Named after a solitary pine tree that once stood at
the mouth of Lone Pine Canyon, this small California
town's roots stretch back into the Old West and
Hollywood's Wild West, too.
Back in the mid-1800's, the town of Lone Pine was founded
to supply local miners with provisions. Farmer and ranchers
followed soon after, and after that, the Carson Colorado
Railroad pulled into town. Today, the only part of pre-1870
Lone Pine that's still standing is a portion of an old
adobe wall that stands behind the local flower store,
"La Florista". A few miles to the east, you
can also wander among the decaying ghost-town ruins
of Cerro Gordo, accessible by dirt road off Hwy 136
(to Death Valley).
Even as the days of the Wild West were coming to an
end, the Hollywood Western was just beginning. And since
the '20s, Lone Pine's unique scenery has been the backdrop
of more than 250 films. One glance at the Alabama Hills,
and you'll remember a host of immortal movie scenes:
The first "Lone Ranger" ambush was filmed
here, and it was here that Roy Rogers found Trigger
and Tom Mix found Tony.
To walk on the dirty concrete sidewalk of Hollywood
Blvd is one thing. To come out here, and cover the same
ground as John Wayne, Hoot Gibson, and Buck Jones
well, that's another. It's a lot prettier, and it's
a lot more inspiring. Grab a horse from a local pack
outfit, and you'll feel like the Duke himself.
Lone Pine's Hollwood connections are still alive and
well mostly because the Lone Pine area remains
pristine and unspoiled. Come and visit, and you'll recognize
the backdrop to Mel Gibson's "Maverick" and
Alec Baldwin's "The Shadow". And thanks to
the stunningly successful Lone
Pine Film Festival which has drawn such distinguished
guests of honor as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Tim Holt
this town's matinee-Western roots are reason
to celebrate, year after year.
Curious about what movies were made in Lone Pine? Here's
a very comprehensive list!
Lone Pine is also the town nearest the National
Historic Site of Manzanar. During World War II,
tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans were forcefully
deported to various relocation camps throughout the
nation. The bleak skeletal remains of Manzanar are a
reminder of a shameful chapter in our nation's history.
The History of the Hills
The Alabama Hills got their current name in 1864, when
some Southern sympathizers in Lone Pine decided that
the Confederate cruiser "The Alabama" (which
had destroyed or captured 60 Union ships in 2 years)
ought to be celebrated so they named their mining
claims after her. The name stuck, and eventually referred
to the whole area. Interestingly enough, as these Southern
miners were digging (and naming things) around Lone
Pine, a group of Union sympathizers settled themselves
15 miles north, near Independence. When the Alabama
was sunk off the coast of France by the U.S.S. Kearsage,
the folks in Independence gleefully named their mining
claims "Kearsage", along with a local mountan
peak, pass, and an entire town as well!
||For a while, the Alabama Hills
were incorrectly touted as "the earth's oldest
hills." We now know the Alabamas to be pretty
young, like the Sierra just a few million
years old. Although they're identical in composition
to the Sierra, the Alabamas' strange appearance
comes from a different weathering process. The high
and low temperatures of the Sierra, and the freezing,
expanding, and thawing of rain and snowmelt created
the "chiseled" splintering of their granite.
But down in the relatively moist and soil-covered
region of the Alabamas, this process did not occur.
Instead, the soil gradually eroded away, exposing
the oddly-shaped piles of boulders that stand here
today. The weird, mottled coloring of the rocks
is the result of the iron in the rocks oxidizing
over millions of years.