3 weeks road trip in west USA - Bodie State Historic Park
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Bodie is a ghost town in the Bodie Hills east of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in Mono County, California, United States, about 75 miles (121 km) southeast of Lake Tahoe. Registered as a California Historical Landmark, the ghost town officially became Bodie State Historic Park in 1962, and receives about 200,000 visitors yearly. Starting in 2012, Bodie is administered by the Bodie Foundation, which uses the tagline : “Protecting Bodie's Future by Preserving Its Past.”
Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859 by a group of prospectors, including W. S. Bodey. Bodey perished in a blizzard the following November while making a supply trip to Monoville (near present day Mono City, California), never getting to see the rise of the town that was named after him.
In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5000–7000 people and around 2,000 buildings. One idea maintains that in 1880, Bodie was California's second or third largest city. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$ 34 million. Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid- to late 1880.
Gold bullion from the town's nine stamp mills was shipped to Carson City, Nevada, by way of Aurora, Wellington and Gardnerville. Most shipments were accompanied by armed guards. After the bullion reached Carson City, it was delivered to the mint there, or sent by rail to the mint in San Francisco.
As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners' and mechanics' unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.
As with other remote mining towns, Bodie had a popular, though clandestinely important, red light district on the north end of town. From this is told the unsubstantiated story of Rosa May, a prostitute who, in the style of Florence Nightingale, came to the aid of the town menfolk when a serious epidemic struck the town at the height of its boom. She is credited with giving life-saving care to many, but was buried outside the cemetery fence.
Bodie had a Chinatown, the main street of which ran at a right angle to Bodie's Main Street, with several hundred Chinese residents at one point, and included a Taoist temple. Opium dens were plentiful in this area.
Bodie also had a cemetery on the outskirts of town and a nearby mortuary, which is the only building in the town built of red brick three courses thick, most likely for insulation to keep the air temperature steady during the cold winters and hot summers. The cemetery was Miners Union Cemetery, and includes a cenotaph to President James A. Garfield.
On Main Street stands the Miners Union Hall, which was the meeting place for labor unions and an entertainment center that hosted dances, concerts, plays, and school recitals. It now serves as a museum.
The first signs of decline appeared in 1880 and became obvious towards the end of the year. Promising mining booms in Butte, Montana; Tombstone, Arizona; and Utah lured men away from Bodie. The get-rich quick, single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to these other booms, which eventually turned Bodie into a family-oriented community. Two examples of this settling were the construction of the Methodist Church (which currently stands) and the Roman Catholic Church (burned about 1930) that were both constructed in 1882.
Despite the population decline, the mines were flourishing, and in 1881 Bodie's ore production was recorded at a high of $3.1 million. Also in 1881, a narrow gauge railroad was built called the Bodie Railway & Lumber Company, bringing lumber, cordwood, and mine timbers to the mining district from Mono Mills south of Mono Lake.
During the early 1890s, Bodie enjoyed a short revival seen in technological advancements in the mines that continued to support the town. In 1890, the recently invented cyanide process promised to recover gold and silver from discarded mill tailings and from low-grade ore bodies that had been passed over. In 1892, the Standard Company built its own hydroelectric plant approximately 13 miles (20.9 km) away at Dynamo Pond. This pioneering installation marked one of the country's first transmissions of electricity over a long distance.
In 1910, the population was recorded at 698 people, which were predominantly families that decided to stay in Bodie instead of moving on to other prosperous strikes. The first signs of an official decline occurred in 1912 with the printing of the last Bodie newspaper, The Bodie Miner. In a 1913 book titled California tourist guide and handbook: authentic description of routes of travel and points of interest in California, the authors, Wells and Aubrey Drury, described Bodie as a "mining town, which is the center of a large mineral region" and provided reference to two hotels and a railroad operating there.
In 1913, the Standard Consolidated Mine closed. Mining profits in 1914 were at a low of $6,821. James S. Cain was buying up everything from the town lots to the mining claims, and reopened the Standard mill to former employees, which resulted in an over $100,000 profit in 1915. However, this financial growth was not in time to stop the town's decline. In 1917, the Bodie Railway was abandoned and its iron tracks were scrapped. The last mine closed in 1942, due to War Production Board order L-208, shutting down all nonessential gold mines in the United States. Mining never resumed.
The first label of Bodie as a "ghost town" was in 1915. In a time when auto travel was on a rise, many were adventuring into Bodie via automobiles. The San Francisco Chronicle published an article in 1919 to dispute the "ghost town" label. By 1920, Bodie's population was recorded by the US Federal Census at a total of 120 people. Despite the decline, Bodie had permanent residents through most of the 20th century, even after a fire ravaged much of the downtown business district in 1932. A post office operated at Bodie from 1877 to 1942.
Between the 13th of May and the 3rd of June 2013 we spent 3 wonderful weeks in the west part of USA. It was our first trip in this part of USA, and each day was full of surprises, with countless breathtaking landscapes.
After 3 days in San Francisco, Sausalito, and on the north coast, we made a flight to Las Vegas, to began our long road trip (3.000 miles i.e. 4.800 km and more than 70 hours driving on the wonderful scenic roads from one park to another). We had the pleasure to discover the following sites :
- Grand Canyon National Park, (the south rim part only)
- the Colorado canyon at Lees Ferry, the Vermillion Cliffs on the road to Cliff Dwellers
- the area of the city of Page (with the visit of the 2 Antelope Canyons Navajo Tribal Parks, the Lake Powell, and Horseshoe Bend,
- Monument valley NP (with an afternoon spent in the Mystery Valley trails with a Navajo guide driving a Jeep Wrangler)
- Arches NP
- Canyonlands NP
- Bryce canyon NP
- Zion NP
- Death Valley NP
- Bodie State Historic Park
- Mono Lake
- Yosemite NP and Maropisa Grove NP near Wawona
- the Napa valley with a visit of the Newton winery (LVMH group)
- we did a balloon flight over the vineyards
- and we stayed 2 mores days in San Francisco before leaving this great city to go back to France.
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