Friday, November 21, 2008

Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie

This past summer we made several trips to the Sierra Nevada mountains to visit and hike near some of the historic mountain passes. This began as a short visit to Lake Tahoe to see brother John and his wife Patti Inman. We returned again and again to seek out the high alpine lakes, find the Pacific Crest Trail, and see the treacherous precipices that were crossed by 19th century pioneers.

Since my passion for the past four decades has been historic preservation, I wanted to see the ghost town of Bodie. Bodie is a mining boom and bust town nestled in the mountains near the great Owens River valley. The climate is severe, but the photos from mid-summer don't show that. In its heyday it was infamous for lawlessness. It was so bad that a small girl is reputed to have written this in her diary when told they were moving to Bodie-- "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie".

Now this little "chimney" structure is quite charming - and is a vent cap. I suppose the snow is so deep in the winter that it was a way to assure airflow for this:

No waiting!

The weathered wood has been stabilized, but buildings are not restored. The place is stark and beautiful in summer. A friend went to Bodie a couple of months later, and snows had already begun.

These vestiges of the town are more evocative than a sign stating that "here at this spot stood the mining town of Bodie". The remaining buildings and artifacts link us to the past through their physical presence.

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