Road Trip in Cali – Alabama Hills

Two weeks ago, Mike and I flew to California for a twelve day road trip.

The plan was to live out of our rental car for the majority of our vacation. We would camp at different campsites along the way and cook most of our meals using camping burners. Expenses would include food/ supplies, gas, and any random activities that we wanted to do. All we needed was a patch of grass to sleep on. Perfect and simple.

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. We didn’t camp as often as we would have liked. Most of the campgrounds were first come, first serve, so we couldn’t reserve a site in advance to beat the crowds. The campgrounds that were open were unmaintained and required too much effort to bother.  Since this was a vacation, we decided to spend the extra money on hotel rooms and not let it ruin our amazing time in California.

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

Camping here is as easy as you want it to be. Park a van in an open space and you’re done. Easy. But for us, the process could not have been more complicated. After 20 minutes of hiking in the sand, we could not find Arch Rock. We gave up on our destination and settled on a patch of dirt because it was getting dark. Mike carried all of his camera equipment plus a carry-on suitcase with some of the camping gear. I carried the tent, more camping gear, and a gallon of water. SO FUN.

View from the tent. It looks great, but what a struggle to get there.

Camping was a dud. Winds got up to 20 mph and constantly blew in the sides of the tent, which was great while trying to sleep at 2AM. The moon was so bright that it felt like someone was shining a spot light into the tent. Ultimately, we decided to camp somewhere else the following night.

In the AM, we realized we were only 10 minutes away from Arch Rock.

Our intended campsite.

On the way to breakfast, I demanded we stop to see Nightmare Rock. It was easily accessible from the main road as you enter and exit the park. You can’t miss it!

To kill some time, we paid a visit to the Museum of Western Film History. First thing on the tour was a short video about the film history in the area. It sounds boring, but it was cool learning about some of the movies that filmed where we just slept. Movies were predominantly Western based on the terrain. When Westerns became less popular, commercials began to take over.

While touring the museum, I found out that some of the more recent movies filmed in the area included Star Wars, Iron Man, and Django Unchained to name a few.

Cart used in Django Unchained

This was one thing I wish my grandfather could have seen. He loved Westerns and collected stacks of old VHS tapes. Other than me and my grandmother, his other loves included MASH, Western films, and Chuck Norris. I can’t imagine how many movies he has seen from the museum.

After a nap and some ready to eat lasagna, it was time to watch the sun set over Whitney Mountain.

Because one beautiful sky wasn’t enough, we returned to Arch Rock for the last color of the day.

We spent our last night in Lone Pine at the Dow Villa Motel. Though neither of us wanted to dish out the extra cash on a room, it made our trip a lot easier. It was reassuring knowing that I wasn’t going to be blown away by 20 mph gusts of wind or burned by the light of the moon. All we had to do was wake up, check-out and hop in the car. In the morning, we headed off to Mono Lake!

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