There's something eerily appropriate about bumping down the dusty desert road that winds the final few miles into Bodie State Historic Park, about an hour’s drive north of Mammoth Lakes. Round the final bend in the careworn road, drive by the lonely graveyard on the southwest side of town, and look down upon the tattered remnants of a nearly forgotten ghost town. Back in the late 1800s, Bodie was a booming mining community with nearly 10,000 residents. Over time, the townsfolk began to fade away with the gold, and roughly a half-century ago, the final residents packed up and left Bodie, leaving the buildings alone and at the mercy of the dry desert winds.
Today, you can walk the dusty, silent streets of this fascinating historic site, with shops, hotels, and simple homes carefully preserved to look as they did when Bodie ceased to be. Look for period images on newspapers stuffed into the walls as makeshift insulation. Old trucks and gas pumps, a weathered wood church, and that lonely cemetery paint a picture of life—and death—in this remote corner of California’s high desert.
Be sure to bring food; there are no concessions in the park (though there is potable water). The self-guided walking tour is well worth doing. A bookstore is stocked with interesting information; a 28-minute video provides a good capsule history of the town and its role in the history of the area. Check the Bodie Foundation’s calendar when making plans to see if your time there lines up with any special events, such as Bodie Ghost Walks & Star Stories.