Other-worldly, bulbous, inspiring. Three words that I’m sure have never been used together before but perfectly describe the landscape that continually unfolds before me. As I navigate through the arches and contours of 150 million year old movie sets, I am eager to see what the next corner will bring. History, geology, and Hollywood have coaxed Alabama Hills into donning a duel personality. Part-time character in cinema, part time playground for the adrenaline junky, Alabama Hills is as complex as a sordid Hollywood starlet.
Thanks to Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous lower 48, millions of years of erosion have resulted in 10,000 feet of sediment. Mount Whiney has set the perfect stage for Alabama Hills and the players both on and off screen that romp on her playground. Wind, rain, snow and ice are also characters in Alabama Hills’ own life story. Made of a combination of monzogranite and volcanic rock, Alabama Hills can weathered the storm but can still crumble with the slightest touch. Arches such as the Mobius Arch have taken thousands of years to form but frame Whitney as if she were on stage herself. Mobius Arch is only one of hundreds that have been discovered and that are still being discovered continuously as visitors explore the infinite amount of twists and turns abundant in these potato like structures.
Alabama Hills and Hollywood
Her complicated twists and curves with Mount Whitney as her backdrop have made Alabama Hills the “it” girl for western, action, and adventure films. The majestic contrast between the snowcapped mountains and the dry rocky desert have masqueraded as many locations over almost a century of filming. Afghanistan, Spain, Tibet and West Texas are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stand-in backdrops for films such as Ironman, Star Wars, Gladiator and Django Unchained. Over 150 films and a dozen television shows have been shot here. There have been so many that there is actually a washboard road that runs through the hills called Movie Flats. You can obtain a map from the film museum In Lone Pine and find the movie location that tickles your fancy.
Speaking of film Museum, the Lone Pine Film History Museum was probably the best $5.00 I spent while visiting. We were able to get up close and personal with some props and memorabilia from our favorite shows and movies. From the first Western talkies to modern academy award winning films, the city of Lone Pine is the home of all that use Alabama Hills as a major cinematic character in it’s screenplays.
I’ve been here in Alabama Hills hiking and exploring all week and I have never exhausted that excited feeling when discovering a cave or a little nook in which to sit and watch the sunset. When the weather turns a little warmer I’d love to come back here and camp among the giant boulders and contemplate the history that has happened within this place as I gaze at the milky way. It’s really a special place and should be added to anyone list when visiting the fabulous place that is the Eastern Sierra.