Eastern Sierras-Alabama Hills

June 26, 2020 at 7:35 am (Bird photography, Birds - California, California, Nature, Nature photography, Photography) (, , )

Arch Trail, Alabama Hills, Lone Pine

After more than six months of being “cooped up” due to a deteriorated hip joint, surgery to fix it, and COVID-19, my desire for a road trip was strong. I tried to convince my friend Marilyn, who had been with me since my surgery, to tag along enroute to her former job in Colorado (former because of the pandemic, sadly), but she opted to see the sequoias on the west side of the Sierras instead. So I was solo, and enjoying it immensely.

Alabama Hills

First stop was Fossil Falls just north of Ridgecrest. This was where I spent the night when the Falcon rocket blasted off in Sept. 2018 and filled the sky with light. I had no idea it would be visible from that far away, but it put on a stunning show, and I could even see the return of the reusable engine.

Cerro Gordo road

It was super windy the whole day, and I was anxious to explore new territory. I had read about the Cerro Gordo ghost town, but wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on the road once it got narrow and rutted at the viewpoint of Owens Lake, so I turned back. Unfortunately, the American Hotel there burned down two weeks later, and I wish I had continued to the road’s end.

Alabama Hills

I had also read about the Alabama Hills at Lone Pine, but I really didn’t know just how beautiful the site was until I saw for myself. The area was named by its discoverer for a Confederate ship named the Alabama, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be a target for renaming!

Cottonwoods at Alabama Hills

The backdrop of Mt. Whitney and the Eastern Sierras was stunning, but it was the foreground that enchanted me. The pillow-shaped rocks were very similar to those at one of my favorite areas of Joshua Tree National Park.

I was also fortunate to arrive in late afternoon when the light was at its most stunning.

Arch Trail view from parking lot

I was shocked that the Arch trailhead parking lot was pretty empty, since there were RVs and campers at nearly every nook and cranny up against the hills. I’m not sure if that’s the norm, or if it was because the campgrounds were still closed due to the pandemic. But if you’ll notice above, there is a heart-shaped hole in the rock.

Here’s a zoomed view from the parking lot. The trail was an easy one, and I was in love!

Heart rock from the other side

This wasn’t the famed arch, however. That was found toward the end of the trail (or toward the beginning if one went the opposite direction from the parking lot.)

You could get right up to it. I couldn’t believe there was nobody else clamoring for a turn to look through the window.

Black-throated sparrow

There weren’t a lot of birds or wildflowers in the areas I visited, but this black-throated sparrow didn’t mind telling everyone about his chosen territory.

View from Whitney Portal road

After the hike I drove up Whitney Portal Road. There were several viewpoints looking down in to the valley I had just come from.

View from Whitney Portal
View from Whitney Portal
Whitney Portal

Two days ago, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake occurred several miles from Lone Pine, centered in Owens Lake. There were rockfalls, including a huge rock that crashed into the campground below. Whitney Portal is now closed to climbers/hikers. I’m wondering if the balanced rock at Alabama Hills is still in place.

Inyo County required everyone to wear masks in public, and many did, especially indoors. I limited my public contact, wore a mask, and washed or sanitized my hands when I had to use a public restroom. There was a lovely little park right in Lone Pine where I ate take-out meals.


By dusk I had found an unoccupied and quite lovely spot to camp out. My style of camping is just to park my car, eat my “dinner” and cover myself with a sleeping bag, push the seat back, and go to sleep. I woke up around 2 a.m. to light from the full moon washing over the landscape.

Of course I had to get out the camera and tripod. Unfortunately I guessed at the focus and missed a little, but it’s still a stunning image of the big dipper behind an unusual rock.

It was a magical end to a wonderful first day of my Eastern Sierras roadtrip.

Photos and text copyrighted by Cindy McIntyre
Feel free to reblog or share
Website:  CindyMcIntyre.com
Online gallery:  Smugmug and Fine Art America
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Contact:  cindy at cindymcintyre.com

1 Comment

  1. Joyce said,

    Amazing. I look forward to seeing your emails come up. They have helped the “distancing” so much.

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