Have you ever heard of Lone Pine, California? Neither had we until looking where we might camp while visiting Manzanar National Historic Site. Right outside of town we found Diaz Lake County Park. At this time of year there were only six other campers however during the summer months it is very popular with folks hiking Mount Whitney. We arrived to find that the water supply was still turned off for the winter. No problem as we have had enough unexpected situations so we always travel with a full fresh water tank. Later on we checked out a BLM campground, Tuttle Creek, for future use. Both spots are dry camping.
You say you’ve never been here and yet at least via your TV or the movies you have. If you ever watched Hopalong Cassidy, The Lone Ranger, Bonanza or John Wayne movies or How the West Was Won you saw the Alabama Hills. The hills are named after a Civil War battleship but we don’t know why. Ever watch Gunga Din? Thought you were in India? Nope, Lone Pine, California and the Alabama Hills. Located within easy commute of Hollywood this area was used for numerous westerns and films reaching a peak in the 1950s. We spent most of our first day just driving and walking through the area. The road leading to Mount Whitney, Whitney Portal Road, was still closed but we found a road called Movie Road. Now who could resist exploring that spot? As we drove along it was easy to imagine gunmen behind every rock. At one point I said to Steve, this is where the stagecoach driver gets shot and the passenger has to crawl out of the coach and scramble up to the seat then jump down on the horses and grab the reins, saving everyone from the canyon edge. Home to over 300 movies the Alabama Hills can be seen in recent movies such as Star Trek V and VII, Tremors and Gladiator. Each year the BLM issues 30-40 permits a year for movies, commercials and still photography shoots. You can download a PDF brochure from the BLM to help guide you to some of the movie locations.
We came to an especially pretty area with subtle colors running from rose, lilac and light green to rust and tan. As I was taking this picture I just knew it would become one of my favorites. When I had time later I worked with some of the post processing software to change the photo to watercolor and oil paint adaptations. Which version do you like best?
Here are a few more photos from the area. Our second day in the area was cold and windy letting you know that Winter hadn’t released it’s grasp just yet. After warm desert temps we had to scramble to find jeans, sweatshirts and hats.
We met our friends Mary and Jeff for dinner at their home. Both are are archeologists. Mary is retired from the US Forest Service and Jeff is the museum director at Manzanar NHS. Almost twenty years ago Jeff was involved in a dig at the Puerco Pueblo site in Petrified Forest NP. We are continuously amazed at the coincidences we find while traveling.
Manzanar NHS was established in 1992. Unlike Minidoka NHS that we visited last year, several buildings from the Japanese Internment Camp remain. The park is still being developed and new interpretation exhibits will open soon. The museum and park film located in the Visitor Center are excellent and describe the day to day life of the camp. The camp gymnasium that once held dances is now the Visitor Center. It is surprising to me that the internees kept such a positive attitude. While we were watching the film, a family from Japan was sitting right behind us. I wish I’d been able to ask them what was their reaction to this park. Among the internees were 400 landscape professionals who turned a bleak, dry area into a lovely Japanese garden with streams and a bridge. Future plans call for restoring the garden. This is the only camp that had an orphanage to care for displaced orphans, foster children and babies born out of wedlock. Of the 10,000 people interned here one went on to be the designer of the 1963 Corvette Stingray. He was twelve years old when his family was sent to this camp. We always learn a lot visiting our National Parks. At Manzanar we learned that the US was not alone in relocating people of Japanese ancestry. Both Cuba and Canada had relocation camps. Here are our photos from Manzanar.
Just about the time we were finishing our visit, the sky cleared and we were able to see Mount Whitney.
Then it was back to the movie theme which dominates the area with a visit to The Film History Museum. While not a large museum it is chock full of memorabilia from the days of silent film through Quentin Tarantino’s Django. Be sure to watch the film if you go. Great music and cuts from lots of shows. We even bought a copy. Younger generations might not enjoy it as much but for those of us who spent Sunday nights watching Roy, Dale and Trigger it was a walk down memory lane. We loved the old posters with headers like the one from Glenn Ford’s “The Violent Men” They Don’t Make Them Like This Any More! As a seven year old I’d get very excited as Roy would get into trouble. My Dad would say to me “Don’t worry. He has to be on next week.” We have just put several of these old movies on our Netflix queue. I’m really looking forward to Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith. So for your own brief return to the days of Hi Ho Silver! Away! Here are our photos. Be sure and read the autograph on the last picture. The Lone Ranger just misspelled Chari’s name.