I’ve finally found a place where Amy and I can and want to build a home. It’s in the Alabama Hills below Mount Whitney in the high desert of the Eastern Sierra. Hollywood and I fell in love with this area because of the expansive views of the Eastern Sierra and the unusual boulders in the area. The rounded and peculiar boulders of the Alabama Hills give a good foreground for camera shots while the high Sierra rise 10,000 feet above this chunk of high desert.
We closed on the 2.68 acre lot today and paid $165,000 for it. We could have bought 5 acres nearby for $125,000, but it didn’t have the boulders and views that we now own. Amy is designing a beautiful home and we will start showing various professionals the plans soon. It will probably take us over a year to build our beautiful mountain home nestled in the boulders. The monumental challenge of building a home has scared me more than anything in a long time, but we’re committed to do it. Check out these pictures to know why.
Why Lone Pine?
Here are the main reasons we chose Lone Pine:
It’s a much different landscape than Santa Barbara. The Sierra and desert are a great contrast to beautiful Santa Barbara with its coastal mountains and ocean. We’ll be living in the country here with horses and cows outnumbering our neighbors.
It’s much more affordable than Santa Barbara. It’s hard to find anything nice in SB for $800k, so we should be able to build a custom home for less than half that. The cost of living up here is pretty low too.
The scenery is wonderful!
This will mainly be a mountain vacation home. It gets very hot there in July and August and is pretty cold from November to March. Santa Barbara has some of the best weather in the world, so we’ll be in Santa Barbara if we don’t like the weather up here.
Hollywood started coming to the Alabama Hills in the 1920s to film epic westerns. The Western Film History Museum is in Lone Pine and many stars have filmed here from Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne, Lucille Ball and Hopalong Cassidy. Many present movies have filmed here like scenes from Iron Man, Gladiator, Transformers, Lone Ranger, Godzilla, Django Unchained and Star Trek. They came here for the scenery and so have I.
See how hundreds of the movies were filmed here:
I first came through the area in 1986 when I was looking for a job. I had spent the summer working the snack bar in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park which is directly west of Lone Pine. When the season ended in October, I went to Yosemite to look for work, but they were shutting down for the season as well. I went to Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort, but they wouldn’t open until they got some snow. People told me that Death Valley would have some work because they were opening for the winter, so I went through lonely Lone Pine on the way there. Lone Pine sits basically half way between Kings Canyon and Death Valley, the first two places I worked in California. Lone Pine is a remote town of only 2,000 people, and grew from 1,655 people in 2000.
Lone Pine sits at about 3,700’ in the Owens Valley – the deepest valley in America. This rift valley is hemmed in by Sierra Nevada fourteeners to the west and the White Mountain with their own fourteeners to the northeast. To the south and east is the Mojave desert which contains Death Valley. From the dry valley floor to the highest mountains of the Sierra, Lone Pine is the gateway to many outdoor activities.
Many people from LA drive through Lone Pine on their way to Mammoth Mountain ski resort or other areas north like Yosemite. The main attraction in Lone Pine is Mt. Whitney – the tallest mountain in the lower 48. Taller than any peak in Colorado, Whitney does not look particularly tall compared to other mountains in the area because it is a little farther east. Still, the beauty of Mt. Whitney and all its friends is right in our face on the property
At 12,944’, Lone Pine Peak looks taller than Mt. Whitney because it is several miles east and closer to the valley floor. The 3,000’ tall south face of Lone Pine Peak is the tallest wall of granite outside of Yosemite Valley. The gray, granite face of Lone Pine Peak is the spitting images of Half Dome or El Capitan that is only about 100 miles northwest as the crow flies.
Another Lone Pine oddity and attraction are the Alabama Hills – a collection of boulders and hills between Lone Pine and Mount Whitney. The Alabama Hills are made of the same granite as the Sierra, but these mountain tops have been eroded in a different way. The Alabama boulders and hills form precarious, interesting shapes that have rounded edges that contrast the sharp edges of the Sierra.
The boulders are rounded because they are eroded by spheroidal weathering. This chemical weathering pattern is also known as onion skin weathering, spherical weathering and woolsack weathering. Onion skin weathering is the easiest way for me to visualize the boulders because layers of rock often peel off and form rounded boxes, alcoves, arches and interesting, repeating patterns. The rocks are extraordinary and ended up being the reason why we bought property in the Alabama Hills.
I’ve been looking for homes in the area around Lone Pine, Olancha and even as far away as Kennedy Meadows for decades. The high desert land is much cheaper away from coastal California because it is fairly remote at about 200 miles from Los Angeles. Lone Pine offers a few restaurants, a market, repair shops and a hospital. Lone Pine mainly offers solitude and stunning views, so I bought into it.