At Bodie State Historic Park, a gold-rush ghost town is preserved in a state of 'arrested decay.' Weathered buildings sit frozen in time on a dusty, windswept plain. To get there, head east for 13 miles (the last 3 miles are unpaved) on Hwy 270, about 7 miles south of Bridgeport. The access road is often closed by snow in winter.
Gold was first discovered here in 1859, and within 20 years the place grew from a rough mining camp to an even rougher boomtown with a population of 10,000 and a reputation for unbridled lawlessness. Fights and murders took place almost daily, the violence no doubt fueled by liquor dispensed in the town’s 65 saloons, some of which did double duty as brothels, gambling halls or opium dens. The hills disgorged some $34 million worth of gold and silver in the 1870s and '80s, but when production plummeted, so did the population, and eventually the town was abandoned to the elements.
Peering through the windows of the 200 weather-beaten buildings, you’ll see stocked stores, furnished homes, a schoolhouse with desks and books, and workshops filled with tools. The jail is still there, as are the fire station, churches, a bank vault and many other buildings.
The former Miners’ Union Hall now houses a museum and visitor center. The second Saturday of August is Friends of Bodie Day (www.bodiefoundation.org), with stagecoach rides, history presentations and lots of devotees in period costumes.