Laura and Lee's 40th Birthday Follies

September 6-10, 2000

We usually spend Labor Day weekend with my parents at their house in the mountains near Mammoth, but this year was special and we delayed the trip a few days so that we could spend my 40th birthday (and Walt's 41st) up there. Seemed only right to spend my birthday with the two people responsible for my being around. :-)

(The photo above was taken at my pre-40th birthday party in San Diego - with those of us who turned 40 in the last year (and there were 5 of us!) all wearing the "40" birthday shirt we received.)

Wednesday September 6

We worked a half day and took off in the early afternoon - got on the road just before 2:00. We stopped in the thriving metropolis (not!) of Olancha (population 100, or thereabouts), for dinner at the Ranch House Cafe. It's been there for *years*, and has good food and HUGE portions. Barb ordered their beef rib dinner, which came with salad and potato and vegetables and corn bread - it was a lot of food! For dessert we split two pieces of fresh blackberry(?) pie - it was delicious. Our waitress considered us city slickers and was teasing us - Walt asked her if they by any chance had de-caf coffee and she said no - and then she laughed and said of course they had de-caf.

We stopped in Bishop to get groceries - the four of us were travelling in our Saturn sedan, which meant the trunk was pretty much full of suitcases, etc., and there was no room for groceries. We looked at the car and what we came out of the grocery store with, and Lee told us to all get in the car, and then he packed in the groceries around us. :-) Fortunately the house is only about 1/2 hour from Bishop! :-)

We arrived around 9:30 and unpacked the car and visited for a little while before going to bed.

Thursday September 7

Happy Birthday to Walt and me! :-) I wanted to do some type of day hike, so Dad and I looked at his topo map program and plotted a couple of different options before choosing one. We packed our lunches and all of us in my parents' Camry (Dad went hiking with us) and drove back down to Bishop to the DMV. My license was expiring that day, and I'd forgotten to send in my renewal by mail. And besides, I was just continuing the tradition - exactly a year before Walt had had to renew HIS license at the Bishop DMV. :-) It was easy - no test - I just had to pay the fee and let them take my picture and thumbprint.

From there we drove up, up, up the Bishop Creek canyon to the North Lake trailhead and the Piute Pass trail. It was clear and sunny but rather breezy - ok if you were moving, but time for a jacket if you stopped for very long.

We followed the trail up to Loch Leven - about 2.2 miles and 1200 feet of elevation gain. :-) It was very late in the season, so there weren't very many wildflowers still around, but I saw a few. We had a late lunch at the lake and relaxed and napped for a while before heading back down the trail.

We were cooking dinner that night, and we did a pasta bar with several different kinds of pastas and sauces. Barb and Walt made a homemade vegetable sauce with fresh basil and zucchini from their garden and fresh tomatoes from mine - it was delicious. We had delayed the "real" birthday celebration until the next night so some other friends could join us, but Mom had made shortcake for dessert that night, and after dinner Barb made her famous chocolate cheesecake which was to be the next night's dessert.

Friday, September 8

After breakfast we headed off to Bodie State Park which is an old mining ghost town. It had quite a reputation in its boom years - 1877-1882 - and the "Bad Man from Bodie" became a well-known phrase. The town had about 10,000 residents and 65 saloons, and people were killed almost daily. (Here's the official Bodie State Historic Park web site.)

The boom ended quickly, and most of the town was abandoned. Many of the buildings were destroyed by two disastrous fires (only about 10% is still standing). Bodie was established as a state historic park in 1962, and is maintained in a state of "arrested decay". Which seems to mean that they don't actually restore anything - they just keep it from getting any worse (and unsafe). Most of the buildings are locked - there's only a couple that you can actually go into. There's a self-guided walking tour, and a map/guide is available which tells you a little bit about the buildings you are seeing. The small museum has items that people have donated over the years - photos, clothing, even the town's horse-drawn hearse!

Bodie is in an extremely inhospitable area - the elevation is 8375 feet, and there are no trees around for miles - just lots of sagebrush. It's typically one of the coldest places in the entire county - a chill wind always seems to be blowing.

It's interesting to walk around and see all of the old mining equipment, cars, etc. that is laying around.

The Bodie cemetery sits on a hill above the town. It's very sad to see all the childrens' graves - we sometimes forget how modern medicine has dramatically lowered the infant mortality rate. The respectable people were buried inside the cemetery's fence, but many, such as prostitutes, Chinese, and illegitimate children, were buried outside in the "Outcast Cemetery". Most of these graves are unmarked, though there is a monument to Rosa May, who was a prostitute. A legend has grown up about her, and there's even a book about her.

Bodie supposedly has a curse - that if you take something from the town, you'll have bad luck until you return it. There's lots of letters in the Museum attesting to that.

We wandered around for several hours and had lunch outside the jail. It was mostly sunny but breezy and a little cool. On our way home we took the scenic route and went via the June Lake Loop, with a stop at the Tree Wizard Gallery where Barb found an unfinished piece of manzanita wood to use for a table stand. It barely fit in the trunk, but we figured my parents could bring it home with them on one of their trips (and actually my brother brought it down for Barb).

We had several friends and neighbors join us for dinner that night - Mom made us a wonderful dinner. And Walt and I got two different birthday cakes - in addition to the chocolate cheesecake Barb had made, Mom surprised me by making the chocolate layer cake with whipped chocolate cream icing that she'd always made me when I was younger. They were both really good.

Saturday, September 9

This was a day to not be very ambitious and to just relax. Dad made us homemade waffles for breakfast - yummy. Barb and Lee and I drove to Mammoth to do a little shopping (we had to visit the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory!), and in the afternoon while I was reading and napping, Walt and Barb and Lee drove up to Convict Lake and walked around a little. (The lake is so named because they caught some escaped convicts up there years ago - these days people usually catch trout there.) Star Trek fans might recognize it because it was featured in the movie Star Trek: Insurrection - the cloaked holographic ship was hidden under the waters of Convict Lake - though of course they would have us believe it's on a different planet. :-) It DOES look rather unworldly up there, though.

Sunday, September 10

We got up and packed and drove home - with the obligatory stop at Schat's Bakery in Bishop, of course. :-) Let's see...a little cheese bread, some squaw bread, a few macaroons...we managed to make it home without starving. :-)

Other Links

Tigger's Bodie Forebodings

Text and photographs copyright © 2000, 2001 by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Some photographs copyright © by Barbara Fletcher and Walter Aviles, used with permission. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath,
Last updated 3/21/2001

Back to Laura and Lee's Vacation Page