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Travelblog Gone with the Wine

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

Filtering by Category: California

Bodie Ghost Town in California might Bring You Bad Luck

Paula Gaston

What should you know before visiting the Bodie ghost town in California? At least the fact that you can only access in the summer months, and that you should not take anything from Bodie with you. Nothing! Now you might ask: “Why is that?” Well, if you jump down to our Labor Day weekend trip in California, you will soon find out.


A few weeks ago we did a trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. We visited places like Yosemite National Park, Devils Postpile at Mammoth Lakes and Mono Lake. After we stopped at Mono Lake to see its famous tufa towers, we ate lunch at a local restaurant and headed north on Highway 395. We didn’t have to drive too far when we saw a sign for the Bodie State Historic Park. The road to the park took us up to Bodie Hill, and there wasn’t much to see on the way there. We only saw a few cows eating grass far away. Eventually the road turned into a gravel road and we had to drive slower until we reached the park entrance. Finally we were there! We were ready to see this ghost town and maybe some ghosts too!

The road to Bodie

The road to Bodie



The history of Bodie started when William S. Bodey found some gold in the Bodie Hills in 1858. Gold miners started to move in, and soon there was a whole village full of people living there. During the years the name Bodey changed into Bodie, and nobody knows for sure why. But the town began to grow, and it was not only the gold miners who lived there, but also many families, business owners, prostitutes and even robbers. During the boom years of Bodie, there were 65 saloons on its main street. Bodie even had its own China town. After a hard day’s work the miners often went to the “red district” to spend their time and money.

Life in Bodie was hard. Just like in the western movies, shootings were common, and many couldn’t resist the temptation of alcohol. Winters were cold in the mountains and the houses were not properly insulated. The road to Bodie was often closed due to the snow, and people were stuck up in the Bodie Hills. What a life!

In the 1880’s people from Bodie started to move to new mining locations, and the population of the town started to decrease. By the mid 40’s Bodie was completely empty, and had become a ghost town. The families who were last to leave Bodie, took only the things they were able to carry with them. So most things like furniture, tableware, curtains and such like were left behind in the empty houses. Even the general store was left looking like it always was, full of goods on the shelves. So Bodie got totally abandoned for twenty years, until it fist became a Historic Landmark, and then a State Park in 1962.

Bodie Ghost Town

Bodie Ghost Town


Nowadays about 200,000 people visit Bodie every year. Considering that the Bodie State Historic Park is only open part of the year, that is quite a lot of people. I think that the harder it is to visit a place, it often just gets more attractive to people. For example, we have been wanting to visit Bodie for a few years now, but there just hasn’t been a good time for that. The longer we waited, the more we wanted to see it.

Bodie still has 170 buildings which is much more than any other ghost towns I have visited. They are not renovated, the buildings are only preserved in a state they are now in. So in that sense, you can really call this an authentic ghost town. Make sure you have enough time to visit Bodie, since it is actually quite a wide area and you can read the stories from the brochure while you visit the houses. In one house they show a half-hour film telling about the history of Bodie.

We walked around and peeked in from the doors and windows, since only some of them were open for visitors. But it was amazing to see how people who left Bodie had left everything behind them. The beds and sofas were now broken and china in the kitchen was full of dust, but they were still there. In the main street, they have a small museum where you can find personal items of Bodie people found from the houses and from the park. They had for example old letters, photos and money.

Bodie really can be a little bit creepy. The wind moved curtains around in the houses through broken windows, and the thunder made loud warnings about the coming storm, but we still had a great time visiting the park!



It is nearly impossible to visit Bodie without hearing about its bad luck and the curse. As I mentioned earlier, many robbers used to live in Bodie, and they often had bar fights or shootings like in the wild west. Also the weather in the mountains was harsh and took many lives. It can change so fast and even we witnessed a sudden thunderstorm with lightning and rain. We quickly ran under the front porch of the general store to escape the rain. Someone said that there is always a dark cloud above Bodie. And that was true at least the day we visited.

On the other side of the road from downtown Bodie there is a small cemetery where you can see and remember all the people who died there. All those whose luck ran out in this town.

Also the miners living in Bodie had bad luck. In 1882 they got the first electrical transmitter of the time to transport electricity to the mine. Only after one year in use, an avalanche destroyed the plant that transmitted electricity to Bodie.


When visiting Bodie, it really feels like you have stepped back in time. After you have been walking around and peeking into the houses, you will soon start to notice things on the ground. On the little paths you can find some rusty nails, pieces of glass or china, or even coins. But consider yourself warned; by taking them, you will also take home the curse of Bodie. The rangers will be happy to tell you more about it if you ask, and can show you things that people have sent back to the park. People who took items from there soon faced bad luck. Some got in to fights, some into accidents or fires, which made them return the things to the park. Some of them are showcased in the museum in Bodie. Not only will you get bad luck, but It is also against the park rules to take anything home from there.

So here was the story of the Bodie Ghost Town. It was a very fascinating and interesting place to visit, in spite of the dark side of the town. I wish we could have stayed longer, but the weather was really not co-operating with us. We headed north, to Bridgeport where we had booked a hotel. It was time to leave ghosts and abandoned houses behind us. Have you ever visited a ghost town?


Beautiful Mono Lake in California and How Was it Formed?

Paula Gaston

I had never known that such a beautiful lake exists in California until our last trip on Labor Day weekend. Our trip started from the Yosemite National Park, and after we stayed for two nights at the Mammoth Lakes visiting the Devils Postpile National Monument, we drove down to Mono Lake. Mono Lake is known for its tufa towers, very cool rock formations sticking out of the water. It was interesting to learn more about them, where they came from and what was so special about this lake.


Mono Lake is a saline water lake in California, close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Mammoth Lakes. Since we were visiting Mammoth Lakes we thought it would be fun to visit Mono Lake as well. The drive from Mammoth Lakes to Mono Lake was less than half an hour. This lake is one of the oldest lakes in the United States. It is actually ancient, over 1 million years old.


Since the water has no outlet from the lake, high amount of salts are stored in it. So basically you could float on the water just like in the Dead Sea in Israel. Because of the salt the water also stays alkaline. This salty water is home for millions of brine shrimp, which then attracts many migratory birds that eat them. Brine shrimp is an endemic species, but due to the alkaline water, no native fish live in this lake, and attempts to introduce fish to Mono Lake have failed. When you approach the waterline, you might see a big amount of flies like we did. They are called alkali flies, and are an important source of food for the birds living or migrating through Mono Lake.

Because of the salty water, the lake never freezes over even though snow covers the surroundings of it.


Most people visiting Mono Lake want to see its rock formations, the so called tufa towers. These limestone towers are born when springs at the bottom of the lake containing calcium, bubble up to the surface of the lake. The calcium and carbonate that is in the water combine, and limestone is formed around the spring. The spring keeps running in the middle, and the tower keeps growing around it until it reaches the air.

In 1941 Los Angeles County started using the water from the Owens River which flows to Mono Lake. The level of the lake started to decrease rapidly and the nature around the lake started to suffer. When the lake level was only half of what it used to be, the quality of air got notably worse. Mono Lake tufa towers become more visible and stopped growing. Luckily a committee that was founded in 1978 has been quite successful in the protection of the lake and its nature, and the level of the lake should not get any lower.

Mono Lake tufa towers. How were they formed?

Mono Lake tufa towers. How were they formed?


Many people visit Mono Lake after driving through Yosemite National Park or when visiting Mammoth Lakes. The closest town to Mono Lake is Lee Vining, which is tiny and practically on the beach. Only 222 lived there in 2010. They did however, have a couple of nice restaurants where you can eat if you didn’t bring a picnic.

The most popular place to visit is the Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve, also known as South Tufa, which offers the best views for the tufa towers. It was established in 1981 to preserve the towers and the animals living by the lake. There is a small fee that is collected at the beginning of the trail. We were there on a busy day when there was a ranger guiding people, but it seemed like they normally have a lockbox where they ask you to leave $3 per adult. So I would recommend bringing exact change. Also, if you have the America the Beautiful pass, which is the annual pass for national parks, you can use that. Just leave it on your car windshield while visiting. South Tufa Interpretive Trail starts from the parking lot and takes you to see the most beautiful tufas of the lake. The trail is 1 mile long and along it there are signs that tell you all about the lake and its animals.


The lake is so beautiful! You can see the snowy Sierra Nevada Mountains reflected in the water, and the tufa towers. This must be a dream destination for many photographers, but just remember: climbing to the rock formations is prohibited by law!


Other places you can visit at Mono Lake are County Park or Navy Beach, both of which can be reached by US Highway 395. If you are bringing a canoe or kayak, Navy Beach is probably the place for you. Navy Beach is actually very close to South Tufa.


Unfortunately, when we drove down from Mammoth Lakes to Mono Lake, the altitude sickness hit our oldest daughter. Like I told you earlier, we experienced some symptoms on this trip. When we were about to start the trail she started feeling sick and vomiting. So I went alone while the others waited in the car, and I didn’t have a lot of time to explore the lake. When I got back our daughter was already feeling better and did a short walk to see the tufas with my husband. So gladly everyone was OK, and the ranger recognised the symptoms right away. In that sense, I would love to return to Mono Lake someday and spend more time there since it was absolutely beautiful!


Hiking to Devils Postpile National Monument in California

Paula Gaston

After crossing the Sierra Nevada via Tioga Pass and stopping at Yosemite National Park, we drove down to Mammoth Lakes for Labor Day weekend. Our plan was to stay there for two nights and visit Devils Postpile National Monument. Devils Potspile is an amazing rock formation in the Sierra Nevada Mountains which is not very easily accessible. I had been planning this visit for a few years already, but the area is covered with snow most of the year, and the road is only open in the summer. Finally this fall we had an opportunity to drive over before the road would close for the winter again. But was it worth it? And what exactly is Devils Postpile?


Mammoth Lakes is known for its ski area and Mammoth Mountain. It is a small town which offers visitors many activities. Skiing must be the most popular one, but there were also hundreds of mountain bikers around while we were there, and many hikers like us. The elevation at the Mammoth Lakes is 7,881 feet, and at the Main Lodge where we stayed it was 9,000 feet. So many people do experience some mild symptoms of altitude sickness. For me it was mostly a mild headache with a loss of appetite.


While on our stay we happened to find a couple of good restaurants. One was in our hotel: Mountainside Bar & Grill, and the other one was called The Mogul Restaurant which was located downtown. It’s not too often that we enjoy the food so much two nights in a row on our travels.


Devils Postpile National Monument is about a half hour drive from Mammoth Lakes deep in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The road is very narrow, at some spots just one lane, and very twisty. The parking is very limited and it is located at the Red Meadows Resort. So it’s best to arrive early if you want to find parking. The road is open only for a few months during the year, usually from mid-June to mid-October, since the area is covered by the snow most of the time.

During the summer weekends there is a mandatory shuttle you will have to use. The tickets are sold at the Mammoth Mountain Adventure Center which happened conveniently to be in front of our hotel. Since it was Labor Day weekend, the line to the shuttle was very long, but it moved fast. When a full bus left, a new one arrived almost right away. I assume this is not the case on regular summer weekends. According to the schedule, the buses run every 30 minutes between 9 am. and 6:30 pm, but since it was their busiest weekend of the year, they had brought in some extra shuttle buses. Ticket prices were $8 for adults and $4 for kids (under 2 years old for free) for a day pass. Our own car was parked at the hotel, but if you drive over to the Adventure Center, you can park along the road, and either walk or use a complimentary shuttle going between the parking lots.

Finally the end of the line

Finally the end of the line


The shuttle bus dropped us in front of the ranger station in the mountains. We headed down to the trail and walked to Devils Postpile. This is a very easy hike, only 0.4 miles one way on a smooth trail. The mountain views were incredible, and then suddenly there was the wall of basalt columns in front of us. It was amazing! Devils Postpile was shaped by hot lava and ice. Around 100,000 years ago the valley was filled with lava, and when it cooled off it started cracking due to the pressure below. The cracks were shaped like hexagons, which you can really see if you also hike to the top of the monument. At the top, you can see the marks of the glacier passing over during the last ice age which then shaped the monument even more. I definitely recommend hiking to the top even though it is uphill.

These kind of basaltic columns are quite rare, but there are more around the world. For example, I have seen the similar basalt columns in Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach in Iceland when I was there.

There it is. Devils Postpile National Monument.

There it is. Devils Postpile National Monument.

The hexagon pattern smoothed by the glacier can be seen from the top.

The hexagon pattern smoothed by the glacier can be seen from the top.

After climbing up to the monument we sat down to have a snack and enjoy the view. We ended up hiking to the Red Meadows Resort where they have a general store, and from where the shuttle picks up the hikers. Another popular hike is the Rainbow Falls trail which is 2.5 miles one way, and while returning you will be hiking uphill. We were both out of breath due to the high altitude. It was very hot and our 2 year was carried in a baby backpack, so we decided to skip seeing the waterfall. Once we reached the Red Meadows Resort we got some ice cream from the store and lined up for the shuttle to go back to the hotel.

The general store at the Red Meadows Resort.

The general store at the Red Meadows Resort.


Our daughter was excited to find out that they have a Junior Ranger Program at Devils Postpile. She got the Junior Ranger book from the ranger station and kept filling it in during our hike. The cool thing about it was that they let you return the book to the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center, so we didn’t have to return to the ranger station. We have found that some of these Junior Ranger programs are a little inflexible when it comes to the process and in that sense, unfair for the kids. It is hard for kids to understand why we can’t always come back to the visitor center before closing time. The main idea is to explore the park and enjoy the nature after all, and the visitor center hours are very limited. So we were very happy that they took that into account at Devils Postpile. The next day we stopped at the Welcome Center and she got her Junior Range badge.

A Junior Ranger at Devils Postpile.

A Junior Ranger at Devils Postpile.


If you are planning to visit Devils Postpile, I would advise you to start by checking for road closures on the NPS website. That is also where you can find information about the shuttles and opening times of the ranger station or general store. Devils Postpile is a beautiful place, and totally doable with kids. Just book your trip and head out to the mountains!


Yosemite National Park - Exploring Tioga Pass

Paula Gaston

A couple weeks ago we drove through Yosemite via Tioga Pass. On our earlier visits to Yosemite, we have been to Yosemite Valley, like most other visitors I guess, but we had never driven Tioga Pass, Route 120 before. Even though we were just passing by, we were excited to see what this part of the park had to offer. The road is closed most of the year due to snow, so if you plan to visit, you should plan your trip somewhere between June and October. And I can promise, it will be worth it! This is the highest mountain pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.


These are the places we recommend:


Olmsted Point is a viewing area with an amazing view to Yosemite Canyon. People at Olmsted Point walk around on the rocks, take photos and enjoy the view. From Olmsted Point you can see both Half Dome and Clouds Rest. Tenaya Canyon is in between them far away. If you walk down on the path leaving from the left side of the parking lot, you can find these glacial erratic rocks that I am standing on. They are there due to this area once being a glacier. When the ice melted, it left behind many of these rocks. Unfortunately there were also a lot of wasps around this area when we were there, and our daughter got stung by one. That cut our visit to Olmsted Point short, but luckily she got better quickly. And the vista can’t get any better than this!

Olmsted Point in Yosemite

Olmsted Point in Yosemite



Tenaya Lake is right by the road and is an absolutely beautiful, clear water lake. The lake got formed by the Tenaya Glacier which also shaped Half Dome. Many creeks and springs bring water to the lake. We saw a lot of people there swimming, kayaking, fishing and just having a picnic. There are also trails you can take from Tenaya Lake if you are interested in hiking. Unfortunately we were not able to stay there for long, due to our daughters wasp sting, but this would be one place I would love to return in the future.


Soda Springs is a short hike which will take you to see carbonated cold water bubbling out of the ground. Park your car at the Lembert Dome parking area and follow the signs. The trail follows Tuolumne River and is very scenic. You will first arrive to the Parsons Lodge which was constructed by the Sierra Club in 1915 in honor of Edward Taylor Parsons. He was the club leader. From the lodge, just turn to the right and the spring is right there. People used to drink the water from soda springs, but they do not encourage it anymore.

The trail to Soda Springs

The trail to Soda Springs

Soda Springs at Yosemite National Park

Soda Springs at Yosemite National Park


Tuolumne Meadows must be the most known place in this part of the park. Melting snow always keeps this area wet and it is a perfect spot to see some wild flowers in the spring, the road would be already open. There are many hiking trails around the meadows and you can see several domes arise in the distance.

Tuolumne Meadows

Tuolumne Meadows



There are not a lot of services on Route 120, so make sure you enter the park with a full tank of gas, and some food and water. However, there is a visitor center in this area. Both Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center and the Wilderness Center are open in the summer months until mid-October. Soon after the visitor center there was also a small temporary restaurant, but make sure to check the opening times since it doesn’t open at the same time as the road. We brought our own snacks and there are many beautiful places to enjoy a picnic along the road.. There are also several camping grounds on Tioga Road.

Also, be aware of altitude sickness, since going above 8,000 feet (2,500m) quickly can cause some symptoms for many people. They include headache, shortness of breath, insomnia and loss of appetite. Tioga Pass at it’s highest point is 9,943 feet (3,031 m). If you are one of those people to get symptoms, it might be better for you to take it easy and enjoy the views rather than go hiking. It is always a good idea to learn how to recognise and treat altitude sickness before heading to the high mountains.


After spending a day in Yosemite, we headed to the other side of the Sierra Nevada, to Mammoth Lakes. More abou this in my next post. Have you been driving in Tioga Pass? What was your favorite thing to do there?


8 Photos from Our Road Trip to Utah and Arizona

Paula Gaston

Our first travel day from California via Nevada and Arizona to Utah went well. We drove about 486 kilometres (302 miles), and spent a night in a city we already knew in Mojave, California. We even stayed in a same hotel as we did on our last trip. It is in a convenient spot midway on our drive. Due to heavy rains in California this winter, the famous golden hills were all green and lush, and the reservoirs were full of water.


Also the Joshua Trees seemed to have loved the rain since they were all blooming. And they don’t bloom every year! These unique trees only grow in this one area.


We continued from Mojave toward Nevada and Las Vegas on I-15 which goes through the desert. The views are not the greatest there but surprisingly every once in a while there is something cool to see.


Along the road is a place called Zzyzx. The name has a funny history. It was founded in 1944, and it was meant to be the last place name in the English language.


We were actually so curious that we decided to explore Zzyzx a little. We took the Zzyzx Road a little ways until we saw a parking lot and one has to continue on foot. This area belongs to the Mojave National Preserve and there is a Desert Studies Center. Years ago this place used to have a spa. We turned around at the parking lot and returned to take some photos of the old lake bed which was now covered by salt. That was about the most exciting thing they had in Zzyzx.


Right before Las Vegas there is an art installation called Seven Magic Mountains. This piece by the Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone was opened in 2016, and it was supposed to be up for only two years. Though, it started to attract more and more people, and so the plan was extended to the year 2021.


Finally we crossed the Arizona State border and ten minutes later also the Utah border. From there we only had a ten minute drive to the city of St. George. That was a quick visit to Arizona.


And FINALLY THERE! More about our adventures in Utah and Arizona soon so stay tuned!