Posted by: sunnyharvy | April 3, 2015

The Other Side of California

Upon approach to Lone Pine, CA, named for a towering pine that stood over the town in the 1800s, views of Mt. Whitney’s 14,496-foot summit now steal the show. Beyond Lone Pine’s city center is the Whitney Portal Trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the continental U.S.

LonePine0809Our first glimpse of Mt. Whitney (far right) from the Visitor Center.

We had heard many people rave about the boondocking options in this area, but we needed to empty our tanks, so we headed over to the BLM’s Tuttle Creek Campground to dump out. Once we spotted the site shown below and realized it would only cost $2.50/night with our senior pass, we didn’t see any reason spend time hunting for something that may or may not be better. There weren’t very many other campers here anyway.


You can’t beat this spot for just $2.50 a night! The peak of Mt. Whitney shows just above our kayak bows.

It was pretty hot by the time we’d finished lunch, so rather than hike around in the afternoon heat, we headed over to the Lone Pine Film History Museum. Therein we found a fascinating collection that tells the story of filming in the area in and around Lone Pine, from the early days of the Round Up (1920) to Gunga Din (1930) to the modern blockbusters of today such as Iron Man. Literally hundreds of films, commercials and television shows have been filmed here.  The Alabama Hills, which lie just behind town, have portrayed the wilds of the American West, the valleys of the Himalayas, and the Arabian desert. The complete film list can be viewed here.


Here I am with my buddy William Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy and his horse.


Al with the Duke.

Do you know how John Wayne got that nickname? A local fireman at the station on his route to school in Glendale started calling him “Little Duke” because he never went anywhere without his huge Airedale Terrier, Duke. He preferred “Duke” to “Marion”, and the name stuck for the rest of his life.


Morning view from haRVy’s upstairs bedroom window.

Before the heat set-in the next morning, we took the Mobius Arch hike in the nearby Alabama Hills. The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west even though they are the same age. The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.






Mt. Whitney and yours truly through the Mobius Arch.


Looking in the opposite direction.


Tiny wildflowers along the trail.

A dramatic change of scenery and temperature greeted us at the end of the Whitney-Portal Road, a short but spectacular drive that takes you about halfway up Mount Whitney. I’m not sure it deserves its listing on, but the 13-mile road is narrow, steep and winding, with dramatic switchbacks.  The road has a film history, too. The steep, sharp switchbacks were prominent in scenes in the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz film The Long, Long Trailer, in which Luci surreptitiously fills a travel trailer with her rock collection until it’s too heavy to ascend the grade. The road is also featured in the 1941 classic, High Sierra, starring Humphrey Bogart. HaRVy had no trouble ascending, but the descent was pretty tough on his brakes. 


Normally this road doesn’t open until May, but you can see that snow was no problem as early as March 27th. Unfortunately for California, this year’s snowfall is a record low at just 6% of average.


We hiked up the trail to the summit of Mt. Whitney for a mile or so. The entire ascent is 6,000 feet in 22 miles.






  1. As always I enjoy receiving your photos. You remind me of my mom in the photo with Hop Along Cassidy. 😊

    • I will take that as a compliment, Ann! 🙂

  2. Did not know John Wayne lived in Glendale!!! Small world. Did you see a shop in Lone Pine called Lorene’s Gift Shop?? Much of my mineral collection came from there. More perfect weather for your travels..Great photos as usual……..Thanks.

    • Did not see Lorene’s, would have looked for it if I had known in advance. There are not many shops in Lone Pine.

      • Lorene’s may be in Big Pine. It was over 20 years ago.


  3. Are you blonde now? Or just the lighting…….. We camped on a lake with that mountain view – mosquitoes !

    • The blond comes and goes. The last stylist went a little crazy. Going in for a tune-up later this week.

  4. love the mobius arch pic with you in it – and the wild flowers – and the waterfall!

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