I am walking amidst gigantic boulders shaped like elephants, camels, and whales. The imagination stretches to name each strangely shaped massif. Cold winds sweep up clouds of sand and I close my eyes, rushing to a protective gap between two rocks. A vast rock shelter shuts out the wind and sand. Here is a peaceful place for contemplation. Nature swirls and whirls the wind and sand outside, the very elements that carved these strange stone shapes in the Alabama Hills.
I peek through a gap in the stone shelter and there it is: that vista of Mount Whitney. The vast cluster of wind-carved boulders and the distant Sierra instantly recall for me the natural backdrop for all the western films I have seen of Randolph Scott, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers, Have Gun Will Travel, Gregory Peck and John Wayne. I am in the Alabama Hills, just west of Lone Pine, California, where most of our favorite westerns were made. The Alabama Hills continue to be the film location for new movies like Iron Man, Django Unchained, Man of Steel, the new Lone Ranger, and Gladiator.
Here is a newspaper article on the Alabama Hills that you will enjoy. If you first visit the Lone Pine Film History Museum, you will be given a guide to stimulate your search for the actual filming locations of the great westerns and the classic Gunga Din. As you read this article, you will find an invitation to help create a Federal protective designation for this iconic and spiritually soaked landscape.