Alabama Hills

There’s a destination about 200 miles from Los Angeles, where the landscape is a mix of desert and jagged mountain peaks. I first heard about this place from Keith Skelton, the professional photographer with whom I’ve taken several workshops with over the years. Long before I got Airstream Bambi, I saw Keith’s photographs of the Alabama Hills and wondered if I’d ever make it there. It wasn’t because the place was so far away from me but instead, I wasn’t sure if I’d have a chance. This was during a time, when I was juggling work, my dissertation research, and along with my Mom, we were taking care of my Dad while he was ill. When I moved to New York a few years later, there was no way I’d easily visit the Alabama Hills so I thought this place was not a place for me to visit.

Over the past few years, I noticed RVers posting on Instagram about camping in the Alabama Hills. It turns out, because of social media and geo-tagging, this area had become extremely popular as a boondocking spot. When exploring with the Airstream, I prefer not to visit places that are overrun by masses of people. But I continued to feel a pull toward this area, regardless of how populated it may have become.

Last year, when I relocated to California, the Alabama Hills was on back on my list of places I to visit. In fact, I had planned on spending a week at the end of the year. Oddly enough, as I was loading up the Airstream with supplies, I strained my lower back and was bed-ridden for a week which prevented me from doing anything, let alone go camping.

Over a recent three-day weekend, we packed up and headed toward the Bureau of Land Management’s free camping area in Alabama Hills. The great thing about most BLM camping spots is that it’s free, but the problem is it’s free so you’re not guaranteed a spot. After a four-hour towing experience, we reached our destination and as expected, couldn’t find a spot. We drove on rough roads for 40 minutes without luck. Jay would hop out of the car to run down a narrow path to see if there was a spot but we couldn’t find anything. When we saw park ranger, I asked for help. He said the place was overpopulated and suggested another campsite a few miles away. We took his advice and ended up at Tuttle Creek campground. We set up on a remote spot facing the snow-capped peaks of Mt. Whitney.

Over the weekend, we walked around the campsite mostly in awe of the view. We hiked among the boulders looking for spots where Django, Lone Ranger, Tremors, and a slew of other movies had been filmed. We wandered into the town of Lone Pine, which also resembled a small movie set.

While the trip itself was short considering the long distance we drove, I felt grateful for the experience. The best part of the trip was getting up in the dark, quietly setting up my camera to take pictures of the rising sun… and realizing that circumstances in life can change.

Opportunities like this can happen when you keep your mind open and keep pressing forward.

sunrise, alabama hills, airstream, trailersunrise, airstream, trailer, volkswagondog, camping with dogs, sky, bouldersairstream, breakfast outdoors, mount whitneycows, alabama hills, roadhiking, mount whitney

5 replies »

  1. Hey Yon. I was just lamenting the loss of a number of old school Airstream bloggers and realized that I have neglected reading your blog. I hope all is well and you are enjoying California. Boondocking in the western U.S. in general and Alabama Hills in particular have been of great interest to me. I do fear that Instagram glamour shots along with a surge in RV ownership has led to overcrowding at popular sites like Alabama Hills. It is nice to know there are alternatives even when most sites along the road are filled. I will eventually make my way out there and hopefully there will be a perfect spot waiting for me.

    • Hi Doug! It’s so nice to hear from you. And I feel honored that you refer to me as old school Airstream blogger! 😀 I am positive that once you and your family travel out this way, there will be a series of great spots here for you. In the meantime, enjoy your other travels! I hope that we will cross paths sometime soon.

      • Definitely. We will be in California this summer sans Airstream. Jack has an internship in Palo Alto and we are looking at Berkeley. When we do make it out with the Airstream, we will definitely let you know. If Jack chooses California for college, the odds of an Airstream trip increase.

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