Bodie (8,379 feet) is well-worth a visit; this is one of California’s best preserved old mining towns. At the height of the mining days (1872-1882), Bodie’s population swelled to around 10,000 people. In the early 1900’s it was plagued by fires and earthquakes. Eventually gold ran out of the nearby mines and the town slowly died, like so many other California mining towns. However, Bodie, unlike so many other California mining towns – still stands – some inhabitants still lived in Bodie in the 1940’s – it became a state park in 1962. Even though there are numerous buildings still standing, this is only approximately 5% of the amount of buildings that were here in the 1880’s.
The famous quote about Bodie is from a girl who was moving here from San Francisco. She said, “Goodbye God, I’m going to Bodie”!
If you look at the stark landscape, remote location, it’s high elevation and bitter cold winters – this quote makes perfect sense.
However, if you look at this another way Bodie is located among some of California’s most picturesque scenery; the sheep herder with his dogs working among hundreds of sheep in the pretty green meadows in mid Spring on the way to Bodie, the impressive snow covered peaks of the high Sierra Nevada mountains to the west, the brilliance of the sky on a bright blue day, the vastness of the milky way and stars overhead at night and the inviting smells of the vegetation at this elevation.
There are two ways to reach Bodie: one way is to take Highway 270 off of the 395 about 10 miles south of Bridgeport. For ease of transportation this is the best way. The road is paved until 3 miles before the town of Bodie. The rest of the drive is on improved but sometimes rough dirt – although a bit dusty, during the summer months. It is easily passable for 2wd vehicles. The second route is to take the 167 off of the 395 and then turn onto a dirt road that takes off from the northside of the 167. This road is a bit shorter than the other route, but it is dirt the entire way and some sections can be a bit rough. A car can still make it to Bodie on this road. We have driven into Bodie on both roads as late as late January. This is quite rare as usually there is enough snow to block the roads. Normally both routes are closed in the winter due to snow.
Bodie rests in the upper end of a small valley, butted up against the many mine shafts. The mine tailings are a wonderful mix of oranges, yellows and reds. Colors become muted at this elevation (probably due to the strong sunshine and elements) and over time tend to fade.
The town is spread out along numerous dirt streets. Today approximately 100 buildings still stand – a far cry from the approximately 2,000 structures that stood during the height of it’s mining days. Buildings we recommend seeing include the old schoolhouse (if you removed the thick dust inside and straightened things out a bit – school could soon resume), the museum containing a wonderful diversity of era artifacts, the saloon, and the general store. Most buildings are locked but visitor’s can enter a few of them. Some of the buildings still have the original boardwalks. Step onto these and peer through the warped glass windows. What you see will be like stepping back in time.
Also worth seeing is the small cemetery just outside of town – there is no parking here along the dirt road, so visitors must walk from the main parking lot.
Parking is in a dirt lot above town (just past the employee parking). Bodie is normally open from 9am to 6pm Memorial Day weekend through September 30 (unfortunately visitor’s are not allowed to enter Bodie outside of these normal hours). The museum is open daily 9:30am to 5pm from Memorial Day weekend through mid October. Admission is $8 per person and $2 is charged per pet (dogs must be on a leash). For another two dollars you will receive a very informative California State Parks guidebook to Bodie including information about specific buildings.
At minimum allow at least an hour here – several hours at a less rushed pace. There are no services in Bodie – bring your own water and snacks. For more information about Bodie, please visit the best independent website about the town: www.bodie.com and the foundation to preserve Bodie: www.bodiefoundation.org