Week 21: Long Weekend Getaway
This past weekend was a long weekend for Memorial Day here in America. Kim had the Monday off work so we decided to go on a three day trip to the High Sierras region of California. I'll have more detailed posts coming soon about each of the places that we visited over the weekend but for now I wanted to share a quick look at our adventure.
On a side note, here's a strange thing about working in America that my Australian friends might find interesting... While there are quite a few public holidays each year, your employer decides which ones you get off. And I don't just mean for people working in stores or restaurants that may happen to be open on a public holiday, I mean for everyone! Your employer sets how many public holidays you are entitled to each year and then they chose which holidays those will be. How weird is that?
Anyway, back to the story...
I've been keen to visit a ghost town for such a long time. A friend recently took a trip through the High Sierras and visited the ghost town of Bodie. When I saw the photos on Facebook I just knew that we had to go there. Bodie is a real life ghost town that boomed back in the late 1800s gold rush and then died off as the gold petered out. The whole town is now a State Historic Park and has been preserved in a state of "arrested decay", existing just as it did when the last residents left.
The drive to Bodie takes a good part of a whole day (especially with little kids who need frequent bathroom and playground stops!) so we decided to break it up with an activity along the way. Seeing as we were headed to a ghost town from the gold rush era it seemed only fitting that we stop to pan for gold along the way. So the first stop of our trip was Gold Prospecting Adventures in Jamestown, a two and a half hour drive from Berkeley. Here we panned for gold for a few hours, and... Eureka! We struck it rich! Ok, not quite, but we did find gold. Maybe about $20 worth.
We then headed through the mountains and on to Bridgeport, the closest (non-ghost) town to Bodie where we stayed for two nights. I had seen that storms were forecast in the region but didn't think too much of it until our gold prospecting guide mentioned that the Sonora Pass, located at over 9,600 feet above sea level and through which we needed to traverse, was most likely closed. Uh oh... I had seen signs along our drive that showed it was currently open, however this time of year is referred to as "flip flop season" for the high passes. One minute they're open, the next they're closed. Well, not quite, but the accessibility can change within just a few hours due to snow storms. So even though we'd passed signs saying the Sonora Pass was open, we didn't know for sure until we reached it. We were in luck. Despite the sleet and snow that fell coating the road white and slippery as we drove, the pass was indeed open.
We were also in luck in that the bad weather ceased and we were able to take in amazing views from Donnell Vista. I must admit that I had just focused on the destination of our trip and not the amazing landscape that we would be driving through to get there. As such, I was in complete awe when we pulled up at Donnell Vista. You know what? The views were so beautiful that I would've been just as awestruck had I known what to expect.
The following day we headed to Bodie - as did half of California or so it seemed! Ok, it wasn't quite that busy, but it was a lot busier than I had expected. Bodie is such an amazing place. I can't wait to share all of the photos with you. The buildings really have been left just as they were when the last residents packed up and moved on to greener pastures. Or wherever they went. The town boasted a population of around 8,500 people in 1879 with more than 2,000 buildings. Less than 10 years later the population had dwindled to only 1,500. The population continued to shrink until 1932 when a large fire swept through destroying all but 10% of the town. Talk about bad luck. Of course, the upside is that today we get to see such an amazing piece of history.
From Bodie we headed to nearby Mono Lake to see the amazing tufa towers. The tufa towers are calcium carbonate structures formed by underground fresh water springs welling up in Mono Lake's alkaline water. These tufas should be under water, however in 1941 the City of Los Angeles started diverting water from streams that feed Mono Lake. Over the years this caused Mono Lake to drop by 40 feet, exposing 17,000 acres of exposed lake bed. Eek! Since 1994 Mono Lake and its tributaries have been protected and the water level is slowly rising again.
On Monday we didn't have much planned other than driving home. We figured we'd stop in Jamestown again for lunch because it's such a cute town. We didn't expect to stop anywhere else, but then as we drove back through Sonora Pass the chance to stop and play in the snow presented itself and we couldn't resist. Now, you'll notice in the pictures that we weren't really dressed for the snow! In fact, we were dressed for the 28C (82F) weather forecast for Jamestown. The kids were a little cold but they didn't care. It's not every day they get to play in real snow - snow so fresh and soft we could actually roll snow balls to make a snowman.
We had a wonderful long weekend and I have so many more photos to share with you.