy myself."

Then I commented that I had noticed a new roof on one of the buildings. He told me that their maintenance people continue to take necessary steps to preserve the buildings in a state of "arrested decay." We had heard that phrase the first time we visited Bodie with our kids some forty plus years ago. The town is kept in pretty much the shape it was in when the last residents left. Ranger Jim said that they do try to not even blow the dust off the artifacts inside. Visitors aren't allowed to touch them, and even the outdoor piles of rubbish are off limits. Nothing is to be moved from where it is found, certainly nothing is to be taken except photographs.
Looking back into Bodie from the cemetery.
We'll be showing you more of those photographs and telling about our Bodie visit in future installments of ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. I just love Bodie, especially when there aren't many people around. Such a great place for photos and you got some really good ones of those old buildings.

  2. Thanks for the tour. We always enjoy ghost towns and their history. Some very nice pictures, as well.

  3. Sounds like Ranger Jim showed you a good time in ole Bodie. Me thinks the ranger wasn't too busy today. My favorite, besides the church, of course, was the tin can wall.

  4. I was on a Jeep trip to Bodie lots of years ago - looks just the same, and your photos brought back great memories! I'd love to see it again.

  5. Looks like a very interesting place. Glad you wrote about it.

  6. What an interesting place ... I always enjoy outdoor museums of this nature.

  7. What an interesting old town. Thanks for the tour, history lesson and great photos!

  8. I especially found the flattened tin cans very interesting. Too bad Ranger Jim didn't give you a sneak peak inside some of the buildings.

  9. We love old ghost towns and seek them out wherever we are. We've been to a couple in the Tucson area and would like to see more of them. We enjoyed your blog today very much. Keep the photos coming.

    The tin cans remind me of when we lived in the Ivory Coast, Africa. Our houseboy and the guardians all saved our cans and applied them to their "houses". Nothing went to waste over there and our full trash can would be picked over by the hired help and the poor trash man didn't have much to pick up.

    Whiskey bottles were saved and filled with peanuts and sold along the side of the road.

  10. What an interesting place! I've always wanted to visit Bodie, and now I want to even more. Thanks for the tour.

  11. We have wanted to see Bodie for some time but it has just never worked out. Thanks for sharing and for all your wonderful photos. So nice to have your own personal concierge!!

  12. So glad I now have the correct blog address. Beautiful picture of Yosemite National Park. Matters of fact, all the pictures are GREAT. Curious why Bill Bodey discovered the area but decided to spell the named Bodie. Do you know why? Really interesting about the cans. Five and a half hours in one area is amazing but I think I can see why. Thanks for the great tour of this neat town.

  13. Thanks for sharing your pictures and thoughts on Bodie. Every time we were near there, the road was always closed due to snow. We're always too early, or too late. Isn't that true of so many things in life?

  14. I wonder if a person can stay in a state of "arrested decay"


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