From The Theatrical To The Spiritual – Lone Pine, CA
“A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi-yo Silver” the Lone Ranger! “
Those who know me well know that I’m a total sucker for a strapping man on a horse galloping across a wild west scene. After all what hapless maiden wouldn’t swoon under the awe of such masculinity, mask and all? Needless to say I loooove the old west movies and when we entered Lone Pine I realized I may have found my movie mecca.
Lone Pine is a small, dusty town nestled at the very cross-roads of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the desert. Adding to the visual mystery are the Alabama Hills, a surrealistic rocky terrain of granite and metamorphosed volcanic rock 90-200 million years old that sprinkle the area just west of town.
It’s this unique combination-> crazy rocks, majestic Sierra Mountains (including the highest peak in the continental US, Mt.Whitney) and dusty, desert earth that makes this the perfect movie setting, so perfect in fact that literally many hundreds have been filmed in the area from some of the earliest silent westerns in 1920 (“The Roundup“) to “talkies” in 1929, popular series (“Hopalong Cassidy“), large-scale productions in the late 1930’s (“Gunga Din“) all the way to modern Sci-Fi.
You can see all the glorious detail at the superb Film Museum in Lone Pine (a simply wonderful collection of western and film memorabilia) followed by which you can tip your hat and ride your faithful steed (or car, depending on preference) and peruse the original settings in the Alabama Hills (for a really fun ride check out how The Bayfield Bunch explored the area last year). The same gorgeous spot (known as “Movie Flats”) also allows free boondocking, by the way.
But it turns out Lone Pine has a spiritual side too. The beautiful countryside offers a unique stillness ideal for inner contemplation. You can’t help but feel the draw and, as it so happens, others have too. In 1928 Franklin Wolff and his wife Sherifa decided to take an inner journey. They hiked into the mountains and started writing about transcendental philosophy and mysticism. The spiritual connection was profound and led them to build an Ashram at ~8,000 feet above the Owens Valley to serve as a camp and retreat.
You can still visit this gorgeous spot with a tour to Granite View Drive followed by a dusty side-road and a 2-mile hike. The views are fabulous and the setting pristine. Once there you can find your spot and meditate on nature or let your mind wander to the inner workings of strapping masked men on steeds. Either way, Lone Pine is there for you and she sure doesn’t seem to mind which way you go…
P.S. There are literally weeks-worth of stuff to see & explore in the Lone Pine area, but unfortunately our visit was cut short by high-wind warnings of up to 70MPH gusts (yikes!). So, wheels away to the next spot for us….at least for now..
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Kevin Burgart says
I really enjoy your blog. I get the email notices and look forward to reading them! Thanks. Kevin
It is indeed! The Alabama Hills reminded me alot of City of Rocks from NM. Very cool area, and LOTS of easy, free boondocking there right amongst the rocks.
Luke Alexander says
My uncle ran the lumber yard in Lone Pine for many years. He was the man to call when the movie company needed a western town facade put up. He would build them up for the movie and then take them down and save the lumber. He had a complete supply of old used weathered lumber that he used over and over. The older the lumber, the more authentic the towns became.
That’s so great! I was absolutely amazed by how big the movie industry became here. I gather alot of the town revolved around it with locals helping with sets, locations and acting as extras. Must have been quite the time to be here!
jil mohr says
looks like my kind of place….very cool indeed…
Oh you’d absolutely love it here! Gotta put it on your list!
Jerry and Suzy LeRoy says
So many people love that film museum, but we were disappointed. Yes, there were some interesting exhibits, but we left feeling … nothing. The Alabama Hills are certainly all you said. Didn’t know they allowed free boondocking, but then we didn’t ask. We have looked at the National Forest Service campgrounds, found some nice dry camp sites. And we drove up to Whitney Portal on our way north in April — found it pretty snowy.
Ahhh…so sorry you guys didn’t like the museum. I’m a huge western fan and loved both the documentary they showed there and the info I got from the curator (he was a massive fan and spent 15 mins just talking us through Nudie’s car decoration! The guy knew everything about everything in that museum).
We didn’t get to do the drive to the Portal since we had to leave early, but that’s on our list for when we come back.
Kathy Parker says
LOL Just read about your 70 miles per hour winds! Yikes is my word for it too.. WE spent last week deadheading across the country on rt 80 east. Coming across Wyoming they were asking all light vehicles to exit and wait out the wind gusts of 65 to 70 mph. Fortunately at 22 ton it really wasn’t a problem for us, but my husband really had to hold onto the wheel. All I can say is better him then me! :p
Want to tent camp there in Feb. Any advice ?
Thanks ahead of time.
Yup, you can tent camp. There’s the nearby BLM campground as well as several Forest Service Campgrounds in the area.