Sun News Service
BODIE, CALIF. ” There’s no more fighting here. Hidden in the high Sierra, the once-violent town of Bodie sits still and silent in the winter months, giving the ghosts a time to rest from summer visitors. In fact, 99 percent of Bodie’s tourists come during the summertime, making the ghost town a unique place to visit for those who brave the journey during the winter months.
During a recent excursion into Bodie, an American flag fluttered in the late-afternoon breeze, its red stripes and blue square clashing with the open expanse of white. Where the winds have swept the surrounding ridgetops clean of snow, there are slices of brown. There also is a gray mining structure and rusted tin on pitched roofs, but it’s mostly a collection of wooden and red-brick buildings sprouting above a bleak, white landscape.
Some of the windows remain intact with glass, but others are boarded up or simply forgotten ” gaping holes for the incessant wind to blow through. There are cross-country ski tracks leading toward the center of town, where the tallest building is a church and its steeple.
This could quite easily be Siberia or Mongolia, and therein lies part of the charm of Bodie in winter. Set in a high valley at nearly 8,400 feet, Bodie might be a shell of its former self (only 5 percent of its original buildings remain from its mining heyday of the late 1800s), but its mood changes with the seasons.
In summer, brown is the theme. From the buildings to the sagebrush to the surrounding mountains, brown is the dominant color. And then there are the people.
All but 1 percent of the state park’s 250,000 annual visitors visit during the summer.
In the winter, everything is white, and the only people are likely to be you and a few state park employees who live in Bodie throughout the year. California State Park workers estimate that Bodie sees only a few hundred visitors during the winter.
There are, however, reasons for the serenity.
Thirteen miles from Highway 395, Bodie can only be reached by snowmobile or other modes of travel, the most popular being cross-country skis. And even if you can reach Bodie, there are the elements to consider.
Winds have been clocked in the high-mountain valley at 100 mph, and it is one of the coldest spots in the country. In 1999, Bodie was the coldest spot in the country 71 days out of the year, according to the National Weather Service.
Temperatures from day to night fluctuate 50 degrees or more, with the average low throughout the year being 1 degree. The coldest reading taken by one state park employee was minus-37 degrees, and while it barely dipped into single digits in South Lake Tahoe on Monday night, it was minus-12 in Bodie.
But if you can brave the weather and arrange appropriate transportation, the silence of Bodie in the winter should be experienced by everyone at least once.