On our third day at Lahe Tahoe, my faithful traveling companion and I visited a venerable waffle house called Heidi’s for breakfast. We had hoped to catch a ride on the Tahoe Queen, an authentic Missisippi paddlewheeler, but we learned that we had literally missed the boat. Had we been better prepared, we might even have gone on a brunch cruise. Lesson learned. After our meal, we then wandered back over to my relatives’ place.
Yesterday, I asked my relatives what they do for fun. This was met with wide grins and the instruction to return at one o’clock the following day— and to dress warmly. At one, we got onto a Jeep and drove even higher into the mountains, up treacherous rocky roads, into areas where snow still clung to the soil.
Apparently, one of the things that one does for fun in the mountains is to go a-shootin’. As this was something I’d never actually tried, I was game to give it a go. I’m not sure I ever hit any of the targets we set up, though I was told I hit a golf ball that I didn’t even know was there. If the zombie apocalypse comes, I think I’d better go for a chainsaw.
You may be familiar with the cartoon trope in which a character fires a gun and is knocked into a somersault by the recoil. I now have to say that this is closer to the truth than I expected. Why, even a week later, I still have a bit of a bruise.
Afterward, we shared a pizza at the Lake Tahoe Pizza Company. If you can get past the funky gypsy decor, they sure do serve a tasty pizza.
The next morning, my relatives and I said our formal goodbyes and my traveling companion and I began a drive to the south. Our destination: the ghost town of Bodie.
Bodie was a gold rush boom town founded in the mid-1800′s. It was known for attracting all sorts of undesireables, and had a reputation for wickedness, robberies, and killings. The town was so infamous that the catchphrase “Goodbye, God, I’m going to Bodie,” was known throughout the West. However, the town eventually fell into decline as prospectors moved on to more lucrative ventures. By the 1910′s, the population of Bodie was less than a tenth of what it had been during the 1870′s. A fire in the 1930′s destroyed all but five percent of the remaining buildings, and by the 1940′s, Bodie had been all but abandoned.
What’s left of Bodie lies at approximately 8,000 feet altitude, and is accessible only after traversing three miles of unpaved roads. (These roads are nowhere near as treacherous as the previous day’s. They were succesfully navigated by a sports car.)
Bodie was designated a California State Historic Park in 1962, and the remaining buildings are maintained in a state of “arrested decay.” One can peer through the windows of various homes and businesses to get a glimpse of what has been left behind.
It would have been interesting to get a closer look at the town’s stamping mill, but this area is closed to the public for safety reasons. The actual mines, according to a map in the gift shop, lay past the stamping mill, over a hill. I’m not sure whether any of them stand open today. I would guess not.
There was one other stop on today’s itinerary, and I was concerned we’d run out of daylight before reaching it. I’d read mention of unusual rock formations rising from the waters of Mono Lake, and was curious to see them for myself. I have to say, they they are quite a sight, like fairy castles or coral reefs.
These tufa towers form underwater, when calcium-rich spring water mixes with carbonate-rich lake water. When the waters combine, calcium carbonate is formed. Over time, the calcium carbonate accumulates, rather like a volcano or stalagmite.
In the 1960′s, the tributaries of Mono Lake were diverted to supply water to the Los Angeles area. As the lake level fell, the tufa towers were revealed. Such towers probably exist under other lakes, but those of Mono Lake are on dry land… for now. A new agreement with Los Angeles will allow Mono Lake to gradually refill to previous levels.
As the sun set on Mono Lake, we set a course for the town of Bishop, where we’d rest for the night.