October 25, 2011

Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, eastern California

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

If you've already read my biography on what I call my "big" site, then you know that I was extremely fortunate in being able to meet with Ansel Adams 48 years ago when I was a mere lad of 16.

I owned most of Ansel Adams' books and was in awe of his compositions and marvelous handling of black and white tones, so when his rendering of these same exact rocks in the photo above appeared in an article he had written for PopularPhotography Magazine I knew I had to find these dramatic rocks--I thought it would be an easy task, but it wasn't.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

Over the years I visited the Alabama Hills a handful of times, always searching for these specific rocks but they had always eluded me until this latest trip when I finally decided to check out Tuttle Creek Road, a road which branches out to the left off of Whitney Portal Road, just to the west of the small town of Lone Pine. Tuttle Creek Road doesn't connect with any of the other roads in the Alabama Hills which may explain why I had such a difficult time finding this particular rock formation.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

You may not have heard of the Alabama Hills, but they've been used as a backdrop in hundreds of cowboy movies and short features over the years. The main (dirt) road that winds it way through the Alabama Hills is appropriately named "Movie Road". At any moment one might expect Hop-A-Long Cassidy to peek from around one of the rounded boulders and empty his revolver at the bad-guys.

click photo for full-size image
photo by Donald Kinney

The Alabama Hills is nestled below the Whitney Range which looms several thousand feet overhead to the west.

[source:  Wikipedia]   The rounded contours of the Alabamas contrast with the sharp ridges of the Sierra Nevada to the west. Though this might suggest that they formed from a different orogeny, the Alabamas are the same age as the nearby Sierras. The difference in wear can be accounted for by different patterns of erosion.

Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States, towers several thousand feet above this low range, which itself is 1,500 feet (460 m) above the floor of Owens Valley. However, gravity surveys indicate that the Owens Valley is filled with about 10,000 feet (3,000 m) of sediment and that the Alabamas are the tip of a very steep escarpment. This feature may have been created by many earthquakes similar to the 1872 Lone Pine earthquake which, in a single event, caused a vertical displacement of 15–20 feet.

There are two main types of rock exposed at Alabama Hills. One is an orange, drab weathered metamorphosed volcanic rock that is 150-200 million years old. The other type of rock exposed here is 90 million year old granite which weathers to potato-shaped large boulders, many of which stand on end due to spheroidal weathering acting on many nearly vertical joints in the rock.

Dozens of natural arches are among the main attractions at the Alabama Hills. They can be accessed by short hikes from the Whitney Portal Road, the Movie Flat Road and the Horseshoe Meadows Road. Among the notable features of the area are: Mobius Arch, Lathe Arch, the Eye of Alabama and Whitney Portal Arch.

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John @ Beans and I on the Loose said...

Another of my favorite areas along 395. Did not know of the 10,000 thick sediment. Hard to imagine.

photowannabe said...

Wow, where have I been all my life? Never heard of this place. What fascinating formations. I'll bet you took a gazillion photos.
Glad you liked my reflection shot. Bodie has so many wonderful ops.
I'm enjoying "Your" vacation so much.

Hilda R.B said...

Beautiful place. Great photos.

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