"We should turn here and see Bodie, it's an amazing ghost town", my wife said. We were driving north on the California 395 on our way to Lake Tahoe, for a little vacation back in November 2006. It was the first day I've heard of and saw Bodie, the State Historic Park that's being kept in an "arrested state of decay".
She was right, it is an amazing ghost town. As it has captured the hearts of many visitors, it did so with mine, and I have visited many times since.
In February 2009 I went back, wondering if I could get some photographs of Bodie against a backdrop of snow. I was staying with my in-laws in Paradise, a neighborhood of Bishop, California, located between Bishop and Mammoth Lakes. My brother-in-law Bob told me that Bodie Road, the road my wife said to take, is a pass that isn't cleared of snow. So he offered to take me there with his four-wheel-drive.
On our way we took a little detour to a ski rental shop in Mammoth Lakes. We wanted to rent cross country skis, for if we still would get stuck with the car in the snow, we would still be able to ski into Bodie. In addition, Bob wanted to go on a little cross country ski trip while I was taking pictures. Even though the snow was piled up quite high in some places, we made it all the way to Bodie.
The sight of the town was as I was hoping for, with the browns of the structures contrasting with the white of the snow on the rooftops and in the surrounding landscape. We were making our way to the Ranger's office on Green Street, so I could pay for a photography permit. We ran into a ranger before we arrived there: he introduced himself as ranger Mark. He was very pleased to meet us, explaining that we were the first visitors he'd met in many days. Not surprisingly, we were the only ones there that day. After I paid for the permit, he walked out with us towards Main Street and told Bob that there are great views of Mono Lake to the south, easily accessible with skis. Then Mark turned to me and said "Would you like to go into the General Store?"
The majority of buildings in Bodie are locked, especially the ones with authentic relics inside. It's possible though to look and take pictures through the glass of the windows, as many people do. I had done so too for the Boone and Wright Store and Warehouse. That store is filled with wares to the brim, with shelves fully stocked as if Mr. Boone is about to return from a break and reopen for daily business. Mark's offer sounded like music to my ears, how could I say no? Was he perhaps kidding? "Uh, of course!" I stuttered, fearing he would exclaim that he was indeed just doing that, kidding, and explain that it's against policy to let people in. He took out his keys, opened the door at the side of the building and turned off the alarm.
"Can I take pictures?", I asked still in disbelief, walking over the creaking wooden floor. "Of course", he answered. I followed him towards the front, into the part that has the large windows in the storefront. I looked to my left and was amused by an old sign that was posted behind the counter that said "Let's be friends. Please do not ask for credit". I pointed my camera, held it as still as possible and took a picture of the shelves loaded with merchandise - bottles, boxes, cans, all kinds of stuff - making the sign the focus of the composition. Mark pointed out his favorite objects in the store: one of them was a can of Hills Bros. coffee. He explained he liked the illustration.
He took me to the next room, which served as storage for little iron cast furnaces. He pointed to a particular one that was shaped as a little house. "This is where we keep most of the furnaces from around Bodie" he said. When we returned to the storefront he directed my attention to the lights which were hanging from the ceiling. He mentioned that these lights had been turned on uninterrupted for about 60 years now.
When I asked whether everything in this store is authentic from when it was closed he confirmed that indeed most of it is. When the town was turned into a State Historic Park in the 1960’s, they found the General Store boarded up shut. When they opened it up, the state you see it in now, is how it looked back then. Sometimes though the town gets donated artifacts and research is performed whether the item is from the right era.
I took a few more pictures and we left the store. I thanked Mark and continued walking around the town. Later, after getting back home, I’d emailed him some pictures I took that day. I wondered if there was a way of being able to take photographs in some of the other buildings too - and perhaps also include the General Store again. It turns out there is, but that’s for another story.
http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509. Official website of Bodie State Historic Park.
https://youtu.be/MH7vCrcfk_E. A time-lapse video on my YouTube channel of how I hand tinted a 36x24 inch "No Credit"
https://roykart.com/galleries/category/10-bodie. My photographs of Bodie.
https://www.facebook.com/pg/eyeballphotography/photos/?tab=album&album_id=253669241333020. Bodie on my Facebook Page.