Posted tagged ‘mine’

The Ghost of Bodie Past

November 18, 2009

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The ghost of Bodie occasionally appears in a window..

Please allow me to introduce myself:  my name is Boots McGee.  I was hanged by a mob in Bodie back in 1883.  They broke down the door of the jail, shoved the sheriff aside, and yanked me out of the cell.  Then they carried me kicking and screaming to the headframe for the Red Cloud Mine and used a horse to string me up by the neck.  I died choking and gasping two minutes later.

The thing is, I didn’t shoot Doc Smith that night in the Yellow Dog Tavern.  The real killer was a one-armed man who was good with a gun in his remaining hand, and he shot Doc when everyone else had dived under the tables.  But Doc, with his dying words, said that he saw me with the smoking gun.  If Doc hadn’t delivered so many babies and treated so many liver ailments, people might not have believed him.  But here I was, a down on my luck miner who was drunk on rotgut that night, and someone heard me threaten Doc because he charged me too much for removing a bullet from my butt.  So here I am.

We ghosts don’t really like to hang around; after all, there is a sweet afterlife that we would like to spend eternity in.  But some of us get stuck in a place and time and can’t get out.  It has something to do with the unfairness of the act that killed us.  If only I could turn back time.  But I can’t, so for now I float down from the graveyard on the hill with the cool night air.  If you see my shape in a dark window, or hear a door creak on a still morning when nobody is around, that would be me.  And I’ll probably be here for as long as the last weathered boards remain on the Methodist Church and as long as the last granite headstone remains in the graveyard.

I might as well tell you a bit about my little town.  Gold was discovered in these hills by Waterman S. Bodey back in 1859.  I came in the gold rush that

Bodie sits below the hills where the gold came from..

followed, and staked a claim up in the hills east of town.  I dug some gold early on and made some money, enough that I could visit the taverns every night, Lottie’s house of red lights on Saturday night, and the Methodist Church on Sunday mornings.  Well, maybe a few Sunday mornings, anyway.

By 1879, the town had grown to 10,000 people and had a reputation as a hellhole filled with drunks and prostitutes and outlaws.  But a lot of gold was coming out of the ground from all the mines, so people put up with all the evil.  One man of God, the Reverend F. M. Warrington called our town “a sea of sin, lashed by the tempests of lust and passion.”  Sounds like my kind of place, doesn’t it?

All good and evil things eventually come to an end, and Bodie’s end came soon after the last mine shut down in 1941.  Without a reason to go on, the town emptied out completely.  People left old belongings in their homes, and the school’s hundreds of desks were left as if ghost students still took their daily lessons.

The creaking front door of the Tom Miller house..

I was lonely here for a long time, with just occasional curious folks and vandals visiting this remote place.  But in 1962, the great state of California made my home town a state historic park that is kept in a state of “arrested decay.”  Now I have lots of visitors to haunt, so the only times I get lonely are during the long and frigid winters, when only a few folks on skis and snowmobiles make it up here.

It looked like I would never leave this place, since California has been preventing Bodie from disappearing back into the earth.  But in 2009, Governor Schwarzenegger put Bodie on a list of state parks to shut down because the state has run out of money to keep parks open.  That is my best hope for getting out of here.  If the state allows Bodie to fall apart and blow away, I might finally get to see heaven because I’ll have nowhere to stay here on earth.

The Methodist Church reflected in the windows of a doorway..

A child’s coffin in the town’s morgue..

Streetscape of weathered buildings in Bodie..

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Without a little propping up, these outhouses would have blown down in the cold wind.

The Standard Mill processed millions of dollars of gold..

The Methodist Church, built in 1882, held its last service in 1932..

The owner of the town’s morgue slept in an adjacent room..

Layers of paint speak to fashions and time passing..

Reflections on the front door windows of the Pat Reddy house..

A billiards table waits for ghostly players in the old Wheaton & Hollis Hotel..

Togetherness reigned in the Kirkwood House two-hole outhouse..

Steel shingles in attractive rusty shades cover some of Bodie’s exterior walls..

Display windows of the Boone Store and Warehouse reflect the setting..

The interior of the Boone Store & Warehouse has original artifacts on display..

Table in the Tom Miller house set for guests who never came..

A 1927 Dodge Graham truck waits for a fill-up at the Shell gas pumps..

A deer head has survived the decades in the Wheaton & Hollis Hotel..

Before a major fire, Bodie was 20 times as large..

The Swazey Hotel awaits visitors from the past..

Lace curtains add a feminine touch to the Murphy house..

James Stuart Cain, a wealthy businessman, had a beautiful house..

The Wheaton & Hollis Hotel is a classic false front commercial building..

If you want to visit Bodie, there are some good websites to help plan your trip and learn a bit of real history (as opposed to my made-up history!) of this wonderful ghost town.

http://www.bodie.com/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=509

To see my web site, which includes photographic prints for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

To see thousands of my photographs in large file sizes for use in magazines or other printed materials or electronic media, go to my PhotoShelter Website

OLYMPIC NATIONAL FOREST: Startling Clarity in the Buckhorn Wilderness

August 21, 2008

When people think of Seattle’s weather, they shudder at the dark overcast and constant drizzle.  Actually, that perception of western Washington is largely true from late October through April, and during some entire weeks during May and June.  But after Independence Day, the maritime clouds are held at bay by offshore high pressure zones, and the atmosphere becomes washed with brilliant light.  This light has a clarity more sharp-edged than any location I’ve ever been, and for a few days in summer, it is stunning.

We had two such days of clarity this past weekend during a backpack trip into Olympic National Forest, located on the Olympic Peninsula.  The peninsula, which is visible across Puget Sound looking west from Seattle, is isolated by geography and is sparsely populated.  Olympic National Park forms the heart of the peninsula, and is my favorite national park in the nation because of its blend of high mountains with glaciers, enormous conifers, a temperate rain forest, abundant wildlife, and over 70 miles of wilderness coastline along the Pacific Ocean.  The Buckhorn Wilderness lies just outside the national park and is part of Olympic National Forest.

But enough geography lessons.  My wife, Karen, and I arrived at the trailhead at 9:30 a.m., then hefted our backpacks and began hiking through ten-foot-tall native rhododendrons, still blooming on this mid-July weekend.  At the trailhead, one trail leads to Gold Creek; we followed a trail crossing Silver Creek with the idea of camping along Copper Creek and then heading into the alpine for a view of Iron Mountain.  All these metallic names are there for a reason:  this was mining country a hundred or so years ago.  We planned to camp just below the Tubal Cain Mine, the site of an old copper mine and a one-time ghost town.  The mine still exists in the form of a deep shaft and a steep slope of mine tailings, though the old town succumbed to dynamite and mountain weather decades ago.  The Tubal Cain Mine shaft penetrates the mountain for 2,800 feet, with 1,500 feet of side shafts.  We entered the mine, but it is a wet journey within, as a stream gushes through the tunnel from deep within the mountain.  One young man we talked to had explored much of the mine shaft, and he said there was a waterfall deep inside that he had to climb up and over.  Old and rusted mine machinery is scattered in the woods where there used to be miner’s shacks.*

After setting up camp among volcanic boulders that originated on the ocean floor millions of years ago, we crossed Copper Creek and headed up a series of gradual switchbacks leading to Buckhorn Pass.  Shortly after the creek, the forest faded away and we began hiking through a stunning subalpine meadow that was at its peak of summer blooms.  Incredible blue larkspurs and sky pilots and lupines.  Vivid red columbines and Indian paintbrush.  Saturated yellows of arnica and wallflower.  Peaks of naked rock surrounding us, above them the deep blue sky found only in high country.

We spent the afternoon and evening happily absorbing the sweeping meadows and patches of coniferous forest along the way.  When we reached Buckhorn Pass at about 5:30 p.m., the sun was lower and the light on Buckhorn Mountain and Iron Mountain was warm and shadowed.  The moon began rising between the two peaks.  At the top, we enjoyed the views and Karen found one of the wildflowers we had especially hoped to photograph.  Flett’s Violet (Viola flettii) is endemic to the Olympic Mountains–that is, it is found nowhere else on earth.  Karen found the beautiful plant blooming in crevices along the west-facing rock faces at Buckhorn Pass.  We also saw a second Olympic endemic, Piper’s Harebell, growing on talus slopes farther down the trail.  We photographed these special wildflowers in the brilliant sunshine of this summer afternoon.

Though we saw little wildlife on this trip, there were some memorable bird songs.  The bell-like, spiraling call of the Hermit Thrush and the seemingly never-ending melody of the tiny and drab Winter Wren lent haunting music to the dark forest.  There was the deep, deep, almost imperceptible booming of a Sooty Grouse calling from the trees (and a female Sooty Grouse shepherding her five scattered young).  A Dipper explored Copper Creek, looking for larval insects on the stream bottom.  We saw an American Robin at Buckhorn Pass; robins are virtually everywhere (one time we even saw them–and dandelions–in the Brooks Range of Alaska, above the Arctic Circle).

We stayed at Buckhorn Pass as late as we could, then headed down the trail at our fastest pace, arriving in camp at about 8:30 p.m.  We then took down our bear bag from where we left it hanging in the trees and cooked a quick freeze-dried dinner.  Then into the tent for ten hours of sleep after a long day.  It feels good to know that at age 58, I can still do a 10.5 mile day in the mountains with roughly half-a-mile of vertical gain.  I’m not as strong or as fast on the trail as I once was, but I see more, and my photographic skills along the trail have never been better.

The next day, as we hiked out in early afternoon, I spoke with a man who mentioned how clear the air seemed.  I commented that I had never seen it clearer in the mountains, and he said “I was just telling my wife the same thing.”

*I discovered at a realtor’s web site that 216 acres of land at the Tubal Cain Mine site is for sale for $2 million.  It is surrounded by Olympic National Forest land.  So if you have the money and want to work a mining claim and have a helicopter to get to the remote acreage, this might be just the perfect place for you!

To see a variety of my photographic work, including photos for sale, please go to LeeRentz.com

Click on the photographs below for larger versions with captions.