Sweet Home Alabama
After walking among the oldest living trees on the planet, I headed back down into the Owens valley on the way to my next pit stop: the Alabama Hills.
As you descend from the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, you pass down into a valley that is enclosed on both sides by long mountain ranges. If the sun is setting, you get the spectacular view of light beams cresting over the Sierra and cascading through the valley below all while viewing from behind the silhouette of the White Mountains. It's quite the site to behold.
So I made my way to the Alabama Hills. It's a rural community outside of a tiny town (Lone Pine) within a county most folks have never heard of (Inyo). When I first started driving toward it, I was worried that I'd be stuck out in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. While the house I stayed in WAS in the middle of nowhere, it turned out to be the PERFECT home base for setting out on multiple adventures.
Just from my backyard there were sights to behold in every direction. To the East are the White Mountains (from which I came) and Death Valley (to which I'll be heading soon). To the West, you can see monolithic stones and the majestic wall of Sierra extending as far north and south as can be seen on the horizon.
Mt. Whitney (the highest summit in the contiguous United States) is right behind the house. The portal road leading directly to it is a 2 min drive away. If you drive directly west of the property, there's a road that drives up the Sierra to a multitude of hiking spots. I'll repeat that again. You can DRIVE UP the Sierra. The road is one long switchback after another, but I was able to do it in Hotel Prius so that tells you that it's not a rough path by any stretch. I'm hoping to go back again someday on a motorcycle and appreciate the true beauty of the road and the thrill of steep cliff switchbacks.
However, my favorite nearby spot was one that many of us have seen, but few have been to: the Alabama Hills. This area is iconic among Hollywood westerns with hundreds of films having been shot there over the years. There's even a road specifically named and devoted to the it, aptly named "Movie Road". The films date back all the way to 1919, but feature some as recent as Iron Man, Django Unchained, and The Lone Ranger.
A particular favorite of mine is the Arch Loop which is a relatively short desert path that showcases a few natural rock arches. At sunset (which comes early due to the hight of Sierra blocking the sun to the west) the giant alien landscape glows with golden hues. However at night, when the moon is full and the stars are bright, is when the Alabama Hills are truly majestic. I brought my tripod and captured a star trail picture set of Mt. Whitney framed inside of the Mobius arch. It's one of my favorite pictures to date and only one example of the creative potential stashed in this little known oasis.