THE WAYBACK TOWN: There aren't too many places in California where it feels as if time as not passed, not even an iota. Oh, natural places, for sure: The ancient bristlecone pine forest in the Inyo National Forest hasn't changed all that much in, well, centuries upon centuries.
But we speak of towns and cities here, spots with manmade structures. Anywhere with a store and some houses and roads tends to evolve with the years, in little and large ways, with the exception of a few treasured spots, principally among them Bodie, "the best example of an old west mining town in America." The Mono County-based state park has spent the last several decades in a state of "arrested decay," meaning that while rangers tend to structures, the town is very much preserved in its 1880-ish state.
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It's a striking and silent place to be when the sun is high overhead, but come night? It must be positively ghostly, in all of the spooky and time-epic senses. Visitors don't get a chance to experience that, given the park's afternoon closing times, but happy news, history-loving night owls: There are three special nights a year when Bodie pushes into darkness.
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EVENING IN BODIE: On June 28, July 26, and Aug. 15 the park will remain open through 10 p.m., meaning guests will get to experience sunset and twilight and some Milky Way-style star twinkle, too. The events are actually called Bodie Ghost Walk and Star Stories and, indeed, there shall be a chill-tale ghost tour. But if you want to just stare at the sky, and observe the outlines of the 19th century buildings as the color of the horizon deepens, you're okayed to do that, too. And an astronomer will be on hand, too, to talk all things cosmos (and, for sure, the sky'll be lit up in the way it was for denizens of the 1800s, given Bodie's remote setting).
Darkness and a ghost town and a rare chance to stroll it? And to support all causes Bodie, its preservation and protection, through your ten-dollar admission? It is a rather magical thing indeed.
HELLO, 1880s: Who says we need time machines, anyway? You'll feel pretty darn 1880, standing out on Green Street next to the old Red Barn and Saddle Room, when the sun finally dips down and goes bye-bye for the night.
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