"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Amazing Alabama Hills! Boulders, Mountains, Movies & a War Camp

Lone Pine, CA
Alabama Hills Rec Area 

Other than Borrego Springs, boondocking in the Alabama Hills is something we've planned each of the past 6 years since Fulltiming but something has always come up and we've had to cancel.
That's our spot in the rocks.

This interesting rock is just  inside the Rec area.
This is a fairly large area but you can't just pull over anywhere.  To protect the fragile area you can only camp in dirt areas already there.  While there are many and the dirt roads criss-cross all around, many roads are rocky, sloped or narrow and you just can't maneuver a rig like ours easily.  It's also very popular.  Even in late October it's pretty crowded.  We drove around and tried a few spots but it just wasn't working.  We decided since it was getting late and cold and we were getting frustrated it was best to just pick a level spot near the main road and we'd try again in the morning.
We found a real nice empty spot early in the morning so off we went.  There were two ways to get into it and neither was that great.  Lots of large rocks, sloped, etc.  We chose the easier option and it took a bit of breath holding but it worked.

The coordinates to our spot are: 36.5990  118.1134
We are the blue dot.  You can see another rig below ours.
Here's what we looked like viewed from Movie Rd (the dirt road, after the pavement ends).
So much fun climbing around all the boulders.
Relaxing in the "backyard" with a fire and margaritas.
Example of another camping area against the rocks.
The Alabama Hills are a range of hills and rock formations near the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in the Owens Valley, west of Lone Pine.  The elevation is 4500+ feet. The Alabama Hills  were named after the CSS Alabama, a Confederate warship deployed during the American Civil War. When news of the ship's exploits reached prospectors in California sympathetic to the Confederates, they named many mining claims after the ship, and the name came to be applied to the entire range.

I've known about the Manzanar Internment Camp and driven past it many times but never had a chance to visit it.  I had childhood neighbors that had their father interred here when he was young.
In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center  was one of ten camps where Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens were incarcerated during World War II. (from the website)
Due to Covid the museum is closed as well as a couple exhibits.  They have a very nice self-guided drive you can do that takes you all around the grounds that is still open.

A beautiful place to be buried but certainly not where they wanted to be.

As you drive around it takes you past housing, gardens, commercial buildings, hospitals etc.  Most are completely gone, some have faint foundations and some are being rebuilt.  It was a small city, almost self reliant.

Slabs of the old weaving factories.
Some barracks being rebuilt.
One of the guard towers.

Exercise yard.
It's nice to see them upgrading and improving.  I wish we could've seen the museum but I know we'll be by again.

Driving through town we spotted this off to the side of the road and stopped to check it out.  Interesting to see this old oak tree started out as a tiny sprout from the Sherwood Forest and is now a beautiful tree. 
And just down the street we found an old cemetery for victims of a devastating earthquake from 1872.  I can't imagine what they thought of earthquakes knowing nothing about them back then.

Mass grave.
On the way back to home we stopped at one of the movie sites. Since many were filmed out here they have a pamphlet that points them out.  Some of markers have info about the movie like this one at the Gunga Din site.
I think the mode of transportation was different back then.

One day we spent hiking all around the rocks.  First we headed to the must do Arch Loop Trail.  It's an easy mile or so hike with some offshoots.  There is a parking area here.
First off we came upon Heart Rock. 
So many formations out here.  Boulders, Slabs of rock stacked.  Balanced rocks and more.  You can just wander around and climb all over to your hearts content.
The most famous is Mobius Arch.  You can get so many great shots coming here at sunrise, sunset, et.
This is one of the most popular angles with the arch framing Mt. Whitney, California's highest peak at 14,505 feet.
So many layers of color.
A different angle to catch the sun.
This is Lathe Arch which you are asked not to walk on.

Steve walking beside some of the tall boulders.
One of many balanced rocks and us having some fun under the hot sun.

I found another Thumb Rock!  The other is in the Superstitions in AZ on the hike up to Flatiron.
One last arch to find was the Eye of the Alabama.  The trail took us straight up and then we were on our own to figure it out.  I had some coordinates but they didn't work. 

Steve checked up there, and I hiked around another spire but we couldn't find it.
Steve walked around one more area and, success!  I think this one was my favorite!  Here are our coordinates if you are looking for it: N36.6169  W118.1176

Eye of the Alabama
One of the few trees in a wash lined with a few green bushes.
What a playground for kids.  Ours would've had a blast here!
One of the rocks that Kevin Bacon climbed to get away from the Graboid in one of our favorite movies, Tremors.  If you haven't seen it, it's corny but very funny. 

This is how the dirt road looks after you leave the pavement.  Easy to maneuver but not a whole lot of places to turn around a large rig.  I'd suggest scouting it out first and bringing a couple chairs or something to mark your spot if you find one.
"The Shark Fin"

Our last day we wanted to take a drive up to Whitney Portal which is where the trailhead up to the peak of Mt. Whitney starts.  I have not hiked this peak but would like to one day.  It would be an overnight backpack trip.

We had made plans to hike Lone Pine Lake from the Mt.Whitney Portal  trailhead.  It's a 6 1/2 mile hike that also has a waterfall and is rated as difficult.  It's 8378 feet at the trailhead.  We're ok up to 10,000 feet before we really feel the elevation.
Very pretty and there is some leaf changing up here. It's bright and sunny but a chilly 40 degrees.

The water was ice cold with icicles hanging off branches and rocks.  Even Hurley wouldn't go in except for a drink.
Oh no!  I wouldn't have guessed the past fires were still causing problems here.  There were just so many past fires and many that could still happen that they decided to  close many trails up here early.  They just don't have enough resources.  
I guess I can at least claim that I hiked 5 feet of the trail to the top!  Since we couldn't do our hike to the lake we just walked around the area and enjoyed the views.

Mt. Whitney.  This is as close as I'll get for now.

It was a great day and we drove back down and checked out some of the campgrounds nearby.  Tuttle Creek is closer to Whitney Portal and a nice campground.  A larger rig could fit up here.

As we were leaving we pulled in to the Museum of Lone Pine Film History which has a large parking lot to fit our rig.  I enjoyed this museum more than I thought I would.  I was expecting it to be more western movies from the 50s.  Surprisingly movies have continued to be filmed here and many of them I wouldn't have  guessed.
Steve worked many years at Kodak and were always fascinated to see the old film equipment.  Panaflex and Technicolor cameras.

Wyatt Earp with Kevin Costner and Dennis Quaid.
Props from Django Unchained.


Gregory Peck


Some of the many movies filmed here.

The suit from Iron Man worn by Robert Downey Jr.

I've seen so many movies with this guy!

Humphrey Bogart.

This place is another must see!  What a great time we had here.  I'm so glad we finally made it to explore.  This is a great place to spend a week.