Today we got a geology lesson and a history lesson. So, if you are not interested in either, you can just skip to the pretty pictures.
We began the day at Mono Lake which is a large, shallow saline soda lake, formed at least 760,000 years ago. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate in the lake making the water alkaline. It has an unusually productive ecosystem and provides critical nesting habitat for two million annual migratory birds. The lake is famous for its Tufa formations which grow exclusively under the water. Underwater springs rich in calcium mix with the lake water (rich in carbonates) resulting in calcium carbonate–limestone. The reason we can see so much tufa around Mono Lake today is because the lake level fell dramatically after water diversions began in 1941.
Everyone kept telling us we had to visit Bodie, a ghost town north of Mono Lake, so we went. Bodie began as a mining camp of little note following the discovery of gold in 1859. In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp to a Wild West boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 7000 people and around 2,000 buildings.
Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid- to late 1880. As a bustling gold mining center, Bodie had the amenities of larger towns, including a Wells Fargo Bank, four volunteer fire companies, a brass band, a railroad, miners’ and mechanics’ unions, several daily newspapers, and a jail. At its peak, 65 saloons lined Main Street, which was a mile long. Murders, shootouts, barroom brawls, and stagecoach holdups were regular occurrences.
Bodie;s population declined in the early 1930s and it was abandoned in the early 1950s. It was a true ghost town until the California State Park System turned it into a park in 1962. The park system decided to preserve the remaining 100 buildings in a state of “arrested decay.” The exteriors of the buildings have not been repaired and the interiors remain as they were left. The store is still stocked with goods. The school house still has books, papers, etc. The town really does look like the people just walked away from it.
On the way back to the RV, we stopped by Virginia Lake (last two pictures) for a very brief period because the skies opened up and it poured. We have continued our service to drought stricken areas by visiting and bringing rain.