The Sacramento Bee from Sacramento, California on September 8, 2013 · H4
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The Sacramento Bee from Sacramento, California · H4

Sacramento, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, September 8, 2013
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H4 The Sacramento Bee | Sunday, September 8, 2013 FROM THE COVER visitors an actual screen- grab of what Bodie was like as a Gold Rush boomtown in the late 1800s. The term that park ranger Ryan Randar uses is “arrest- ed decay,” as if the 500-acre site with 170 buildings left was suspended in amber. So when you peer into the dust-streaked windows of the Boone Store & Ware- house, you see what was on the shelves in 1900, when the Boone brothers shut- tered the windows during an economic downturn and told townsfolk, “We’ll be back when times are better.” We’re still waiting for their return. Meantime, the cans of mustard, Old En- glish pipe tobacco and Ghi- rardelli chocolate and dis- play cases for Guittard & Co. coffee rot on the shelves. The cash register is enve- loped by cobwebs, the coun- ter so coated with dust that the wood is just a myth. And when you peer inside the pine Jeffrey Miller House, built by patriarch TomMiller, who worked for the Mono Lake Railway & Lumber Co., you see the kitchen just as the family left it in the late 1800s: cabinets flung open, cups and plates on the table, dirt caked in the muffin pan. These rooms and others like it have been this way since 1962, when Bodie was awarded National Historic Landmark status. There is a distinct Pompeii-preserva- tion vibe to Bodie, and it makes visitors use their imaginations to fill in the gaps. They wonder about people’s lives during the period, the boomtown ca- rousing, the ladies taking tea, the search for culture in a town that, before William S. Bodey set down stakes in 1859 following a discovery of gold nearby, formerly was a harsh milieu with jagged rocks and few, if any, trees to block the relentless summer sun or provide firewood during snowy winters. (Quick aside about the name: State Parks officials say the spelling was changed to “Bodie” in the late 1800s “to avoid the name being mispronounced.”) Nancy Frye, vice president of the Bodie Foundation, says it takes vigilance to keep the town as it was at its demise in 1932, when the mines were played out and the last of a series of fires made stragglers head out. “Initially, the inside-of- buildings photographs were taken and nothing was moved,” Frye said. “It was all cataloged. But since then, some of the more valuable paper items have been moved because of dust and rats that have gotten in there.” Preserving Bodie as it is, Frye said, “is difficult be- cause sometimes there is horrific wind and snow.” Occasionally, then, rules are slackened and shiny new roofing covers gaping holes. Call it a compromise to history, a way of keeping the bulk of a structure the way it was by bolstering a small portion. Visitors don’t seem to mind that, for instance, a part of the roof on the Meth- odist Church, erected in 1882, is visibly newer than the rest. In that case, it wasn’t the inclement weath- er that gutted part of the church; vandalism, rather. In the years since the final religious service was held in 1932, the church has been a favorite of vandals. They even stole an oilcloth paint- ing depicting the 10 Com- mandments, thereby vio- lating No. 8. For the most part, though, the public has been respect- ful. Or maybe it’s just that Bodie is so far out of the way — 13 miles east of High- way 395, between Bridge- port and Lee Vining, the last 3 miles a bladder-busting, rocky road — that it’s too much of a bother. It, however, does not seem too much of a bother for tourists. Randar said that about 250,000 tourists an- nually visit Bodie, impres- sive considering that the road in is closed seven months out of the year. A quick check of the guest register in the Bodie mu- seum shows that, on just one page, people from Ger- many, Switzerland, France, Denmark and Korea had a look around. “About half our visitors are fromWestern Europe,” Randar said, “and they think this is a town of ghosts.” Once they are set straight, most don’t seem disappoint- ed that they aren’t assailed by actual apparitions. Do- cents regale visitors with tales from old times, about gambling and boozing, prostitution and claim jumping, murder and may- hem, and even boring old everyday life for families. Some, like Los Angeles resident Jenene Arvidson- Perkins, get caught up in the Old West romance. This is her family’s sixth visit. “The very first time we came, my daughter Stepha- nie was in third grade,” Arvidson-Perkins said. “She wanted to do a report and one of the terms they used that I still remember is that the town was in a state of ‘arrested decay.’ I love that term. Strangely, it still looks the same, as if you’d blow on it and it would fall over.” A self-described history buff, Arvidson dragged her husband, Bob, daughter Stephanie and grandson Caleb back out one more time to walk the ruins. “I like to go to the grave- yard and read the stones,” she said. “If you see mother and child on the same day, that probably was someone dying in childbirth. If you see certain dates, that was a plague or flu. “I’m the one in the family that reads everything. It drives them crazy. But then I go ahead and tell them all about it. I like telling about this one lady here who was a ‘lady of the evening’ by force, but who married the town butcher. Her house was right next to the saloon. She donated a painting and did lots of great things for the town. But she couldn’t be buried inside (the cem- etery) because she was a lady of the evening. This tells us about where our society was, where we came from.” The woman to whom she referred was Lotti Johl, who lived the “Pretty Woman” scenario a century before the Julia Roberts film. She went from turning tricks in the red-light district to painting landscapes that hung in the town’s finest places. Bodie is rife with such colorful stories. Some could be apocryphal, for all we know. But Frye, who visited Bodie as a girl in the 1960s and later worked as a park aide and archivist, actually knew a Bodie resident, whose parents settled there at the turn of the century. Bob Bell grew up at the house his father, Lester, built near the corner of Union and Fuller streets. He worked in the mines until they played out, then, after the last residents left in the 1950s, he stayed on and helped the Park Service stabilize Bodie’s buildings. That’s when Frye made his acquaintance. Bell had the distinction of being the last person buried in Bodie, in 2003. “So, to me, it’s not a fictional story,” Frye said. “It’s real. It’s like, ‘Hey, this is Bob’s house. We need to save it.’ ” The Bodie Foundation holds fundraisers to aug- ment State Parks’ shortfalls. But she’s concerned that, long term, Bodie’s decay might not remain so arrest- ed. Things happen, like the time a mountain lion wan- dered into town and briefly wreaked havoc, or the van- dals, or the notorious high winds that have many struc- tures tilting crazily. “Because it’s a state park, we can’t sell stuff made in Japan, like in Virginia City, to keep it running,” Frye said. “We’re not like Yose- mite. You know, Half Dome is never going to fall down. But, in Bodie, particularly the outlying buildings, once there are collapses and (buildings) fall down, then that’s it. It’s over.” Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis Bodie: Somany colorful stories survive amid accumulating dust FROM PAGE H1 Associated Press file The Swazey Hotel at Bodie State Historic Park, one of the many warped reminders that Bodie once was a thriving town with a population of about 10,000 people — and plenty of the problems that came with such sizable Wild West settlements. 270 182 395 5 miles The Sacramento Bee Bridgeport Bridgeport Reservoir Bodie Bo die Rd . Bodie M asonic Rd. Auro ra Cany on Rd . Bodie State Historic Park Sacramento BODIE Directions: From Highway 395, 7 miles south of Bridgeport, take Highway 270 east 10 miles to the end of the pavement, and continue 3 miles on a dirt road. _ Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through Oct. 31; 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 1 to May 14. _ Cost: $7 adults; $5 children _ More information: Call (760) 647-6445 or go to ?page_id=509 Associated Press file Visitors peer into one of the many buildings in the ghost town, where items left behind by the former residents remain, albeit covered with dust, to catch their eyes. TAOS, N.M. – The North- east is deservedly famous for its autumn palette, but New England doesn’t have a lock on fall color. Bright yellow foliage decorates many parts of the Southwest this time of year, and there’s no better place to experience those hues than on a drive around the Enchanted Circle, an 85-mile loop in northern New Mexico that begins in Taos. “It’s the aspens everyone comes to see, those gorgeous golden colors,” said Jolene Mauer, a spokeswoman for New Mexico Tourism. As in other parts of the country, peak leaf color is fleeting, lasting about two weeks. It’s often the end of September and first week of October, but the exact “tim- ing depends on Mother Nature,” Mauer said. Folks coming to Albuquer- que for the annual Balloon Fiesta, Oct. 5-13, might also consider a side trip to take in the Enchanted Circle. Taos, the logical jumping-off point for the loop, is about 130 miles from Albuquerque and also offers museums, great food, and tours of the Taos Pueblo, a centuries-old native settlement famous for its picturesque adobe dwell- ings silhouetted against the bright blue New Mexico sky. You can cover the En- chanted Circle route in just a couple of hours if you drive straight through. Just look- ing out the car window will provide plenty of beautiful scenery as you wind around mountains, across valleys, past rivers, through small towns and ranchland. But there are also numer- ous places to stop along the way, as well as a few worth- while detours, so you can also make a day of it if you want. From Taos, the route heads west on 64, then north on 522 and east on 38. You’ll drive through the wooded byways of Kit Car- son National Forest and take in views of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, including the state’s highest point, Wheeler Peak (13,162 feet). The aspen gold is offset in many of the vistas by deep greens from spruce and other types of trees. You’ll pass through the towns of Questa and Red River, with a beautiful stretch through the Moreno Valley, then on to Eagle Nest, with a lake and state park, where you’ll pick up 64 again. In the resort town of Angel Fire, you can pay your respects at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park before heading back to Taos. And if you want to extend your trip a bit, keep going northwest on 64 about 10 miles (17 kilometers) past Taos to the Rio Grande Gorge, where you can park and walk across a bridge for a view of the river 565 feet (172 meters) below. Ready to relax after all that driving and sightsee- ing? The mineral springs at Ojo Caliente are about 30 miles from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, and there’s a great cafe onsite. For more information: Enchanted Circle: From Taos, N.M., an 85-mile scenic loop; http://enchanted- or trail. Golden aspens brighten NewMexico’s Enchanted Circle in fall By Beth J. Harpaz The Associated Press Beth J. Harpaz The Associated Press Fall color brightens the 85-mile loop in northern New Mexico known as the Enchanted Circle. Visitors can head out from Taos and take in scenery from Kit Carson National Forest, the Sangre de Cristo mountain range and the Moreno Valley.

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