Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Return to Bodie

Many years ago, as a young girl, I traveled a long and dusty road to the ghost town of Bodie. I believe it hadn't been my first trip, but this particular one is clearly still there in my memory.  So strong is that memory, that as my husband and I pulled up to the top of the hillside above Bodie on a hot August day last year, I found that young girl again. There I was, from the back seat of my dad's Galaxy 500, viewing this strange vast desert, dotted with the remnants of a once-booming mining town, this place called Bodie.  Back in 1964, the road to Bodie had been long and dusty...10 miles long to be exact.  Now, it is still long and dusty, but 3 of the 10 miles are paved. I found myself slightly annoyed that this new, paved road was interfering with the memory of my sister, my cousin and I bouncing through the dust. pushing strands of hair from our sweaty faces, and wishing desperately to get to this place called Bodie, a real ghost town. Peeking through windows, stepping into worn wooden buildings, and standing alongside an old bathtub once used, but now resting amidst the tumbleweeds.  I had the hint of remembrance and familiarity of these places, etched in black and white much like the landscape and the weathered structures.  But then I began to see the place in a much different light than I had seen as a 7 year old. It saddened me a bit to think of this town once full of life and people and promise which has bravely stood for over a hundred years, daring the elements to destroy what is now left, but here Bodie still stands.  When I was here last, we ran from place to place looking in windows and bravely standing in front of headstones in the tiny cemetery on the hillside, my sister and cousin daring me to go in to the jailhouse (from my experience as the youngest and and easiest to tease, I dared not). Back then, the 6 of us (my dad, aunt and uncle and us girls) were lone visitors, maybe another family or two that made the long dusty drive from Hwy 395. Now Bodie has become a tourist attraction and a California State Park. We walked along and chatted with visitors from Germany (Germans love U.S. ghost towns), Spain and several visiting from our east coast. I suppose that is a good thing, sharing this treasure and our state history with those curious enough to make the trek, and lovingly under the care of several hearty State Park Rangers who watch over the place, braving the weather these Sierra Nevada's have to offer.

 To me, this old ghost town is like no other. It's real. At least it was real, back before every single man, woman and child high-tailed it out of there after the mining boom ended. A small community of houses, church, a school and everything else a new town had to offer back in the late 1800's. These buildings hold secrets that we can only create in our imaginations, here one day, and gone the next.  Belongings left as they were...as if the occupants had just gone to church for Sunday service.  There was the old wagon, sitting very likely in the same spot it had been in when we climbed up on it, 3 young girls, smiling at my dad as he snapped a photo with his old Kodak so many years ago.  I found that photo a while back, the image of us, waving to my dad, and a much older me...the same worn buildings and exquisite landscape, faded with time and standing quietly behind our smiling faces. 

The land is unforgiving in this high desert.  Extreme heat every summer, and snow that covers already tired buildings each winter. I guess I'll be back to Bodie. It holds for me memories I occasionally bring out to linger on... of long dusty roads, running hand in hand and hearing that familiar "thud-thud" from our keds, bringing up little puffs as they hit the dirt. 

...And somewhere, out there off in the distance, turning my head to the wind, I hear my dad calling out to us in the echo of this old place.

(Click on images to see larger)

Peering through a lonely old house, what were the chances I might capture the image of a long lost soul?...notice the image in the left corner!

For you Dad