Ed Dieden and I went on a long planned trip to Nevada to photograph. The weekend ended up being about a twenty hour drive to spend two hours in the ghost town of Bodie CA. But, hey! we both were born in California, so driving twenty hours in two days is an act of Western Patriotism. Our first stop was to be Bodie, California, a popular photography destination. To get to Bodie, first we had to get to Highway 395 and, to get to Highway 395, first we have to cross the Great Central Valley, the Sierra foothills, and, then, the High Sierras. In the foothills, it was early summer and the grass was just starting to turn from green to golden.
In the High Sierras, it was early spring with the wildflowers starting to bloom,
mother ducks were teaching their ducklings to swim and forage,
Lake Tenaya was looking very blue nestled in its granite valley,
and smaller lakes were doing their best to provide Kuhlmanesque reflections.
On the eastern side of the Sierras, the road drops like a rock and we were soon on Highway 167 going east to the turnoff to Bodie.
As an aside, the West is characterized as wide open spaces, but almost any long drive in the West involves lots of up and down. We left our homes at sealevel, went over Altamont Pass at a little over one thousand feet, drove across The Great Central Valley – the largest, flattest place in the western hemisphere, flatter than Kansas or Iowas – and then crossed the Sierras at Tioga Pass – just shy of ten thousand feet – and down to Mono Lake at 6382. Then it is up to Bodie at 8379 feet.
Our plan was to go to Bodie on our first day and photograph it in the warm, afternoon, light and then spend the next couple of days wandering around the area to the east of Bodie. Bodie is now a State Park and closes at 6:00 pm. For a $50 extra permit, we could come back the next morning before dawn. We passed on the permit and followed Bodie Creek east to find a place to camp.
We drove for about an hour on a slow dirt road and camped at a still pretty high elevation. That night was very cold. The next morning, both our bags were covered in frost. Lots of frost! I had brought my summer bag, thinking we would be camping lower, so I spend a chilly night. Ed was recovering from a bout of strep-throat, just getting off of penicillin a couple of days before, and he was even colder. His doctor probably would not have recommended that he sleep in a below freezing environment. Then again, Ed is a former Marine – actually, there is no such thing as a former Marine – so maybe his doctor would have recommended it.
Either way, Ed was knocked back by the cold night and didn’t feel great the next day and, then, I began to imagine that I had a sore throat. We continued, listlessly, down the Bodie Creek Canyon, past fields of wild Irises and wild rose bushes. The canyon was lovely.
Eventually we got Hawthorn Nevada at about four thousand feet. Hawthorn is a small city – using the term city very loosely – in a large valley that has been denuded to store military ammunition. Any kind of ammunition; small arms ammo, bombs, missiles, grenades, depth charges, anything that can kill people. Hey! our country likes to kill people and we need a place to store the tools.
Hawthorn used to have a population of over 35,000 during WWII but is now down to about 3,100. The main tourist attraction seemed to be the Hawthorn Ordnance Museum where, among other things, our guide told us that housing in Hawthorn is an excellent buy. He paid, only $29,000 to buy a home with two lots and a swimming pool. Standing in the heat on the empty main drag, it actually seemed a little over priced.
On one wall of the museum was an hammer award and I couldn’t help but think of the axion If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To us, I think, everything looks like a place to be bombed. Looking around the museum, I felt mostly sad.
Then it was back onto the road and over the Sierras to home where the Japanese were beating the American women in an overtime soccer match.