Adventures in the Eastern Sierras

This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: 

[NoHo Arts District, CA] –  This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: “Adventures in the Eastern Sierras.”

California has so many world-class attractions and natural beauty that one of the essentials often gets overlooked– and that’s the Eastern Sierra region, sometimes referred to as “The High Sierras.” With hundreds of miles of granite domes, craggy spires and challenging and remote summits, it is arguably one of the greatest ranges in the lower 48 states, and the section of Highway 395 from Lone Pine up until around Bishop makes it hard to even pay attention to the road because all you want to do is gaze in wonder at their sheer magnificence.

Spending some time in Lone Pine I found quite interesting.  Did you know more than 500 movies and TV shows were filmed there!? And a really cool film museum in town showcases all the history. Most of the action that Lone Pine saw from the movie industry was 1920’s – 1950’s and they were mostly cowboy. But my favorite is the Noir thriller “High Sierra,” and they have the car that Bogey drove in it. Other notables include “Gunga Din,””How the West Was Won,” and recently “Iron Man,” and “Django Unchained.”

And right there from Lone Pine you can drive up the scenic Whitney Portal road (12 miles) to about halfway up Mt. Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. You can park your car and there’s a little general store there and a waterfall you can walk over to.  This is also where the hard-core hikers start their 22-mile roundtrip hike to the top of Whitney at 14,800 ft. (Permit required)

This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: "Adventures in the Eastern Sierras."

Being in the Eastern Sierras is sort of a pilgrimage for any Angeleno. This is where our shower/faucet water comes from! It’s the water fight that inspired the Neo-Noir movie “Chinatown,” celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. It’s loosely based on the success of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power syphoning off most of the Owens River, a stream fed by the snowmelt of the Eastern Sierra, and bringing it to the Los Angeles basin about a century ago. (I actually saw some LADWP trucks up there!) Before that it fed into a lake about 5 miles south of Lone Pine. I could see what must have been a giant lake at one point when I was passing through on the 395, but now it’s all mostly dried up and dust.

Just a few miles north of Lone Pine on Highway 395 is Manzanar; where during WWII, roughly 10,000 Japanese Americans were relocated. It’s a haunting and powerful place to visit. Walk through the mess hall and see where they ate, along with sound effects from speakers of clanging dishes in the background. Spend some time in the re-created barracks where they lived in close quarters and visit the school the children attended on-site and their makeshift basketball court & playground. There are lots of pictures and stories of the daily life in Manzanar all throughout the complex. The site was originally surrounded by barbed wire and had eight guard towers (there is one still remaining).

This month’s Active World Journeys travel blog: "Adventures in the Eastern Sierras."

Passing through Independence on Highway 395, you’ll also see the Inyo County Courthouse, which was built in 1922 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

More to come about my Eastern Sierra adventure in my next article about spending a few glorious days in Mammoth Lakes hiking around and visiting the 760,000-year-old ancient Mono Lake further north off Highway 395.


Jack Witt, MS, CPT
Fitness and Health Coach
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