Bodie, a California Ghost Town
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August 9th, 2002 – by: mslellen
It was a bright and sunny day as we cruised the two lane road that curved through the mountains. It's so barren, just scrub, rocks and dirt. The last few miles of the road is dirt, so we can't help but wonder if we're going in the right direction.
Although it's only 30 miles, the drive takes us over an hour. But eventually, around some curves, and through a valley, we see it, totally isolated and locked in another time. Oh, I love it already!
There's a rangers station as you come into the park where you pay a small admission of $5 per person.
Some buildings are open and staged to look like they did when used. There's the funeral director, schoolhouse, a few stores and some homes. Most are locked, but you can still look in the windows and walk freely. There's not a lot of visitors at any one time. You may only see a few people while exploring such a large area.
We didn't go to every building, it really is a good size town. Remember over 8,000 people lived there at one time. Even though most of the buildings are gone, it takes a lot of space for that many people. I think Main Street was close to a mile long.
The weather was beautiful, so Doug and I spent quite a bit of time walking through the ruins.
One of the interesting stories was how electricity was brought to town. Electricity was important because wood was scarce and steam power was used to run the mill. A power plant was built at a creek 13 miles away. At the time it was thought that power running through the lines could not turn corners, so all the power line were run in a straight line - for 13 miles! Although most residents thought the entire idea was crazy, Bodie was the first town in the world to operate a stamp mill with alternating current.
Part of the area cannot be toured because it is a toxic site. In order to get every last bit of gold and silver out of the ore they used a cyanide process. This leaching process causes the gold and silver to liquefy, separating it from the crushed rock. Zinc is then added to return the gold and silver to a solid form. Then Sulphuric acid is added to dissolve the zinc, leaving just the gold & silver mixture. Unfortunatly they did not know how dangerous these chemicals are to the environment and they were not disposed of properly, leaving the area of contamination unusable.
There is also a store where you can purchase books and mining souvenirs in the old hotel and I.O.O.F. Hall. There was also one building where a photographer was working and another where a group of musicians were relaxing and playing some music for their own pleasure.
Bodie is located in the Basin Range, east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, about 13 miles East of U.S. Highway 395 in central California.
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