The first thing to know about visiting Bodie State Historic Park is to plan extra time, both because this busted gold mining town is much bigger than you would expect and because the drive in will take more time than you’ve planned for. At first, I planned on driving in on Cottonwood Canyon Road from CA 167, but a sign promised “very rough road” and the prospect of covering 10 miles in 30 minutes. I had abused my rental enough already, so I backtracked to U.S. 395 and CA 270.
The good news about CA 270 is that the Caltrans has an active repaving project for the state highway-numbered section of the road. This is also the bad news, because you will sit for a good period of time waiting for a pilot car to escort you through the one-lane work zone. The bad news is that, once you get out of the work zone, the pavement is very rough in multiple patches. The bad bad news is that CA 270 only designates the first ten miles of the road into Bodie: the last three miles lose the highway number and the pavement.
What strikes me about Bodie is that it comes from an era where land was cheap and sanitation was not. There is a lot of empty space between buildings (although the interpretive brochure, $2 at the entrance station and a bargain, says that only a small fraction of the town’s original buildings are standing). Nevertheless, I noticed that only the hydro plant and the firehouse are located close to Bodie Creek—good idea to give the freshwater supply plenty of room. Very few buildings are two stories, not even all of the hotels. However, the schoolhouse has two floors. And the buildings are not crowded together, beetling over one main street, like they would be in a Hollywood movie set.
There is a museum to tour, and when we look in the windows of some of the structures, we see some artifacts have been positioned to give us the sense that someone might still be living here. But the dusty roads and the whine of the high mountain (elevation 8,379 feet) wind in the wires are authentic. Since most of the structures are wood, and built all at about the same time (the town housed about 10,000 people in 1879), most of the structures are at the same state of crumble. There are some brick structures (like the post office in the left image, and the remains of the vault for the first bank). The sawmill (right image) is one of the more decrepit buildings.
The interpretive brochure simply describes this as Dog-face George’s house. It’s on Green Street, on the way out of town up the ridge heading southeast. Too bad we don’t know more of George’s story, but at least his nickname and his house are remembered.
Bonus birding: a couple of looks at Sage Thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) on the drive out of town back to U.S. 395.