August 1, 2016
Many full-time RVers spend time in the Alabama Hills, adjacent to the town of Lone Pine, California, which is on Highway 395 as it runs north and south along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains. And although it is a boondocking (dispersed camping) destination for RVers, most come in the cooler times of the year, either in the spring or in the fall. As full-timers just starting out in the summer time, we found ourselves arriving in the area at the end of July. Temperatures here at this time of the year are above 100 degrees most days.
For the past few days, we have been staying at Boulder Creek RV Resort just south of Lone Pine. For years, we have passed through this area on our way to Mammoth Mountain further north to go skiing in the winter, or fishing during other times of the year. We seldom spent much time in Lone Pine other than to buy gas or food before continuing onward. Because we are working on our new found retirement attitude of “what’s the rush”, we decided to spend some time exploring the area.
The Alabama Hills are probably primarily known for two things aside from there sheer and unique beauty. One is that they serve as a foreground to the majestic Sierra Nevada range immediately to the west that includes Mt. Whitney, and the other is that the Alabama Hills have been used as the setting for countless movies and commercials going back to the 1920s. It is safe to say that most of the western “cowboy” movies of the last century were filmed in and around the Alabama Hills.
In the town of Lone Pine is the Museum of Western Film, which is a must-see for anyone who grew up in the 40s, 50s and 60s as I did, watching western movies. Why we have never stopped and toured this museum in all the years we were driving up and down U.S. 395 through this area, I will never know. But today Sharon and I put a stop to it and we’re glad we did.
Although there is no admission fee, per se, you ARE asked for a minimum $5 donation per person. But, in my opinion it is well worth it to spend some time contemplating those “thrilling days of yesteryear”. And a hearty “Hi Yo Silver”.
The museum also pays tribute to more contemporary movies, and even commercials, that have been filmed, in part, in the Alabama Hills, including Ironman, Star Wars, Gladiator and, most recently, Django.
It’s amazing to find out the sheer number of films that were filmed in the area, and the stars we’ve come to know and love on screen. Russell Crowe, Robert Downey Jr., Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Randolph Scott, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and one of our earliest of “Cowboys”, Tom Mix, are just a sampling of actors who have lived and worked in the Alabama Hills.
When in the area, The Beverly and Jim Rogers Museum of Lone Pine Film History is worth a visit.