One of the things we like best about the kind of trip we are on is that we can be flexible about where we go and what we do. When we find a spot we like, we can stay as long as we want. That is what happened to us with the Alabama Hills in California. We had never heard of it and only found it because we were looking for a free place to stop for the night. We liked it so much we stayed for several days. We loved the huge boulders, the glimpses of Mount Whitney in the distance, and the gorgeous sunrises and sunsets. We also enjoyed having lots of time to explore the surrounding area.

Over the course of our stay, we visited the small town of Lone Pine several times. It is just a few minutes away from where we were camped so it was a convenient place for picking up supplies and getting wifi access when we needed it. Lone Star Bistro had great Americanos and baked goods and was a very pleasant place to work for a few hours. Although we did not sample any, their ice cream looked very good as well. We also took advantage of the free wifi and inexpensive coffee at the local McDonalds a couple of times as well. By filling out their surveys, we were able to get some free sandwiches. Not fine dining by any stretch but good for the budget. Unfortunately, the wifi was down at the local library when we stopped in, but we enjoyed chatting with the very friendly librarian, so it was not a wasted trip. Lone Pine is also home to Mount Whitney Portal Hostel which offers showers for a reasonable price with very nice clean facilities which we were thrilled to take advantage of. While we were in town, we also found out more about the history of the Alabama Hills. It turns out lots of movies have been made there, from many of the old Roy Rogers movies to more recent films like Tremors and Django. Although we did not have a chance to visit ourselves, there is a local museum that is devoted to the area’s movie history.

Whitney Portal is a short, very scenic drive from Lone Pine. From there you can access the Mount Whitney trail which takes you to the highest peak in the contiguous United States. We took a drive out there one afternoon after we finished work. It was fairly late in the afternoon so we meant to hike for just a short while but it was so gorgeous, we went farther than we intended to. The mountain views, leaves changing color, waterfalls and little streams to cross offered so many incredible photo opportunities. We lingered so long, we had to hurry to get back to the Jeep before dark. It is a lot easier to set up camp before the sun sets. On our way down the mountain, we met a couple who were returning from their hike to Mirror Lake. From their description, we decided we would return sometime over the next few days to do that same hike ourselves. The 22-mile hike to the summit was way more than we wanted to do but the 5-mile round trip to a picturesque lake sounded perfect.

Finding our way to Alabama Hills was a happy accident and turned into one of the highlights of our trip.