It was mid-June, and snow still blanketed the higher elevations, fanning down north faces, fissures, and crevices like the tattered ends of a flag in the wind. The temperature was dropping and the dozen switchbacks leading down to Mono Basin provided a bird's-eye view of the impending storm. The ES4WD crew had headed home, and it was back to dos amigos (tres amigos if you count our buddy Señor Patron), and a dog.
Controversy has long surrounded Mono Lake. In the early 20th century, the Los Angeles wate
Mono Lake has always been a place of intrigue. As a kid, the family made frequent camping and fishing trips to Lee Vining Creek near Tioga Pass. The parental units extended us kids the liberty of hiking down the creek, about eight miles, to the township of Lee Vining for ice cream. To the east lay Mono Lake, a small but unique inland sea flanked by endless expanses of open desert. I dreamed of exploring its distant shores one day.
In the '70s, after years of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Water District diverting the natural watershed away from the lake, water levels hit alarming lows and saline levels rose to triple that of the ocean. Alkali tufa formations materialized from the surface, catching the attention of the world-and many environmentalists-and leaving Mono and its tufa as a world-renowned tourist attraction. The "Save Mono Lake" crowd rallied to . . . Save Mono Lake. They've succeeded. Lake levels have risen and the area's main tourist attraction, the tufa, have all but disappeared.
The thunderheads and heavy rains passed as quickly as they arrived, trailing off to gray skies and a soggy track. That track was the eastern strandlines of Mono Lake that I'd gazed at from a distance as a young boy. Spectacular! We made our way north, crossing Highway 167 and into Cottonwood Canyon towards one of the most celebrated ghost towns in the Gold Rush.
The sun broke through the clouds as we departed the famed ghost town of Bodie. Extensively
"Goodbye God, I'm Going to Bodie"
Mile 802, Bodie, CA, Lat: N38º 12' 46": A chilly wind blew through the paneless wood-framed windows of the old church, swinging a pair of creaky-hinged double doors open and kicking up a swirl of dust as it exited the scene across a wood-planked sidewalk. Down the street was one of Bodie's 65 saloons: a billiard table with a full rack, dusty beer pitchers on the bar, and pool cues leaning against an old handmade rack. It appeared that the party just got up and walked away. That day was in 1962, when the State of California deemed their town a state park. This was the legendary ghost town of Bodie.
With a reputation for being a haven for gunslingers, con men, merchants, gamblers, and ladies of pleasure, the people of Bodie didn't mince words when it came to hard rock mining, drinking, or paydirt. In its heyday, around 1880, preachers, teachers, shopkeepers, and ladies of society had moved to town in an attempt to save the township from eternal hellfire (and maybe make a buck in the process). They were a hardy lot, and as winter snows and arctic-cold winds encapsulated the town, most folks stayed the course. The steam engines continued to whistle, stamp mills pounded away at mule carts of gold ore, town folks shoveled snow tunnels from saloon to saloon, and proper church services were still held on Sunday. The famous quote, "Goodbye God, I'm going to Bodie," was penned by a young girl whose family moved to godforsaken Bodie from the refinement of San Francisco.
Destination Unknown: I've always liked the saying, "Adventure lays in the journey, not the
The sun broke through and the clouds dissipated as we climbed the grade out of town to find camp along Bodie Creek. The altimeter read 7,700 feet, temperatures were still dropping, and it looked like it was going to be a one-dog night (sorry, Del). I'm sure Del can cook, or at least heat water for an MRE, but dinner tonight was via Cuisine a la Chris: spaghetti with sautéed onions and fresh garlic. It wasn't quite up to the seafood alfredo I'd whipped up in Death Valley, but hot and tasty on a chilly night.