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Touring Alabama Hills, Movie Road, and Manzanar

Following our weekend trip through Death Valley, we ended up in Lone Pine, California, where we stayed one final night. The next morning, we got up early and drove up Whitney Portal Road. Well, as far as we could go before reaching the closed gate. The area was really pretty and it would be interesting to go back when the road is open so that we could complete the drive to Whitney Portal and get the full experience.

We turned around at the gate, and on our way back down Whitney Portal Road, we diverted onto Movie Road and headed into the area known as Alabama Hills, an 18,600-acre National Scenic Area. Formed along with the Sierra Nevada Mountains (seen in the background) around 100 million years ago, the rounded rocks of Alabama Hills were sculpted by percolating water, an erosion process called chemical weathering.

Movie Road takes you through BLM land where over 300 movies have been filmed since 1920 – mostly westerns, but also sci-fi. You can follow along a self-guided tour and look for the specific sites.

Winding through unique rock formations on a bumpy but well-maintained dirt road – passing hip and ubiquitous adventure vans nestled amongst the rounded rocks every few thousand feet – we made our decision about where to stop and get out to take some photos. We parked the Jeep and opened the doors. Then we discovered just how windy and chilly it was outside.

Luckily, we were traveling with all of our "gear" from the weekend, and I had a few layers within easy access. So, I stood out in the cold and added another layer of clothing, swapped out my vest for my light winter jacket, instead, cinched on my hood, donned my leather choppers, and threw my camera around my neck. Off we went.

We took a brief hike on a dirt trail that led to the well-known Mobius Arch.

Not far from this spot was also the Lathe Arch, from which you look through directly at the Sierra Nevada, which happened to be partially shrouded in clouds the day we were there. Still pretty cool, though.

Due to the cold wind blasts, being outside was not particularly enjoyable, so we didn't spend a lot of time here. We found our way out of Alabama Hills, but not without taking the Jeep through a mud pit crossing on some unknown (unpaved) road while trying to get back onto Hwy 395. Once we rejoined the highway (finally), we made our way toward our next destination.

This final stop definitely brought with it some feelings of finality.

The irony of this juxtaposed view from within one of the housing blocks alongside a "welcome" display got me.

A living, blooming thing of beauty on the grounds of this dark place.

Honestly, it's hard to write about the feelings that emerged within me while touring Manzanar. Timing is everything. With all that has been going on not only in the U.S. but also around the world the past couple of years, and how it's personally impacted me and my family, seeing first-hand what people in power will do to others, the lengths they will go to control others, and it brought a very harsh reality to light for me as I walked amongst the wire-spring cots, news clippings, suitcases, and the makeshift school room. I could feel the chilling wind gusts sneaking through the tar-paper walls and windows.

The gravity hit like a ton of bricks. This happened. Here. In the United States. By our military and elected government officials. The heavy thought that more than a hundred thousand people were deemed a threat and thus forced to uproot their lives and their families, and abandoned their livelihoods and businesses purely on the basis of their ethnicity overwhelmed me. We aren't too far away from similar threats in today's world, making it all the more vitally important that we all study historical facts and events so that we continue to learn from the good and the bad that came from them – and most of all, so that we aren't doomed to repeat them.


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Thanks for sharing. I was not aware of this specific place and I'm sure it was overwhelming to visit.

Brianna Sheck
Brianna Sheck

I don't know if they are open as historic sites like Manzanar is, however, but they all existed back then.


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