Time Travel to the Gold Rush at Bodie Ghost Town

Visiting ghost towns is generally a high-risk, high-reward gamble. (This doesn't include Calico, which is less of a legitimate ghost town, more of a theme park attraction.) Usually, they're far off the normal route that you'd take to get anywhere. And when you finally do navigate the various twists and turns to get there, you're left with nothing but a house or two in such disrepair that you don't really get a good sense of how life was back then.

Not so with Bodie, California.

The town began as a mining camp in 1859, when William S. Bodey discovered gold in the region. A mill was established in 1861, and the town boomed to nearly 10,000 people by 1880. Schools, churches, and houses stood alongside saloons, brothels, and opium dens. During its heyday, it was called the "most lawless, wildest and toughest mining camp the far west has ever known." But, as is the case with most mining towns, the townsfolk dispersed once the gold ran out. And in 1932, 90% of the town was burned down due to a fire allegedly started by a two-and-a-half-year old boy playing with matches.

Roughly 100 structures survived the fire, however, including the bank, schoolhouse, Grand Central Hotel, and the Methodist church. The town's 1962 designation as a National Historic Site and State Historic Park helped to preserve the remaining structures and to give visitors a chance to learn about its history. Also, unlike other ghost towns, this one's only a tad off the beaten path. If you're heading up to Yosemite, this is a worthwhile detour for a short afternoon adventure. Entry is $5.

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