Lone pine is a small town with a lot charm. We came here for its warmer weather, lower elevation, and above all, Mt. Whitney! The imposing jagged peaks of Mt. Whitney appeared at the end of Whitney Portal Road as we drove towards Tuttle Creek Campground. It is the highest mountain in the contiguous states with an elevation of 14,505 ft (4,421m).
We drove along the narrow Whitney Portal Road up into the Sierras. The road edged along the mountains with some steep switchbacks. Owens Valley was way down there as we drove high up into the mountains. With a 10,000 feet depth from the floor to the mountain peaks, Owens Valley is one of the deepest valleys in the world. Mt. Whitney came to view along the road. But it was blocked by trees when we arrived at Whitney Portal Campground. The cool air made us feel chilly as we only had T-shirts on. High elevation (8,300 feet) and the shade from tall pines made here an ideal summer retreat. A beautiful waterfall cascaded down the rocks by the picnic area. It was Lone Pine Creek. The nearby granite cliffs had notable glacial carvings. The dramatic Whitney Portal Road was featured in movie The Long, Long Trailer.
My first impression of Alabama Hills was ugly because of the dull brown colors and odd shapes. Viewing from the visitor center, the brown Alabama Hills in the foreground discounted the view of Mt. Whitney. But Hollywood adorned this place and made over 300 movies here. The Museum of Western Film History in town had quite a collection of memorabilia from movies that were filmed here, from antique posters, movie cameras, projectors, props, stage coach, to the 1928 Lincoln camera car. The car used by Humphery Bogart in movie High Sierra was also on display.
The bright Venus shone above Inyo Mountains in the eastern sky at dawn. Clouds were on fire when the rising sun cast its rays on them. The high Sierra peaks were hidden behind the rosy misty clouds. We headed to Alabama Hills hoping to see the classic view of alpenglow on Mt Whitney through the Mobius Arch. A section of a rainbow appeared in the clouds surrounding the Sierras. Wow! What a striking sunrise with a rainbow above high Sierras! We arrived at Alabama Hills in about 10 minutes and the rainbow was still there. The other end of the rainbow was on the northern mountains of Sierras.
We took the Mobius Arch Loop hiking on this moonlike land. The rocks piled up and scattered around. The rocks formed Alabama Hills are actually granite. We saw quartz in the rocks. These rocks have been naturally grounded and eroded into different shapes. Some have holes at different levels. Stephen said, “This could be a home for Jackrabbits!” The rising sun cast a warm golden hue to the rocks. Shortly we saw the incredible Mobius Arch. It spanned across the rocks with a big opening. One could see Mt. Whitney framed by Mobius Arch in a clear day. But we didn’t see it because of the clouds. How disappointed! Only desert plants grow on Alabama Hills. I found three different types of cacti on rocks. Barrel cactus was the most beautiful.
Tuttle Creek Campground sits at the base of Lone Pine Peak with the view of Sierras, Alabama Hills, Owens Valley and Inyo Mountains. Rushing water of Tuttle Creek makes impressive roaring sound down the slope at the backyard of our campsite. There is only one faucet providing public portable water for the entire campground. I guess this is because we are at an arid valley. Los Angeles drew water from Owens Lake via aqueducts and dried the lake out. From the window of the trailer, I saw sand storm looming above Owens Lake. The Lower Owens River project was undergone to bring Owens River back. In 1998, the city of Los Angeles started the Owens Lake Dust Mitigation Program. 2,000 miles of drip irrigation lines were buried under the dry lake bed, and thousands of acres of salt grass were planted to stabilize the soil. But the damage has been done, it might take a long time to bring back the beauty of Owens Lake.