There’s a lot of places we’ve seen that, if they were only residing in another state, would be National Parks for sure. But, places like California have such an overabundance of beauty that there are huge amounts of land are instead administered by the BLM or Forest Service. The downside and the upside of this situation are one and the same for us: these areas have no services, but are therefore free to enjoy, including free camping for up to 14 days. There might not be gas stations and lodges and snack bars, but if you show up in a self-contained RV with solar power, you have everything you need, and you have the land practically to yourself.
The Alabama Hills outside Lone Pine, CA are a great example of a stunning landscape with endless outdoor activities, and nobody knows about it. This was our 3rd time passing through and we continue to find new trails to hike, rocks to scramble, and vistas to savor. We found a camping spot that had a perfect view of Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower-48. Everyday, I turned to JJ and said “I can’t believe this is free!”
The range above the Alabama Hills is the Sierra Nevada, and it is finally catching a break this winter and getting a healthy dose of snow. That’s really good news for everything from the tourism industry to people in L.A. who like to have running water, but not so good for hikers. The snow level was at about 9000 feet last week, and most trailheads start above that point. In other words, you need snowshoes or crampons to hike. So, we didn’t do as much high country hiking as we’d like, and instead stayed down lower in the sunshine. (True strange fact: several days of our stay, I was laying out, sunbathing, and watching the snow pour down onto the mountains right next to us. Elevation is a funny thing!)
The rock formations in the Alabama Hills are great for photography, and even though I already have about a million shots of this area, I took a bunch more.
I call this next group: “Landscape with JJ”
Just around the corner from the Alabama Hills is a unique hike to a little stone building called The Ashram, built as a retreat in the 1930s. Can you spot it in the in the first picture?
We also met up with our friends, Buddy and Judy, who we recently saw in Sedona. (And also at their house! They graciously hosted us for an overnight as we passed through the L.A. area last week) They were camping at 8,000 feet in a canyon about an hour north of us. We set out on an ambitious trip on the North Fork of Big Pine Creek, and tried to see the ice-blue lakes fed by the melting Palisade Glacier. But, the weather had other plans, and we had to turn back in the face of very dark clouds and the threat of snow.
The hiking tour: Buddy and Judy, and their friends and neighbors, Jay and Pam.
The award for most adventurous must go to Soupy, who had a fantastic time exploring. With wide open spaces and no neighbors, we were able to let her off leash to search for lizards and grasshoppers. She’s quite the climber, and she and JJ went off on all kinds of bouldering jaunts.
We love the Alabama Hills!