I woke at 2am to the sound of silence. We were camped in the Alabama Hills, a big sky wrapping us up while we slept. These hills boast incredible rock formations that often remind me of souls trapped in the sea before the underworld, but in a beautiful (not spooky) way. The rocks rise up out of one another, twisting and turning in strange and unique patterns.
I love these hills, and I love that free dispersed camping is the law of the land. Anyone can enjoy the landscape, loping right off the base of Mount Whitney, anytime. These hills were the birthplace of many B-rated westerns of ages past. They can also be seen in modern films like Tremors, Django Unchained, Iron Man, and The Lone Ranger (the new one). How cool is that?
I peeled my sandy eyes open and found the most staggering sky I’ve ever had the pleasure of setting my eyes upon. The Milky Way was laid out, just like in a picture book, and the rocks were dark, set starkly against that sparkling sky. I saw two shooting stars in my first five minutes of wonder.
I remembered vaguely that Nathan Kane had told Ant about some settings to capture the night sky on film. I was determined, but ignorant. How to do it?
I fiddled with settings for an hour, trying out this and that until I stumbled upon the right combination. I finally set the camera still on the ground, pointed it skywards, and held my breath during the long exposure.
I looked down, when it finally clicked, and saw the heavens opened up wide. It was even more spectacular on film.
After another hour of play, I finally drifted off into a contented sleep until late the next morning (for hikers … It was only 7am).
Randy found me again in the post office — sending Ant’s box ahead and grabbing mine. He took my bags back to his house, and picked Dash and I up at the grocery store, where I frantically tried to supplement my mostly candy snacks with all salt and cracker snacks.
We were welcomed into their home by a barrage of barks from the five most adorable tiny dogs in the world. We met Kathy, Randy’s wife, who called the dogs her babies and had the greenest thumb you could imagine. She told us first just how upset she was to come home after just three days to find the patch of grass out front burned up. The water is getting rationed out here.
Kathy kept us company while Randy, with his huge heart, ran four hikers up to Onion Valley, a long 30 mile journey from their house. She told us of her beautiful grand babies and what it was like growing up in a town like Lone Pine.
I ran off to shower, and when I got out (only 20 minutes later!) there was grilled chicken and sautéed garden veggies (from her garden!) and a giant salad and Texas Toast. We put in Enchanted and all gathered around to feast and watch. Feasting happened, but a giant scratch in the DVD made the movie impossible, although we saw the opening scene quite a few times.
Instead, we met Kathy’s 92 year old mother, who was a doll.
“More power to you!” She said, after learning what we were up to.