California 1st November, Mount Whitney and the Alabama Hills

We woke early on the morning of the 1st, All Saints Day. We had felt cold overnight with a sleety hard rain falling on the roof of the car and we found that it had been snowing on the tops overnight and there was frost on the ground. I had a quick wander around in the early light and then we took the car to a parking space further down the mountain where it was slightly warmer. The views over the plain and Owen's lake were staggering.
We had a good breakfast and coffee, most welcome, and because it was my birthday! I phoned home. Mairi had some little presents she had brought with her and it was lovely to open those. But the best present was to be out here with the golden sunshine illuminating the hills and the dust and mist coming off the lake. You can see in the sequence below how the light changes as the sun comes up.











We took the car up the mountain as far as the road would take us. Here there was snow on the ground in the car park and we saw where the trail left to climb Mount Whitney. The views were obscured by trees (drat them) and our feet were getting chilly so we did not linger long. It was an interesting drive down a switchbacked icy road and when we got to the bottom we had a complete strip off of coats and put our shorts on!







Underneath Mount Whitney is a series of small lumpy mounds known as the Alabama Hills. They are  gritty and rocky and best known for the fact they were and still are used in the film industry (one of the roads is known as Movie Flats Road). I quote from Wikipedia  "The Alabama Hills are a popular filming location for television and movie productions, especially Westerns set in an archetypical "rugged" environment. Since the early 1920s, 150 movies and about a dozen television shows have been filmed here, including Tom Mix films, Hopalong Cassidy films, The Gene Autry Show, and The Lone Ranger. Classics such as Gunga Din, Springfield Rifle, The Violent Men, Bad Day at Black Rock (1955), the Budd Boetticher/Randolph Scott "Ranown" westerns, part of How the West Was Won, and Joe Kidd. In the late 1940s and early 50s the area was also a popular location for the films of B-western actor Tim Holt.
More recent productions such as Tremors and Joshua Tree, were filmed at "movie ranch" sites known as Movie Flats and Movie Flat Road. In Gladiator, actor Russell Crowe rides a horse in front of the Alabamas, with Mount Whitney in the background, for a scene presumably set in SpainStar Trek Generations was filmed here in addition to Overton, Nevada and Paramount Studios. This range was one of the filming locations for Disney's Dinosaur. More recently, many parts of the films Iron Man and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were filmed here."
The Alabama Hills are at around 1500ft with Mount Whitney at 14,000 plus feet behind them and the Sierra Nevada range stretching out on either side. It makes a powerful backdrop. The hills themselves have all sorts of  volcanic boulders and arches in them which makes them interesting in themselves. There are rough unmade roads into them and we saw that we could have stayed here overnight if it had not been so dark that we could not see. We found one of the natural arches, the Mobius Arch although there are others and after a meander we decided we should drive back to Lone Pine and out east to Death Valley. Lone Pine has a museum of film which might have been interesting if we had had more time.








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