To begin at the beginning, my first year in Nevada (and first year teaching) was a turbulent ride full of euphoric highs and nearly debilitating lows. By the time spring break came around I really needed to get out of the Dayton/Carson City area for a breather, so I took a road trip to the Grand Canyon. But I arrived home late on a Thursday evening and decided that I wanted to milk my time off for all it was worth. That’s when I remembered a co-worker telling me about Bodie, a ghost town across the border in California. I called him to see if he’d take me, but he was busy, so I just asked for directions and went by myself for a Saturday day trip.
After about a two hour drive on US-395, I came to the road I was supposed to turn onto only to discover it was blocked off due to snow. (Coming from the flatlands of the Midwest, it did not occur to me that snow could still be an issue in late April.) Undaunted, I pulled out my map of California to see if there was another route I could take. There was, a little further down the highway, so I continued on my way. I turned down the alternate route, only to discover a few miles in, that this too had a road block, though the way looked clear. I did not come all this way just to turn back, I thought to myself, so I drove around the road block and continued up the mountain pass. Soon, I came to snowy areas, and, being the hubristic Michigander I am about driving, I kept going.
Then I got stuck. I did not have anything in my car to help me with this except a hand held ice scraper. I chopped away at the ice behind each tire and took dirt from exposed areas of the side of the road for traction. After some rocking back and forth with the car, I got it in reverse and started to back out of my error. Before I got back to snow-free road, I got stuck a second time and had to repeat the process. When I was finally back to safety, I pulled over and parked.
I am going to Bodie, dammit. So I put my camera and a bottle of water in my coat pockets and started walking up the mountain pass, with no clue how far it was to the top. For a good portion, there were areas along the side of the road that had melted enough to reveal dirt, which I walked on since I wasn’t wearing boots, but just flimsy Keds/Converse type shoes. After a while, I had to switch to packed ice/snow that I didn’t sink through. Eventually, toward the top, I started sinking through, or ski poling it, in knee deep snow. But I could see in the distance what looked like a settlement.
When I got there, no one was in the little pay booth that you would normally drive up to, so I continued to the actual town buildings. I wandered among some buildings when I heard a noise. A door was opening and I thought, there’s some hermity squatter up here who’s going to kill me. It was just the park ranger. He invited me into his office where I could semi-dry my feet, as my shoes and socks were completely soaked through at that point. I paid him my $3 admittance fee, though I don't think he would have required it of me.
He asked what I was doing up there and how I got there. “I’m a teacher and one of my coworkers told me about this place. I thought I’d check it out while I’m on spring break. I walked up here.” Upon hearing I was a teacher he gave me a free calendar full of old-time Bodie photographs and told me to walk around the town at my leisure. “There are a couple guys here who drove snowmobilers up, so you might run into them. I’m not supposed to do this, but I can take you down the mountain in the Snow Cat when you’re done.” So, I walked about the town in the snow, re-soaking my feet, but happy to be at my destination and to know that I wouldn’t have the long trek back to the car. Bodie is an interesting destination that I would recommend if you're in the area. (Though I would recommend going in the summer.) Everything's still in the buildings, so you can look in through the windows and see books and an old globe in the school or kitchen supplies in a house. The bar has an old pool table covered in dust. The general store has stocked shelves.
On the drive down the mountain, I asked how long the road was and, after checking my odometer on the drive out, determined that I had walked about four or five miles up. The park ranger couldn’t take me all the way down to my car because the snow levels were too low for the Snow Cat, so I put in a couple more miles of walking on my way down. I had to throw my shoes out when I got home.
But, I saw Bodie!
Some people might point to this story as an example of my stubbornness. I prefer to think of it as perseverance. Still, I usually put in a bit more planning now before going on an adventure.