West of Death Valley

A little west of Death Valley, a sister valley hugs one of the most amazing buttresses of granite on the planet. Owens Valley is nestled in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada mountains, which stretch north and south for hundreds of miles along the spine of California. Driving along Highway 190 west from the heart of Death Valley, it is about 100 miles to reach the southern portion of Owens Valley. If you have never done it before, I promise you will never forget the first time you drive into the Owens Valley from the east and see the Sierra! (BTW, Sierra is plural…it is incorrect to use “Sierras.”)

Although they are quite different in terms of elevation, temperature, and, well, civilization, there are many similarities between Owens Valley and Death Valley. To me, the greatest similarity is the subtle beauty that reveals itself if you are willing to seek it. Sure, both valleys are surrounded by stunning mountain ranges (the Sierra in Owens Valley and the Panamints in Death Valley). That kind of beauty is easy to see. Indeed, that kind of beauty just smacks you right in the face! But each valley also has a subtle beauty that is easy to miss if you drive through on Highway 395 without stopping.

One of the more visually stunning examples in the Owens Valley is the Alabama Hills. Named by a group of southern sympathizers during the Civil War, to me the Alabama Hills would be more appropriately named the Alabama Rock Pile because it is an infinite pile of huge granite boulders as far as the eye can see! The landscape is so unusual and photogenic that countless movies have been filmed there. In fact, the main road through the Alabama Hills is aptly named Movie Road. Trust me, you have probably seen a movie that has been filmed in the Alabama Hills. My favorite is Gladiator, where Maximus rides through the Alabama Hills on the way home to his murdered wife and son. Pay attention the next time watch it.

Overall, I’m really happy with the collection of images I created on this trip. I’ll share more in the future. In the meantime, if you’re interested, I encourage you to Google Owens Valley and the Alabama Hills. You will find some fascinating histories. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading about the area almost as much as you like the images. 😉

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