Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Return to Bodie

During my visit to the eastern Sierras, I returned a couple of times to Bodie State Historic Park. I spent three seasons 2002-2004) working at Bodie. Located thirteen miles off Hwy 395, south of Bridgeport,Bodie is one of the gems of the region.
This remote gold and silver mining town was once, briefly, California's second largest city. With close to 13,000 people, only San Francisco surpassed it. But in less than a year, the population had dropped to a fraction of that.

Still, Bodie hung in there, existing as a mining town up until WWII. The school and post office closed that year, along with the mine and mill. The federal government closed gold and silver mines during the war as they were not essential industries. Although attempts were made to revive the operations after the war, they were unsuccessful

Today, Bodie sits in a "state of arrested decay." The buildings, to the extend horrible budget restrictions allow (and with help from the non-profit support group) are stabilized but not restored to their pre-ghost town existance. The guiding rule is to keep the town looking as much as possible as it did in 1963 when it became a state park. All the artifacts are originals. Fortunately a leading family bought up and preserved much of the town and a few other families hung in there, some justusing their homes as summer homes, some on a more regular basis. An armed caretaker helped to prevent wholesale looting.

Wholesale looting did happen at Aurora, NV just over the state line from Bodie. It is sad. Mark Twain spent some time in Aurora and wrote about his experiences in the Esmerlda Mining District in "Roughing It."

As many photos as I have taken of the place, I can't visit without taking more. There is always some new angle, some play of light. One of my goals was to do some reflection photos in windows and then some photos using a polarizer to better see inside. I found last season at Yellowstone I had a great reflection photo to share with guests, but needed a companion polarized photo. A couple of them are included here....I apologize for the small renditions and quality the blog allows.
A visit to Bodie always means seeing some of the folks I worked with there. Ranger Mark Langner and his wife Lynn Inoye are some of my favorite people. Thanks to both of you for another good visit to Bodie, fine meals, a bit of wine, lots of conversation and laughter.

Inside a stable, looking toward the church and a couple of residences.

General view of town. The house on the left is the Gregory House where I lived during my seasons at Bodie. Pretty rough on the outside, basic but comfortable inside. In fact, I considered the claw foot bathtub the high of luxury. This was one of the houses that was occupied into the fifties, by a rather gnarly, unfriendly character. But, since it was occupied in the Depression, and after the war, it had modern plumbing and was fairly sound. Buildings like this now house staff.

Many old wagons, as well as later automobiles and trucks, litter the fields around town. In the museum are two elegant hearses.
In discussions last summer with guests on my photo tours, I realized it would be good to show a couple of window shots, with and without polarizers. I played with a number of these while I was in Bodie. The window in the first two shots is the old general store. Without a polarizer, the reflection includes the mining hill, the1928 Dodge-Graham truck as well as the interior with the dye advertisement.With the polarizer, emphasis is on the wonderful ad for Diamond Dyes.

That old Dodge-Graham still runs although starting it is a chore. Each year it is towed to Bridgeport (does not meet highway requirements) and is driven in the parade as the Bodie float. Town is small enough, the parade circles town several times. I've driven the truck in town. and helped to tow it into the barn for winter storage. The Yellow Bus in Yellowstone with its new engine, transmission, starter, and power steering is a piece of cake compared to this one.

I arrived one morning as Mark was about to do his patrol of town. It was the last day of hunting season and he wanted to drive around the back side, up over Bodie Bluff, to make sure all the gates were closed, no one had trespassed. I rode along. This view of Bodie is one most visitors never get to see. It was taken from the top of the Bluff, in the area where the mining shafts are located. Dropping straight down, as much as 800 feet, this area is dangerous and not open to the public except on a limited, guided basis. The rocky hillside in the foreground, a great place to find pikas and there haystacks (winter feed supplies), below is much of what remains of the town with business district and some of the homes. In the distance, the snow capped Sierras. It is fitting as Sierra Nevada translates from the Spanish as Snowy Mountains.

Another reflection shot. I could have included dozens of photos of old equipment, so consider yourselves lucky to get just a few reflections. The house which is reflected is the Gregory House, my old residence.

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