The Knitting Nurse

Rambles and Travels

East Side of the Sierras Part One of ? – This is Bodie, CA

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A couple months ago (I’m really late posting this trip) I spent 6 days on the east side of the Sierras.  I love it out there.

Death Valley in all its stark splendor shares the same stretch of road as saphire-blue lakes tucked below mountains topping out at 14,000+ feet.  Stands of gnarly, ancient pine perch above dusty hills peppered with volcanic rock.  Secret and not-so-secret hot springs  beckon.  Small towns that thrive on catering to the people who recreate host family run cafes, hotels, coffee-shops.  The entrance to the east end of Tuolumne/Yosemite also beckons.

Would be an isolated place to live. Work would be scarce. But I guess that’s what’s kept is as beautiful and quiet as it is.

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Bodie is a ghost-mining town. Located about 75 miles southeast of Lake Tahoe it’s tucked into the Bodie hills at 8300 some feet with views looking into both Nevada and the Sierra Mountains.   On my radar for years, each time passing the road’s been closed to snow.  This time all systems go.

Bodie’s in an ARRESTED STATE OF DECAY. This means people left.  Belongings and artifacts stayed behind.  Suffering much vandalism the area was made a park in 1962.  Full-time staff live there using snowmobiles in the winter to procure necessities.  The park was threatened to be closed in 2009 but made it through the budget scare.  CA’s parks are threatened. Hope  it continues to stay open.

A superb resource for more photos, stories and info on the mining process can be found HERE.  It’s well worth the click.

The largest mill is silver on the left. Tailings piles sit behind.  There were numerous mines, at one time only 2 of some 30 were profitable.  This is what led to the  collapse of the town. The 1940 War Production Board order forced the closure.

170 buildings remain of the 2,000 that once stood.  Fires, vandalism and time took their toll.

The brick bldg is the Dechambeau Hotel with the I.O.O.F bldg (stands for International Order Of Odd Fellows, a Union I believe) leaning into it.

Check out Cecile Vargo’s blog. She shares a wealth of Bodie history.

Used as a Park Ranger residence this is the J.S. Caine home. He owned most of the town.  It’s gotta be creepy living up there mid-winter with just a few around.

Inside the museum.  Now that’s a hearse with a view!  Modeled after the Abraham Lincoln hearse, there’s a coffin in it. Did they temper glass back then? According to one of the park aides, people dressed well treating parties and social events as grand affairs involving formal dress.

Inside the Boone store.

Looks like they practiced safe sex.  There was a sizable Red Light District and some 65 saloons.

Took the tour of the Standard Stamp Mill. Best 45 minutes there.  I believe our Park Aide’s name was John.  He lives up there.  He eats, sleeps and breathes the history of this town.  In his own gruff way he took us through the mine explaining the stamp process of crushing the ore, the chemicals used for extracting the minerals and much more.  So much, my head overflowed with it all.  I’d love to go back for a second round.

After using mules to transport ore from the hills in the background to the mill they devised a tram-like system.  It’s baffling what it took to get that gold out.

Stamps. Each weighing a ton, they moved rhythmically up and down, crushing the ore, which flowed over mercury coated plates releasing gold.  “Mad as a hatter?”  You bet. Many died from the poisonous mercury though there were no mercury-related deaths listed in official records, only “pneumonia” deaths which they contracted but from the weakened immune system mercury causes.

The noise inside that mill must’ve been deafening. Bees’ wax was used in their ears but still…


Yikes!  No OSHA back then.

Electricity came in eventually, allowing a generator to power the mill. No more coal. It was expensive. Needless to say, the wiring wasn’t up to code.

This place fascinated me and I can only hope I’ll have another trip out there before snow flies.  A “behind-the-scenes” tour’s offered of the closed area behind the Standard Mill.  Must take it.  I know the US’s archeological artifacts are a pittance to other countries.  But…it’s reassuring to see places such as Bodie preserved, studied and loved by many.

One thought on “East Side of the Sierras Part One of ? – This is Bodie, CA

  1. Pingback: East Side of the Sierras Part 2 of ? – Masonic, CA, More Relics of the Gold Rush « (Nomadic) Knitting Nurse

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