Perhaps it’s my fascination with abandoned places but when it comes to the Old West and the American Frontier, I can’t help but think of Ghost Towns.
Short history lesson: Towns left behind by the flocks of people with prospects of striking it rich. During the five years of the California gold rush over 250,000 miners found over 200 million in gold. The rush radically changed California, boosting the economy and bringing in thousands upon thousands of newcomers into the West. As gold was discovered along ridges and valleys prospectors flocked, creating camps for day-to-day mining, smaller settlements and even some towns. The more people, however, the less got to share in the success, most ending up broke and in ruin. Part of what makes these towns so strange. They are comprised of articles and structures and pieces of this old way of life but also reminders of our greedy past.
After shooting a wedding in Lake Tahoe we took a slight detour to Bodie, one of these left behind towns.
Bodie was one of these typical Gold Rush cities after the discovering of a profitable gold line. People flocked and at one point had an estimated population of 5,000 residents.
Today Bodie is a California Historical Landmark and has been officially registered as a ghost town since 1962. Most of the buildings are in disarray due to a slew of vandalism in the 40’s and the severity of weather each year. The remaining structures were protected by efforts by the Cain family, who had hired caretakers to protect the towns structures over the years until it was officially protected as a California Historical Landmark. There are 110 structures remaining and the grounds are open for visitors year-round. One of my favorite stories is that every year they receive a number of items mailed back to them that tourists have stolen from the town. The items, which can often be as small as nails and glass, usually include a letter of apology, some even suggesting that bad luck and haunts have followed them home as a result.
This is one of the most impressive ghost towns I have seen. The grounds are vast and open to roam. A place were you can freely peek into windows and journey back in time since many of the artifacts and items have remaining untouched for 150 years. Few places in the US give visitors such an honest view of what these old West Days were really like. A journey to a place that time forgot.
Need to know
Time to spend there: 1-2 hours
The road to the actual city is gravel and dirt
Weather conditions vary. Check on the national parks website
I loved visiting. Here are some of my favorite snaps.