Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lone Pine, California and views of Mount Whitney

Such a great visit to Death Valley.  We are still reading a few books we picked up about the character Death Valley Scotty.  A gold prospector, for many years a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show as a trick horse rider and shooter, and yarn spinner that persuaded a millionaire from Chicago to build the elaborate Scotty's Castle.

This is Lady Blue's view from our campsite at Tuttle Creek BLM in Lone Pine.  The 12,944 foot massive mountain is very impressive. Partly, because you see it rise steeply out of the high desert. This link gives you some more inormation on Lone Pine Mt. Lone Pine Mountain info . As we explained in the last blog, Jan and I have been happy to stay here at $2.50 per night with our Senior Pass.
Not only the view, but the nights are cool , in the low 50's or 40's, and the days are dry and warm,70's and 80's. A short ride of about 7 miles brings us to the Main Street of Lone Pine.

The route from Death Valley requires a fairly quick ascent over some very interesting roads.

Keep a sharp lookout Eustis!!

From Route 190, we connect with Route 136 down into Lone Pine.  As we follow the road around Lake Owen, we are treated to this glorious view of the Eastern Sierra Mountains.  The tall mountain a little left of the road is Lone Pine.  Mount Whitney, though taller at 14,496, is a little to the right where you see 3 plus sharp peaks.  It looks shorter because it is further away.

Our campground is an LTVA, which means Long Term.  For $300, you can dry camp here(water and dump station in the park) from the first Saturday in March to November 1st. Yes, figure 8 months for $300!!

A young gentleman lives in this remodeled 60's?? camper and works in town.  Note the stove pipe addition.

A highlight of Lone Pine is the Lone Pine Film History Museum.  Starting before the 1920's, Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills(on the way up to the mountains you see in the background), were host to over 400 movie sets beginning with silent Westerns.
This is a link to the museum.   Film History

As you can see from the link, there is a ton of information in the museum.  It hits home to people of our advanced age because we grew up with the westerns that were filmed here.

We watched  Hopalong Cassidy, to the left, who perhaps filmed the most at this location.

We also watched Roy Rogers who filmed his first movie here in 1938.

We remember not only Roy, but also Dale Evans, definitely Trigger, Bullet ( the pet German Shepherd wonderdog), Pat Brady sidekick, and the jeep Nellybelle that would often take off driverless with Pat Brady in pursuit.

The TV show ran from 1951 to 1957.  That was in black and white for you younguns.

Some of the pieces here are from the collection of the owners Beverly and Jim Rogers( a TV owner and philanthropist , not related to Roy).

We were allowed to take non-flash pictures here.
This is a hand made silver saddle.

The museum is loaded with many film posters.

How could we not include Dale Evans.

Another well watched TV series was the Lone Ranger.

All together now: duh----duhduhduh-----duhduhduhduhduhduhduhduh---well , you know.

That opening for the series---not the picture to the left---was filmed in Lone Pine.

The artwork in the background shows the Alabama Hills , just a few miles up the road towards the mountains.

The museum exhibits included many items we all remembered.  Did any of you have a Lone Ranger lunchbox or Roy Rogers, or Hopalong???

How about a toy handgun??

Not all cowboys.

This 1937 Plymouth Coupe was driven in the 1941 movie High Sierra by Humphrey Bogart--racing up the Whitney Portal Road.

This 1941 Buick Eight Roadmaster was jumped over by a standin for Gene Autry, riding Autry's horse Champion.  The Trail of San Antone.

Love the classic interior, white steering wheel and all.

Jan and I did buy a movie DVD.  It was this one, Ride Lonesome starring Randolph Scott.

It is supposed to have many scenes shot here.

Some of our younger readers may be surprised to realize that some westerns earned stars oscars.

Susan Hayward won the best actress award in 1959 for Thunder in the Sun.

James Stewart we all know, but I'm not sure how many know of Audie Murphy.

These two links connect to Audie Murphy websites.  Murphy was the most decorated soldier in World WarII. After the war he starred in his own biographical movie To Hell and Back. He acted in a large number of other movies like this one, Night Passage.
 Audie Murphy Memorial Website  , Audie Murphy biography

Plagued by what is now known as Post Traumatic Stress, Murphy championed care for soldiers suffering from the disorder before he died in a plane crash in 1971.

Newer movies shot in the area are some like

Django Unchained starring Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel Jackson.

And yes, this is a prop from the iconic movie Tremors,  starring Kevin Bacon.

Another silver saddle from the Rogers collection.

How does the horse even manage the weight??

Even a few John Wayne movies were filmed here.

And one of our all time action heroes, Steve McQueen.

Nevada Smith was filmed in 1966 with McQueen, Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Arthur Kennedy, and Suazanne Pleshette( you might remember her from the Birds-Hitchcock movie--supporting role-Tippi Hendron was the female star,--or costar of the Bob Newhart Show.

Perhaps more familiar to you and still shot partially in Lone Pine--

The 2008 movie Iron Man

This is a section of the Alabama Hills right below our campsite. To understand how large these rocks are, make sure you can see Bruce in the lower right of the picture.  Unlike the steep, sharply pointed peaks of the Sierras to the west, these rocks were worn down by millions of years of water. Great spot for a Western ambush.

Less than a mile from the previous picture, this is still in the Alabama Hills(named by the 1800 prospectors for a Southern Civil War ship) looking at Lone Pine Mt.
And that rock in the previous picture?   Now you can see the rock climber who was having some fun that day.
Had to throw in at least one fair shot of Mount Whitney!  How did you ever climb this Marsha and Mark? And Dave??
We are parked at Movie Flat Road. In this area most of the hundreds of movies were filmed.  In the background, even in black and white, these mountains including Lone Pine and Mount Whitney were breathtaking for the movies.  Enjoy , Lady Blue!!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Death Valley National Park to Mt. Whitney foothills

Why the blog title?
Because it is such an extreme from Death Valley to the Eastern Sierra Mountain foothills.
More about that as we move along.

Jan and I follow Route 210 to Route 190 into Death Valley National Park.  A very easy route to follow beginning just north of Pahrump.

The colors from various minerals show off as we approach the valley.

Once again, a very nice visitor center with friendly and helpful staff.

And yes---we came on the hottest days so far in 2015.   That is 91 degrees and rising.

If you click to enlarge, you might read the vertical post that says the center is
190 feet below sea level!

Even our helpful second page from our GPS
wants to show minus 105 feet at our campsite.

Jan and I are in no rush, so we will always try to stroll through the displays at visitor centers as well as watch videos that might be playing.  Videos are 100% better these last few years for picture quality and overall quality.

You will see this record noted in many spots around the valley.
The world record of hottest temperature 134 degrees!

It is also the driest place in the U.S.

2 inches of rain per year. Some years , no rain at all!

Even in March, we are very much aware of how quickly we become dehydrated.

Things we were told.
  Gas up in Pahrump ($2.39 per gallon). Gas was $4.00 per gallon in Death Valley.
   No cell phone or data coverage.  We were lucky to have some phone coverage, but no internet for our entire stay.
    The distances are long!.  The park has over 3 million acres and nearly 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads.

One important stop is Badwater Basin, 282 feet below sea level.
Yet, as we walk out on the salt flats, we are also looking at the snow capped peaks like Telescope Peak at 11,049 feet.

There is often some water here.  Some people have also dug down a few inches and found extremely salty water.

All of the white is salt left over after evaporation.
At one time this was a 30 foot deep lake. After evaporation it left a one to five foot layer of salt.

No, this is not a dirty snow pile from Boston!

This is one of the salt piles out on the flats.

Lady Blue insisted that we show you her picture at Badwater.

There is a sign up on the cliffs where the red letters say Sea Level.

Jan and I stayed the first few days at Furnace Creek area at the Sunset Campground. This is basically a parking lot for dry camping with nice views of the sunsets and the surrounding mountains.

At the Ranch in Furnace Creek are some museum pieces that remind you of the borax mining in the late 1800's and early 1900's

And how many are old enough to remember 20 Mule Team Borax?

This link will show you a team and also bring you to the National Park site. 20 Mule Team

This link will take you to the radio-television program that started in the 1930's and lasted until the mid 1960's when it was hosted by a Ronald Reagan(later known as U.S. President)
Death Valley Days  and Apacheland with Ronald Reagan

Had to put this one in for Cliff and Vicki.

A 60 ton oil burning Baldwin 280 locomotive.
It hauled borax from 1916 to 1931.

Then there is Old Dinah that hauled between the 20 mule teams years and the locomotive years.

Just abandoned along the roadside.

Those who have 4 wheel drive vehicles with good clearance can hunt other antique vehicles and cabins all across Death Valley.

The view from Zabriskie Point.  The valley can be seen clearly stretched between the mountain ranges east and west.

There are many hikes listed from as short as a half mile to at least a 14 mile round trip.

Extremely dangerous in the hot summer weather.

For those who want a little more comfort, there is The Inn at Furnace Creek.

Furnace Creek Inn

Some of the features are massage therapy , fireplaces, and a gourmet menu in an elegant room, and two spring fed swimming pools.

A 4 diamond AAA inn, remember that there is a dress code for dinner.

One of the most fascinating stops in Death Valley is Scotty's Castle, at the northern end of the park.

Scotty was a member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show that traveled around the world in the early 1900's.

He was also an ex-cowboy, a prospector, and a con artist.  He was able to sell shares to a non existent gold mine.  One millionaire he swindled was Albert Johnson.
The surprise was that Johnson, after insisting on seeing this mine, actually liked Scotty and became lifelong friends with him.

After spending some time camping in the area, Johnson had a huge home built for his wife Bessie, himself, and an added cabin for Scotty himself.

Scotty never lived at the castle, but he held forth with all kinds of visitors and celebrities, telling his collection of fantastic tales and real stories.

Lots of heavy wood(redwood)and iron in a Spanish Mission style.  Bessie declined a design from an architect named Frank Lloyd Wright.

Even an ornate sundial.

What time is it?

Even though this was a wilderness in the early 20th century, Johnson loved his Packards.

This was his 1914 7 passenger Packard Touring Car.

For some of the younger readers, Packard was perhaps the most elegant vehicle of the time.

A 1925 Graham Brothers Dump truck used on the property.

Al Johnson with one of his earliest -1914-Packards caught in a gully out in the Valley.

There is no question, Jan and I would strongly recommend a tour of the Castle.  The whole story is very fascinating, the tours are conducted by guides in period dress, and the inside is complete with original furniture, rugs, theater organ, pianos, dishes, and clothing.

Just a few miles from Scotty's Castle is the Mesquite Spring Campground.  Nice developed dry camping sites. Well spaced. And about 2,000 foot elevation, making for a more comfortable day and evening.

Like Sunset, this campground was $6 per night with Senior Pass.  Also, the Senior Pass allows for free entrance to the park($20 value) and half price entrance to Scotty's Castle.

It's March and the desert is beginning to flower.  From full yellow creosote bush above to smaller purple bushes like a lupine.

Some are only an inch or two high.

Some of the very small are similar to a violet.

And some are like small daisies.  Being in the desert, the petals and leaves are often quite waxy, almost artificial looking to preserve moisture.

Well, we have gone on a bit!!!  We left Death Valley at below sea level and traveled to Lone Pine, California at 5,000 foot elevation(our spot at Tuttle Creek BLM).  The cost for this local view?  $2.50 per night!
Mt. Whitney at 14,496 feet is the second from the right, looking a little smaller than Lone Pine because it is further away.  More to follow.