Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lone Pine, Part II

Between Lone Pine and the Sierras are the Alabama Hills, a line of rock formations that are unique; we’ve never seen anything like them anywhere else.  Driving along “Movie Flat Road”, you expect to see the Lone Ranger and Tonto around every turn – so many westerns were filmed here.  Surprisingly, there is nothing left of any movie site, since the area is BLM land, everything must be returned to it’s natural state after filming.  It’s a shame in a way, imagine being able to roam the streets of a wild west town, the golden temple of Gunga Din, or the streets of Perfection in the movie Tremors!  But even without the sets, the Alabama Hills are amazing - lots of side roads into the rocks, hiking trails everywhere, and best of all, fabulous views of the rocks with the Sierras and Mount Whitney in the background.  One formation we saw could be called the “heart” of the Alabama Hills (below).Alabama Hills
Alabama Hills & Sierras2
Alabama Hills Heart Rock
We traveled north one afternoon to the small town of Independence and visited the Mount Whitney Historic Fish Hatchery, an interesting  and beautifully maintained state facility built in the 1940’s using 3400 tons of native granite.  Although it’s not active now, it’s maintained for visitors, and like the hatchery we volunteered at this year, had a large pond of “display” trout to view. 
Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery
On another day, we drove east for a day visit to Death Valley.  It’s an interesting day when you can start by looking at the highest point in the continental US (Mt Whitney 14,405’), then drive to the lowest point (-287’).   We visited Death Valley in the late 70s while living in Las Vegas and remember asking ourselves “what’s the attraction"?  After all they don’t call it “nice to look at” valley, or even “moderately pleasant” valley…’s DEATH valley!  And there’s a reason for that.  Miles and miles of rock, sand, and scrub brush, a place where even the snakes carry canteens.  But we made the trip, stopped at the Furnace Creek (another great descriptive name), visitor center, then turned around and headed back home…..asking ourselves why did we drive all that way?  I’m sure there are plenty of people who love Death Valley, but for us, we’ve permanently crossed it off our bucket list. 
Death Valley Overlook
No visit to Lone Pine would be complete without a stop at the Museum of Film History, a wonderful collection of all things filmed in the area.  As “Boomers”, it’s a reminder of our younger years spent waiting for Saturday morning and Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autrey, and of course, Roy Rogers.  Old posters, TV clips, and memorabilia like the “cowboy hat hall of fame” bring back old memories, and there is an extensive collection of props used in newer movies also.   We enjoyed the movie “Tremors” and Brenda made friends with one of the movie’s “Graboids”.  At the entrance, we marveled over the custom Cadillac of Nudie Cohn, the man who put the rhinestones on cowboy suits.  He must have been very successful judging by the “Nudiemobile”, covered with real silver dollars and other uh, stuff.    We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to this museum, and recommend it to all.Lone Pine Movie Museum
Shootist Coat and Hat Hall of Fame
Brenda with Graboid
We left Lone Pine with a promise to ourselves that we’d return again, perhaps next time in the spring or early fall when it’s a bit warmer.  Back on Highway 395, we headed south for a stay at Edwards Air Force Base.  I’ve visited Edwards many times in my working life, and it’s a bit easier to take, although not much, visiting it as a retiree.  Edwards is the Flight Test Center for the Air Force, and if you wanted to pick a place where a failed test aircraft could fall out of the sky and not damage anything, this is the perfect place.  Think Death Valley with a runway.  But it has a nice Famcamp, a good commissary, and is the only decent place in the area to spend a night.  We took a tour around the base, past the Test Pilot School and into the NASA area where we saw the two Space Shuttle carriers, now without a mission, parked on the ramp.  From a distance, they look like regular Boeing 747s, but if you look close, you’ll see twin tails that were needed since the Shuttle blocked the airflow over the normal tail.  Next to the aircraft is the shuttle mating facility, where they would lift the shuttle onto the back of the 747.  Test Pilot School
Shuttle Carrier
Shuttle Mating Facility
The base Famcamp has good facilities, and there aren’t many rodents thanks to the pretty camp coyote that paid us a visit:
Campground Coyote
We’re on our way to the San Clemente area for a stay at Camp Pendleton’s San Onofre campground and a Thanksgiving visit with our daughter and her husband.  After that, we’ll be traveling back to Texas for our winter stay.  We may not have anything interesting for a while, but don’t go away, we’ll be back!  For all of our readers, Brenda and I wish you all a happy Thanksgiving Holiday!


  1. I miss that part of the country - we spent the last two years there and now up in Oregon... Your pictures make us smile with our own memories... Happy Thanksgiving!!


  2. Nice pictures and I enjoyed the post. I'm a little envious of your travels and sightseeing. We've been full timers since 2005 but due to work and family, we've been mostly stationary at Cutty's Des Moines Campground. This will be our last WINTER in Iowa. In 2012 we will become Winter Texas. Can hardly wait. In the mean time, I'll live vicariously through other blogs.