After a day of hibernation, we started on CA-395 to Lone Pine, about 120 miles south. The weather was beautiful, with a few clouds. No matter how many times I have witnessed them, the barricade of mountains that is the Sierra Nevada, stuns me. They just go on and on. No photograph that I have seen has ever truly captured their scope. And now they were sprinkled with snow from the storm. We stopped at one point and got on top of the LD to photograph what might be the White Mountains, but might not be.
There was a huge, beautiful Von’s (Safeway) in Bishop, so I stocked up on a lot of veggies and found our favorite chocolate cookies. We continued on down to Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, where Jim Cummings found us and led us to their campsite. The Alabama Hills are a jumble of rocks spread over 6 to 8 miles. There are a million nooks and crannies and the majestic mountains make a fantastic backdrop. Because of this, a million Hollywood movies, particularly Westerns, have been shot here. We have arrived on a big weekend – the Lone Pine Film Festival. The place is full, the federal shutdown has closed all the forest service campgrounds and RVers are looking for a place to stay. A lot of them are staying in the Alabama Hills. It’s kind of like a homestead rush, with rigs cruising up and down dirt roads, looking for a place to roost. Jim, Gayle and Debbie had already checked out about 5 sites when we arrived. We parked and went for a walk, looking at all the film festival placards placed right where the movie scene had been filmed with a picture from the scene. Hopalong Cassidy, Richard Boone, Jack Palance, Jack Elam…. That got all of us remembering our favorite Westerns when we were kids. My favorite was Sugarfoot with Will Hutchens (He was cute!) We googled whatever we couldn’t remember, although, if given enough time, our memories usually dig up the right name.
We also met Rupert and Elliot, Debbie’s dogs, sort of an Abbott and Costello pair, with Rupert a thin, rangy fellow and Elliot a small, roly-poly guy. We also met Elvis and Sophie, Jim and Gayle’s cats. Elvis is too shy to come out but it’s fun to see Sophie stalking about, leashed in her little pink harness. She gives Gayle insulted looks when pulled back; it’s hard to pretend you’re a wild cat while harnessed.
The next morning, I woke up with a medical problem that required a prescription be sent to the pharmacy in Lone Pine. That took up most of the day, calling my doctor for the prescription and calling the pharmacy to see if it had been sent yet. When we went into town to pick it up, I found the drugstore was a very old one and that the pharmacist looked somewhat like Marcus Welby, M.D. (which got us remembering the old doctors shows from the 60’s). The town was in high gear for the film festival, with 3 guys riding around on horses with a flag and guns. A guy in a hot dog costume invited me to go to Frosty Chalet. When we got back to camp, we started a happy hour outside, but quickly moved inside to Jim and Gayle’s commodious (compared to us) residence. Their rig has a table with comfy chairs plus a couch in front. We made plans for a hike the next day and returned home.
On Saturday morning, we set out up the Whitney Portal Trail for Lone Pine Lake. The trail eventually goes to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S. The parking lot was crowded and the campground was closed (gov’t shutdown) and the outhouses were locked (gov’t shutdown). The parking lot is in shadow most of the day and so it had ice, snow and slush and was quite chilly. Gayle had looked up the expected weather and said it was supposed to reach a high of 56 degrees up at Lone Pine Lake (9960’ altitude). We were ascending 1300 feet in 3 miles. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it was uphill switchbacks all the way with a few flat runs of 20 or 30 yards. Jim and Gayle had given Dave an extra pair of hiking poles so we both had two and they helped a lot. Also, the trail interspersed sunny areas with shady areas and there was an occasional breeze. I have never seen a better trail. There were almost no loose rocks on it, which meant you didn’t have to look down all the time. And lucky for that because the views were spectacular.
I was stopping often to catch my breath, but finally reached Lone Pine Lake. What a beautiful place. There were quite a few people up there but is understandable why. We had a pleasant lunch and then wandered around for awhile, exclaiming over trees, water, icicles and the surrounding mountains.
Dave and I started down behind the others because we knew the light was getting better and we would dawdle making images. The others had critters to get back to (and their own car). I was getting tired but the trail was so easy and all downhill that I got into a kind of walk-jog with the hiking sticks that I’ve never done before. It was neat. The light got better and better on the mountains and half-moon appeared. We saw four deer, pretty much all the wildlife we saw on the hike.
We finally reached the parking lot and zoomed down the Portal Road, heading for home. But we had to stop when the God rays appeared behind Mt. Whitney. Then it was zoom back, clean up and head out to taste the Lone Pine nightlife. It was lively on a Saturday night with the film festival folk in town. We hit the Pizza Factory and it was crammed with noisy, happy people. We each got our own pizza and they were very good. Okay, what about dessert? Why, there was McDonald’s about a half block away so we each got ice cream sundae’s. They weren’t Ghirardelli-level but they were pretty darned good. It being 8:30 or so after a strenuous hike, we decided not to go dancing and headed back to camp.
Sunday started out pretty quiet. Dave went out pre-dawn but got back pretty quickly because he left his memory card for the camera in the rig. Oh well. I consoled him with an omelet for breakfast.
Gayle had mentioned a parade in Lone Pine, so we all piled into their car and found a good parking space. It was a small-town parade with lots of decorated cars. We missed seeing Clu Galager. (Look up the name if you don’t know who that is.) It fun to see the mule teams (100 mules are going to trek to Los Angeles but I’m not sure why), the cheering squad, the man in the Hopalong Cassidy outfit, and many, many more. Afterwards, we wandered down to the town park and browsed the arts and crafts fair. I bought a pair of work gloves and the seller kindly informed me that I had 2 left-handed gloves. I almost blew $2.50. We got back to camp and shared an extended happy hour in the Jim & Gayle’s Lazy Daze, enjoying the company of them, Debbie and their two very different cats.
Late the next morning, I made one more attempt to photography the very active animals. We said goodbye and took off, but not before getting a final group shot. We all plan to be in Quartzite for the big get-together in January, so it won’t be long before we meet again.
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