The trip from our campsite outside of Bodie down the canyon to Aurora was a real visual treat. The storm of yesterday was only a memory now. The skies were blue, temperatures mild, and the deer, hawks, and scenery were splendid. A sturdy vehicle should have no trouble on the well maintained dirt road, at least until the turnoff to Aurora. The road twists and turns to unveil spectacular cliffs, and there are several narrow bridges which take you over the small but noisy stream.
At the Aurora turnoff (which we missed, be sure to check your mileage!) the road becomes a bit more of a challenge. We were glad to have four wheel drive. After you splash across the stream you begin to climb steeply out of the canyon. Expect some erosion on the road and be sure your vehicle is capable of making it through these spots. We did not see another car all day; you wouldn't want to get stuck here!
As you finally begin the descent into Aurora you are in for a surprise. There appears to be nothing there! Only a few tailings dumps and head frames break the monotony of the sagebrush. Where's the town? After all, at its peak in the 1860's there were over 3,000 inhabitants, 14 active mills which produced the equivalent in today's prices of 300 million dollars in gold and silver bullion, numerous hotels, a fine brick schoolhouse, and even a brass band! Gold was first discovered in this hard rock mining location in 1860. Wood, which was scarce at this 7,000' elevation, was quickly scavenged from the structures in the struggling Monoville placer area to build Aurora. Later, as the city expanded, the residents made bricks and used native limestone to create lime for mortar. It was a model city, streets arranged in a grid, that soon was considered for the county seat. Even Samuel Clemens was a temporary resident. Writing under the pen name of Mark Twain he includes a view of daily life in Aurora in his work Roughing It. However, to the miners' dismay, the ore bodies pinched off at the one hundred foot level. Aurora was finished. As the mines faded, owners dismantled their cabins and hauled them up-canyon to the rapidly expanding village of Bodie. The final indignity came after World War II when it was looted for its brick, which was used to become "used brick" homes in the sprawling new suburbs in Southern California.
So Aurora has given in to the force of gravity! As you begin to explore the "barren" sagebrush covered expanse, you find that there is literally a carpet composed of what was once a bustling city. Timbers, nails, twisted metal, glass, pieces of old bottles, parts of dishes and cups, cans bed springs, you name it, it's all here. Please be sure it stays here! We moved some artifacts to photograph, but they were quickly replaced. It's eerie walking through the debris of so many hopes and dreams. It was so quiet that you could hear the beat of the wings of the ravens. The hawks were silent, ghostly. This is a real ghost town. You could easily spend a week here. I would recommend reading Aurora, Ghost City of the Dawn. It contains a city map, and with this you will understand more about how the city looked in life, and where its remains lie today. A camera with a good macro lens will be able to record your finds. Before you leave be sure to visit St. John's Cemetery up on the hill north of town. Not a bad spot at all to spend eternity!