As a Californian, I’ve heard the tales in textbooks and in movies. When folks came from far and wide in the the year 1849 to get rich quick in the real-life El Durado that was the California Gold Rush.
The first place I found was much like the gold rush itself. That is to say, I came across it by chance and decided it was worth taking a look. I've driven past plenty of towns that have been kept and/or made to look old fashioned and rustic so this wasn't wholly a surprise. However, when I saw a sign saying, "No cars beyond this point, only horse drawn carriages", that's when I knew that I needed to have a peep.
The city of Columbia was bustling with not only modern families, but also actors walking around in gold rush era clothing. It was great to see everyone there from the musicians to an actual blacksmith dressed in costume. The illusion was slightly foiled when I saw one of the scruffy actors pop into his Audi to grab his jacket, but otherwise they stayed in character and had a very pleasant manner about them.
I stayed and wandered for a while, reading stories and bits of history. The curators of the city make no attempt to hide the avarice of man and his insatiable greed. Couple that with the exploitation of immigrant Chinese and Mexican workers and the city that had once charmed me was now gone. I realized that this was not a golden age for all men, but simply an age where all men sought gold.
Bodie was the second old town that I visited and it was quite different.
Again, it was founded during the gold rush, but rather than fix it up to look as if it were new and fill it with character actors, it was simply a ghost town.
I read somewhere that it was kept in an "arrested state of decay". I love that phrase. I feel like it could be used to describe many other aspects of America.
The buildings had been boarded up to prevent more "decay" and vandalism, but having looked inside, I'm not sure what was left to vandalize.
Overall, I really liked Bodie. It was beautiful, rugged, and had a timeless charm, much like the author of this blog post (HA, I wish).