Recap: Lone Pine Round Two

On our journey of full-time RVing, our first-ever boondocking location was in Lone Pine, California, in a federally-protected area known as the Alabama Hills. We originally planned to stay there for two weeks, but we were chased out by impending floods, caused by heavy rainfall and snowfall in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Our stay there only ended up being six days long, from January 2nd until January 8th. We enjoyed our visit there so much, and we were very sad that it was cut short.

Then, on our way out of Death Valley National Park over three months later, we realized that the Alabama Hills were only about 45 minutes outside of Death Valley. We just knew we had to stop and revisit the area, and we’re so glad we did.

We left Death Valley midday on a Saturday and arrived in the Alabama Hills less than one hour later. The snow-capped Eastern Sierra mountains shone in the distance for the whole way there, and I could not help but be excited for our second visit to Lone Pine. I often love the places we travel to so much that I would pay them a revisit, but I had not previously expected for this re-visit to actually happen.

When we turned onto Movie Rd, we parked the RV and drove our Cherokee round to find a spot. The unfortunate thing about arriving on a Saturday in the middle of spring, during the week of spring break no less, was that the place was PACKED. As in, there was an RV, a van, or a car in every single possible place where one would fit, and even in places where they didn’t quite fit. When we had visited in January, we had the luxury of being the only people in the area, albeit the occasional day hiker or climber. This time, we were one of many, which is not what we are generally used to while boondocking. I guess you could say that we are a bit spoiled by the seclusion of some of the places where we park, but we really just enjoy having our privacy and allowing our dogs to run off-leash without fear of them bothering anyone nearby.

Nevertheless, we eventually found a viable spot with decent AT&T connection. We realized, however, when we pulled the RV into it that we would not be able to get level whatsoever. We did our best and settled on sort-of-level, which was really not level at all. The RV was leaning downwards almost entirely. We decided this spot would be okay just for the night and figured we could try to find a more level spot the next day (Sunday) when many of the weekenders would be heading home. This spot did have the added perk of a perfect view of Mt. Whitney just outside our windows. I suppose we cannot complain about that. We spent the remainder of the night relaxing and enjoying reasonable temperatures of 60-70 degrees, as we had just come from nearly 100 degrees in Death Valley.

 
 

The following day, we moved to a spot further down the road, where we received better AT&T connection (still no Verizon), and we were able to get fully level. We celebrated by cooking a big Sunday dinner of Southwestern turkey chili.

 
I wish we could say that we spent the next few days scrambling and hiking through the Alabama Hills, making up for all that we missed on that first trip. However, this was sadly not so. In reality, the Alabama Hills region was just so packed and so busy the entire time we were there. Our spot was inundated with climbers everywhere, and we did not feel completely comfortable leaving our RV with so many people around. We had also fallen a bit behind on our work while we were rushing through Death Valley, and we had much to catch up on. I worked on a few interior RV projects that had been looming for some time, and Brendan fixed an issue with our water pump that had popped up while we were in Death Valley. He also fixed a few issues we had been having with our Cherokee, and these repair and maintenance items took up at least a few of our days there.

 
 
 

I made these planters awhile before we set out in our RV, and they originally held succulents. Over time though, this window became our "indirect light" window based on the direction that we usually park, and the succulents weren't getting enough light. . Then, @brendanbinger came up with the genius idea to put little potted ferns where the succulents once were and move the succulents to a sunnier window. I then painted the little terra cotta pots and we found some mini ferns to pot in them. We're stoked about how it turned out, and I'd say they look pretty nice all grouped together. 💚😍🌿 ~S . Note: From left to right, the top row is: staghorn fern, Boston fern, maidenhair fern. Bottom row: Japanese moss fern, button fern, lemon button fern. ✌🏼 #LifeAmongPlants #PhileasRemodel

A post shared by Brendan & Sam 🌲 (@lifeamongpines) on

We were able to sneak in a few long walks with our dogs, which was nice. We can always count on them to make everything so much better and more enjoyable.

 

I mentioned previously that we had to make some RV/Cherokee repairs, and, due to Lone Pine’s remoteness, there was nowhere within an hour each direction to buy parts. We decided it would be easiest to have the parts delivered to the Lone Pine post office via a US postal service option called “general delivery.” General delivery is a service offered by USPS where anyone can have a package delivered to a nearby post office and held for pickup. This enables travelers or those who may not be able to retrieve a package immediately upon delivery to pick their packages up in a more secure manner. Most post offices offer this service, but occasionally some do not, so we called the Lone Pine post office to make sure they accepted general delivery, to which they confirmed that they do.

Thanks to the wonder of Amazon Prime, we had the parts delivered to the Lone Pine post office with two-day delivery and quickly went to retrieve them. Here is where things got hairy. The cashier at the post office made us pay $11 to pick up our packages since they were delivered via FedEx. We had never had any issues using this service before, and we were confused by the extra charges. It turns out that the post office is allowed to charge additional fees for packages delivered by other carriers, but most places waive any and all fees. We were a little annoyed that no one told us about this when we had called previously, but we now know to be more careful and ask more questions when we need to order online in the future.

With the parts in hand, Bren was able to successfully repair both the water pump in the RV and the temperature sensor in the Cherokee. Yay for a running car and running water!

While in Lone Pine, we also picked up about 40 postcards and spent our evenings filling them out to be sent to all our closest friends and family. Although we had originally planned to send postcards out from every destination, we realized how expensive and time-consuming this could quickly become, and we have since decided to send cards out monthly, instead of weekly.

After spending a few days here, we decided that Thursday would be the best day for us to leave. We went on a short hike Thursday morning since it was our last day, where I had the opportunity to try out my new Chacos (hiking sandals) for the first time. After our hike, we returned to the RV to pack everything up before hitting the road. We planned to stop at the Western Film History museum on our way out of Lone Pine since we had missed this stop during our first visit here.

We packed up quickly and arrived at the museum around 4pm, only to find that it was not open for visitors, as the entire city’s power had randomly gone out about thirty minutes prior. The museum attendant told us the lights may come back on soon, and to check back in about an hour. We thought about going to the nearby truck wash to give our RV its first bath, something we had hoped to do before leaving, only to realize that the truck wash was not working either, due to the town’s power issues. We decided to drive to the RV park about 15 minutes up the road to fill our water, but when we returned to the museum we found it was still closed.

Western Film Museum

Disappointed, we decided to continue on to our next destination, Ridgecrest, where we were planning to spend Easter. However, we did not even end up making it outside the city of Lone Pine, before being stopped by local traffic police, who told us that the section of highway 395 south of Lone Pine was closed to high-profile vehicles, due to strong desert winds. We were told we could wait in the adjacent parking lot until the coast was clear, but we opted to turn back to the Alabama Hills, where we planned to stay an additional night and go to the film history museum in the morning. As annoying as all the run-around through Lone Pine was, I was grateful for a second chance to visit the museum that we had already missed once and almost missed a second time.

 
 

We headed back to the Alabama Hills, where we found a campsite on the opposite side of where we had stayed previously. The site was level and had good connection, and it was a perfect place to spend the night. Since we had bought ourselves more time in the area, we opted to take a little off-road drive, something we had not been able to do and thought we had missed. Our drive took us all through the various hills, through outcroppings we had not previously seen and past enormous stacks of boulders, piled high in various places. The drive offered one specific, panoramic view of the whole region with Mt. Whitney as the backdrop, and it was one of the most perfect, gorgeous sights I have yet to see in our travels. I was glad for the forced opportunity to stay an additional night.

After our drive, we decided to grab dinner at the nearby, aptly-named “Mt. Whitney Restaurant.” The restaurant was filled with photos of Western films and of Hollywood celebrities who had stopped in for a bite to eat while filming in the area. We decided to try elk and bison burgers for the first time, and they were both delicious!

 
The following day, we left first thing in the morning, stopping for gas before heading to the truck wash to give the RV a bath. Unfortunately, the large bay at the car wash was not fully-suited for the size of our rig, as there were only hoses and sprayers on one side of the bay. We had to keep reversing and pulling back in to switch the scrub brushes and sprayers to the opposite sides, but we made do, and we were happy to see our RV cleaner than it had been in many, many months.

We then headed to the film history museum, excited to see that it was indeed open for visitors. However, this visit was not without incident, as it seems is the way with everything about RV life. While getting gas, Brendan had luckily noticed that one of our slide covers was about to fall off, and, if brought up to highway speeds, it may well have fallen off on the way to Ridgecrest if he had not noticed and been able to fix it. The damage was most likely due to its endurance of months of strong California desert winds. Brendan was able to climb onto the RV and fix the covers in the museum parking lot in about thirty minutes. 😁

We FINALLY made it into the film history museum, which was filled with props and actual set pieces from the over 400 films that have been filmed in Lone Pine over the years. We were stoked that the museum was dog-friendly, and we decided to bring Max with us, who happily donned his red bandana to match the occasion. We watched a short documentary on the history of filming in the area and spent the next hour roaming the museum and reading about all the films made in the area. Max took a turn sitting in the director’s chair, and we generally enjoyed this short visit and learning about the area’s film history.



When we were done exploring the museum, we came back out to the RV and hooked up the car for towing, which is when we noticed that our fridge had begun to beep. Seriously, RVs can be so problematic at times….Brendan whipped out the manual and realized that the fridge had most likely gotten wet while we were washing the RV, and an exterior relay needed to be reset. As always, he expertly took care of the problem, and we were finally on the road to Ridgecrest around 2 pm.


We enjoyed our second visit to Lone Pine, but we both agree that our first visit was our favorite of the two. However, we do just really love this area, and if we visit again, it will definitely be sometime between December and February.