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June 2013 – Chris Llewellyn's "Birds Eye Views"

Month: June 2013

Lone Pine, CA birding



Pulling out of Lone Pine, CA, we almost felt a sense of longing to stay and see more, do more, in this sleepy little town of just over 2000 inhabitants.

When we first arrived in the Kbago for a one night stay that turned into three, it was our anniversary evening.   After researching TripAdvisor.com for the best restaurants in town, I decided on #1 which was the Season’s Dinner House.  What an excellent recommendation it was. We were cheerfully greeted by Jennifer, the hostess. Being born and raised in Lone Pine, she was just the person to ask where to go and what to see, which we did. That’s me, always lots of questions. She even wrote down directions for the best routes to take for our planned adventures.

I saw they had one of my faves on the menu, beef tenderloin.  With the menue telling me it could be prepared 4 different ways, I knew this was the place to have it. Prepared with a Mayflower Blue Cheese sauce and cooked to medium rare perfection, I was delighted. Chris had the rack of lamb, prepared with a cranberry bbq sauce. He didn’t say a word during dinner and I would have felt neglected had it not been for the fact that I didn’t put my fork down either. When we came up for air, we looked at each other, smiled and gave each other a peck.  I would highly recommend Season’s dinner house if you are passing through Lone Pine, CA on Highway 395.  Another great choice would be #2 on TripAdvisor .com, Alabama Hills cafe and bakery.

We were anxious to begin our adventures the next day as there were lots of sights I had read about and written on “the list”.

We started by following Tuttle Creek Road which winds through the Alabama Hills. History is rich and there’s lots of room for imagination on this tour.

Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA
Alabama Hills, Lone Pine, CA

We then climbed to 9000 feet up the steep side of Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states.

Mount Whitney, highest peak in the contiguous 48.
Mount Whitney, highest peak in the contiguous 48.

Almost 20 degrees cooler than in the valley, it is a sight to behold. Allowing scenic and historic views of miles and miles of the valley.  Desert and water combine, producing bird rich riparian areas, all sandwiched by the towering Sierra Mountains on the west and the rolling Inyo Mountains to the east. We both were truly moved at the beauty.


This is the second time on our Arizona trip that we have been to to 9000 feet. The first being Mt. Lemmon outside of Tucson, AZ.

It was interesting in the fact that up the mountain, the only birds we could see were Stellar’s Jays. But the scenery and the magic of Mt. Whitney was another memory made.

Descending to the valley where desert shrubs give way to riparian areas of cottonwoods and sycamors with other green native trees and grasses, we are thinking….yep…you got it….bird habitat galore!!

On day two, we were off exploring those areas. We will talk in more detail about them in future blogs.

Since this is to be a blog about Lone Pine, CA, I’ll get back to it…yes…it’s tough for me to not talk about the birds only….

Lone Pine offers much to see to the travelers on highway 395. However, it is a town that will most likely never be developed or heavily populated. Why you might ask? With all it has to offer and so much scenic beauty and exploration opportunities?  It is dead in the water. Literally.

Owens Lake, drained by the city of Los Angeles.
Owens Lake, drained by the city of Los Angeles.

Owens Lake was a twelve by eight mile lake before the city of Los Angeles and William Mullholand decided it would be the water source for their further development of Los Angeles. In the early 1900’s, they purchased the rights to Owens Lake water.

Today you mainly see a huge, dry, relatively flat, salty looking area that is pretty much devoid of any habitat.

Owens Lake has created a lot of progress, yes, but, not Lone Pine’s progress. I ask myself, why do we not ever hear of someone blowing up or diverting the LADWP (Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power) aquaduct? After all, plenty of people are upset about the water robbery and have been since 1908.  Do the folks who live in the “City of Angels” think about the fact that their water comes from a “Higher Source”??  Do they think of it as a precious resource or do they not even think about it at all?

But on the other hand, I ask, did LADWP do Lone Pine a favor? Everything seems pristine in and around Lone Pine, with the one big exception, Owens Lake.

LADWP has mandatorily, through litigation, started some restoration.  We did see evidence that out of the thousands of birds that used Owens Lake as a stop over during migration before it was drained, are coming back. IMG_5034We smiled.