Alabama Hills Recreation Area
Lone Pine, California
November 20-22, 2017
The online reviews of boon docking sites in the Alabama Hills Recreation Area were beckoning us to this spot, but the real draw for me was seeing Mount Whitney. I’d never realized until last year that the highest point in the contiguous 48 (Mt. Whitney – 14,505′ above sea level) and the lowest point in North America (Badwater Basin – 282′ below sea level) are basically geological next door neighbors. We missed seeing Mt. Whitney last year, so I was determined to enter Death Valley from the west side this time so that we could experience both.
This beautiful setting is also known as “Movie Flats” because of all of the films made here. This plaque stands at the entrance to the recreation area.
An unexpected experience in this area was stumbling upon the Manzanar National Historic Site. We passed the entrance on the highway, just 10 minutes away from our camping area. I’d never heard of this place, and did a quick google search to investigate. It turns out that the gap in my knowledge of this place is arguably intentional, as it is one of the 10 locations of a Japanese interment camp from WWII. The US government hasn’t exactly erased all evidence, but they definitely spent a good long time NOT talking about this dark spot in American history.
Manzanar has become a National Historic Site because it is the best preserved of the 10 sites. This location detained over 11,000 men, women, and children out of the over 110,000 Japanese American citizens who were forced to live in these camps around the United States.
One of the craziest things about this to me was learning that while some Japanese Americans served in the military during WWII, their families were interned in camps like these. There were photos of soldiers coming here to visit their wives and children being interned at Manzanar. When people were forcibly relocated here, most of them lost everything…their businesses. Their homes. Their communities.
When the facility closed, many of these prisoners had no place to go back to. The government gave them each $25 and a one-way bus fare.
We only had a very brief visit, so we skipped the Junior Ranger educational opportunities this time. But we all learned a lot at this place.