Filmmaking, ATV riding, horseback riding, bouldering, jogging, bird watching, camping, fishing, location scouting, photography, rock hounding, hunting. These are just some of the different activities enjoyed by diverse groups and outdoor enthusiasts on the same public lands west of Lone Pine.
The wide variety of recreational opportunities and stakeholders passionate about the landscape is all part of the magic of the Alabama Hills and the secret to keeping them accessible – two concepts being celebrated next weekend via the Third Annual Alabama Hills Day.
“The Alabama Hills are the best representation of multi-use we have in the Eastern Sierra because of the diversity of people who use and the activities available in the Alabama Hills,” said Kevin Mazzu, one of the event’s key organizers.
An all-day affair scheduled for 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, April 12 in Lone Pine, Alabama Hills Day will once again be presented by the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group and co-sponsored for the first time by the Bishop Office of the Bureau of Land Management in partnership with the Lone Pine Film History Museum.
The museum and AHSG enjoy a “terrific, symbiotic relationship,” Mazzu said, with the museum promoting the Hills as the “birthplace of the American Western film genre” and thus supporting preservation efforts.
The BLM and AHSG work in tandem year-round on projects that support and enhance the Hills, and have been working cooperatively since 2006 on efforts to preserve access to the popular recreation destination. Those efforts have culminated in a proposed National Scenic Area designation supported not just by myriad user groups and local businesses, but also Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Congressman Paul Cook (R-CA 8th District) who are working on legislation to make the designation a reality.
Alabama Hills Day was a way to leverage this support into educational opportunities for anyone unfamiliar with what a precious and valuable resource the Hills are, said Mazzu, who is also a founder and current vice president of the AHSG.
“We had this coalition of support of stakeholders,” Mazzu said, “so the natural step was figuring out how do we keep those organizations and all those people impassioned about the Alabama Hills while we wait for the legislation?”
The first two Alabama Hills Day events brought together “very diverse organizations, individuals and businesses,” Mazzu said, “representing a huge cross-section” of the Eastern Sierra community – from conservation groups to access groups, artists to entrepreneurs, climbers to motor touring enthusiasts. And when they got together, Mazzu said, “it was really a celebration, a chance to talk about their passion.”
Out of that has grown a “fun, educational component,” Mazzu explained, with the various user groups sharing with each other and with the uninitiated all there is to do, see and experience in the Alabama Hills. People have been coming from Mammoth Lakes, Southern California, even out of state to check out the offerings.
“We’re strengthening the coalition and introducing new members of the public to the Alabama Hills and sharing all the things there are to do out there in this fantastic landscape,” Mazzu said.
Two-hundred-fifty residents and visitors attended in 2013.Organizers are expecting even more this year, and are giving those attendees even more to do and see.
Alabama Hills Day will be divided among three locations: The Lone Pine Convention Center (AKA The Building), 325 S. Main St., the Lone Pine Film History Museum, 701 S. Main, and the Hills themselves. KIBS radio will be on hand from 10 a.m.-noon to do a live remote broadcast as Richard Reel interviews people who are passionate about the Alabama Hills.
According to Mazzu, Smokey Bear will make an appearance as will some of the animal ambassadors from Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care.
Exhibitors at the convention center will include: Advocates for Access to Public Lands, the BLM, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, De La Cour Ranch, Eastern California Museum, Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitors Center, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Center, Eastern Sierra Land Trust, Eastern Sierra Wildlife Care, Eastern Sierra 4WD Club, Elevation (“Sierra Adventure Essentials”), Friends of the Inyo, Healthy Communities of Southern Inyo County, “High and Dry – Dispatches from the Land of Little Rain,” Inyo National Forest, Jeanie Smith (artist), Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Lone Pine Chamber of Commerce, Lone Pine Economic Development Corporation, Lone Pine Farmers Market, Lone Pine Gem and Mineral Society, Lone Pine Film History Museum, Lone Pine Paiute Shoshone Tribe, Fifth District Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley, Metabolic Studio and McGree Pack Station – “100 Mules Walking,” Michael Dorame (artist), Mount Whitney Hotel and Hostel, Owens Valley Committee, Sierra Mountain Center, Sierra Mountain International, Sierra Nevada Bighorn Sheep Foundation and the Sierra Nevada Conservancy.
Over at the Lone Pine Film History Museum events inside the theatre include:
• 9 a.m. – a movie history discussion with film historian Chris Langley;
• 10 a.m. – a discussion on the “100 Mules Walking” project with Lee Roeser;
• 11 a.m. – a discussion of classic commercials and TV shows with Museum Director and former Republic Studio head Bob Sigman;
• noon – a presentation on the AHSG by Mazzu;
• 1 p.m. – a presentation on Paiute-Shoshone cultural resources by Kathy Bancroft and Ray Hunter; and
• 2 p.m. – a presentation in “Climbing in the Eastern Sierra” by Myles Moser and Amy Ness.
The list of tours and field trips to the Hills has grown in 2014. “We’ve doubled the breadth and depth of activities out there,” Mazzu said. “It’s a wide variety and again, that’s a reflection of how varied the groups and uses of the Alabama Hills are.”
The schedule includes:
• all-day – Sky Time helicopter tours, departing from Lone Pine Airport;
• 8 a.m.-2 p.m. – a rock climbing event with Kurt Wedberg of Sierra Mountaineering International;
• 8-10 a.m. – an Ansel Adams Photo Tour with Catherine Kravitz;
• 9-11 a.m. – an Audubon bird tour of Diaz Lake with Mike Prather;
• 9-11 a.m. – a mountain bike tour with Davey McCoy;
• 9-11:30 a.m. – a stewardship project and restoration work with the BLM and Friends of the Inyo;
• 9:30 a.m.-noon – a gold-panning workshop with the Lone Pine Gem and Mineral Society;
• 10 a.m.-noon – a map-reading/orientation workshop with Jon Turner;
• 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – a geology tour of the Hills’ arches with BLM Steward Dave Kirk;
• 11 a.m.-1 p.m. – an interpretive movie tour with Langley;
• 1-3 p.m. – a natural history tour with Prather and Friends of the Inyo; and
• 1-3 p.m. – a native plant tour with the California Native Plant Society.
Capping off the festivities will be a post-event party at the Mount Whitney Hotel and Hostel.
Alabama Hills Day also includes a raffle for prizes such as a fine art-quality photograph of the Alabama Hills, guided climbing trips and a stay at the De la Cour Ranch.
With the exception of the helicopter tours, everything offered at Alabama Hills Day is free, Mazzu said, and it’s family-oriented.
“Just to hike with the kids, let them get out and run around is great,” he said.