The Biggest, Baddest Ghost Town Of The West – Bodie, CA
“Goodbye God, I am going to Bodie”
Diary entry from a little girl on her way to the infamous town
It was one of the biggest, baddest, most violet, lawless wild west towns of its day. Of course it started with the discovery of gold, as all the best western stories do. In 1859 William (a.k.a. Waterman) S. Bodey discovered the yellow metal near what is now called Bodie Bluff. In 1861 a mill was established, and then, as the old stories say, the rest of the gold-seekin’ fools all flocked to the larder. By 1880 the town had over 2000 buildings, 65 saloons, numberous houses of “ill repute”, opium dens, gambling halls, a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, miners’ and mechanics’ unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail.
And of course all the rabble, ill-seeking, wild west, trouble-making lot of folks that came with it…all 10,000 of them!
It was HUGE. Some say it became the 2nd biggest city in California, and it was desolate, crazy, and totally remote. Waaay out in the desert with blinding hot summers and deep freeze winters that plummeted down to -18°F (-27°C) this place was not for the faint of heart. There were long days of back-breaking work mixed up with gold, alcohol and guns at night. Lawlessness ran free and a common morning greeting was “Have a man for breakfast?”, meaning “Did anyone get killed last night?”. Oh yeah, you needed a tough skin and a quick draw to make it through this town.
But as with all the gold-rush tales, there came an end. By the late 1890’s gold-seekers were drawn away to the promise of richer strikes in Montana, Arizona and Utah and by 1915 only one mill remained. The town fell down to the last hardy remaining few, but managed to survive and (eventually) be preserved as a State Park.
I’ve been wanting to see Bodie for years. I LOVE the old wild west stories and this ghost town is one of the best preserved in the country. There’s only ~5% of the original buildings left, but what’s there is simply outstanding. Old houses, mill, run-down motel, firehouse, church, equipment, saloons filled with furniture and dusty interiors containing all the living history of a moment in time. There’s a good 3 miles of bumpy dirt road to get there, but it is TOTALLY worth it. We spent a couple of hours perusing around the city, chatting with the volunteers and soaking in the atmosphere. Even my camera got into the mood, going for a retro look in processing. From the baddest town in the wild west, to the coolest ghost town in the Sierra’s, it is definitely a place you don’t want to miss…
P.S. Pooch is allowed in town, so if you can handle the bumpy drive, bring the paws along.
P.P.S. For those Photoshop junkies out there, I created my retro post-processing look using tips from this site.
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