Thursday, April 28, 2016

Alabama Hills and a Visit to the Dark Side of US History



We are now parked among the fabulous rock formations of the Alabama Hills near Lone Pine, CA. Our Lazy Daze friend Jeanne joined us, and as we were attempting to get level, blog readers and new friends Andre and Rose (The Road In Between) came by looking for a site. Hard to see the three RVs in this photo.


On our previous visit to the Alabama Hills in October 2013 the Lone Pine Film Festival was taking place so it was much busier. This week we’ve only seen a few climbers and a couple other RVs scattered around. It’s a huge area so there’s plenty of room for everyone but cell reception can be spotty, which is why we are in the same location as last time since we have a pretty solid 3G Verizon signal with the amplifier and Jeanne is getting good AT&T.

Hiking to Mobius Arch with Rose, Andre, Jeanne and dog Riley.




Jim and Andre climbing around  the arch.




Elvis and Sophie are very happy here. It’s quiet and they love rock climbing.



There’s a lizard in that crack somewhere.


The clouds were just amazing yesterday morning so we had to go out and take more photos.





Mount Whitney barely peeking through the clouds.



Yesterday afternoon we drove 10 miles north of Lone Pine to Manzanar National Historic Site, where over 10,000 Japanese, many of them US citizens, were interned during World War ll. This is a very sad and embarrassing bit of United States history. I won’t go into details but this is a good article which sums it up nicely.


We watched the excellent movie in the Visitor Center and looked at the displays.


You can take a self-guided walking or driving tour around the grounds. We drove most of it as we were in the middle of a thunderstorm but it would be nice to walk the entire area.


The residences were hastily built tarpaper covered barracks each 20 X 100’ long, where four families of 8 residents lived. There were no partitions between each “apartment” so families would put up sheets or blankets in between. Not only was there a lack of privacy in the living quarters, but there was no running water and communal latrines and non-partitioned showers were located in another building. Early on there was no heat and many openings for dust to get in. If you’re familiar with this part of California you know how cold it can get at night and that the wind blows often, which causes horrible dust storms from the dry Owens Lake.



Meals meant waiting in line at the mess hall or going hungry. The detainees made the most of a bad situation by planting gardens and creating elaborate ponds and parks, and holding dances at the rec hall. There were schools, churches, sports fields and even a golf course. But that doesn’t improve the fact that they were unable to leave the barbed-wire fenced and guarded walls of the camp.


The Manzanar cemetery is marked by a monument that was built by incarcerated stonemason Ryozo Kado in 1943. The posts surrounding the monument are draped in strings of origami, and sometimes survivors and visitors leave offerings of personal items as mementos. The Japanese inscription on the front translates to "Soul Consoling Tower."


The inscription on the back says "Erected by the Manzanar Japanese, August 1943." Nearly 150 Japanese died during their internment and the majority were cremated. 15 were buried here but only five graves remained as families moved the others.



There was even a pet cemetery.


We wondered if they were able to appreciate the beautiful Sierra Nevada backdrop.


We didn’t visit Manzanar on our first trip to Lone Pine as it was during the government shutdown so it was closed , but I’m glad we came this time. This is a very moving place and one that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area. We feel sad and angry at our government that something like this could happen. Jim posted this on Facebook, which I am copying since I thought he summed it up well.  

Today we toured the Japanese Internment camp, aka concentration camp at the Manzanar Historical Site north of Lone Pine, CA. I was somewhat familiar with this American stain but had never visited any of the sites. It should be required to thoroughly study this history, that of slavery and our treatment of native Americans in depth before anyone escapes our educational system.

They were ripped from their homes in a matter of a few days, lost their property, liberty and privacy. Two thirds of them were natural born citizens. All too many of us are constitutional scholars when it comes to the second amendment but fervor for the rest of them is flexible. We can practice cafeteria rights, kind of like cafeteria Christians, when the mood and fear strike.

You should be required to review it before you start blathering about American exceptionalism. America has only really been exceptional if you are white and generally wealthy.

We should all think about it and compare it to the manure coming from Trump's mouth about Muslims and Mexicans. We should consider it when we say "fuck yeah" to carpet bombing the innocent along with the guilty.

It always boils down to what the dominant culture is afraid of and in our case it is generally someone who looks different. That is changing whether we like it or not and you can only hope that when the minority becomes the majority they will treat us better than we have treated them.

While time passes and technology advances humans simply repeat their stupidity and willful ignorance with no sign of an end.

The only positive note is that we aren't hiding our history. In the 80's Reagan apologized and we gave the 60,000 survivors $20,000 each which comes to just over 1 billion dollars. In the last decade or so we have spent one and a half trillion dollars on the fabulous airplane known as the F-35 which still isn't ready to go.…/Internment_of_Japanese_Americans


  1. Nice posts on the Alabama Hills, have to admit we're usually traveling and like to stop on the other side of 395 at Fossil Falls. Only once we were not the only campers there. We've been stopping at Manzanar before it was set protected and set aside, watching it grow. It is indeed a worthwhile stop all of us should make.

    An interesting bood _Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet_ looks at the situation from the eyes of both Japanese citizens (foe) and Chinese citizens (friend). And the Anglos that cannot tell the difference.

    Enjoy 395 it is a great route with lots to do. Always looking for new highlites along the way from other travelers.

  2. Jim,
    Your points are well taken. But as horrendous as our treatment was to Japanese citizens, read "Unbroken" for an even more horrendous look at what war does to supposedly "civilized" citizens. Fear-based reactions and atrocities play to reactionary types during times of war. But the atrocities suffered at the hands of the Japanese by our POW's in WW II make our "internment" seem like a stay at a Hilton. Not saying we were right, or better, or less guilty.... just saying war sucks, and we can't seem to understand that collateral damage is an atrocity in and of itself. Will we ever learn...
    Good post, and your comment is spot on.
    Box Canyon Mark

    1. Agreed, and there is lots more we could point out. How about Hitler's treatment of the Jews. The list of man's inhumanity is virtually limitless and ongoing. That said, we pretend to be better than that, these people weren't war criminals, weren't guilty of any crime and were deprived of fundamental rights under our constitution. There is far worse going on in the world right now, right this moment but I was struck by what I saw and am tired of the folks that are out there beating their drums about how great we are. We are as fearful and racist as everyone else on the planet but we should try to do better and I think to do that we all need to take a long hard look at our past. In the hopes that we won't keep making those mistakes. That said, I see nothing today that suggests we are any different but we aren't the worst by a long shot.

    2. I hope Trump's pets "carpet bomb" his high-rise mansion :))
      You were making a veiled reference to The Donald, weren't you?
      Seriously though, check out "Unbroken"
      Box Canyon

  3. I think every Nation has its own dark pages of history. But we should learn of it.

  4. Gayle and Jim, wonderful words on Manzanar. We have been there twice and remain overwhelmed and saddened at this chapter in American history. It is especially poignant for me because quite a few people I know were interned there. I grew up on Bainbridge Island Washington and the entire Japanese American community there (who were all AMERICAN CITIZENS, by the way) was initially relocated to Manzanar and later to Minidoka in Idaho. As Jim says, these people were deprived of their constitutional rights without any due process, and that was shameful and remains so to this day.

  5. What a great post! Great pics too, as always. We are in Alabama Hills too! Would love to meet you guys in person. I visited Manzanar the other day & did the drive through as well. Haven't been able to bring myself to write about it yet though. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Totally agree, we need to acknowledge mistakes of the past, provide accurate information in the historical context to do better. History is a humbling teacher. Beautiful mountain photography. Loved the pics of Sophia and Elvis. Oh I wish mine would go for walks!!!

  7. Our first visit to the Alabama Hills was in the fall. What a wonderful playground!! We were surprised how small the Hills actually are when you see them from above. But, boy, did we have fun finding all the arches in each area. The photo with the clouds framing Mr. Whitney is spectacular.

    Manzanar Historical Site is so well done. We made two different visits.

  8. Great cat pictures!

    The F-35 seems an excellent example of corporate welfare. It HAS kept a lot of folks employed, dontchya know? I wonder though if we offered everyone the chance to attend a University for free, the way some European countries do, if all those folks might've found more creative ways to make a living.

  9. Our Bella would love the rock climbing you cats found so inviting. Great views of Mt. Whitney.

    Yep, Jim did a good job summarizing a dark day in history and today's political environment.

  10. We went there also....but never got to see Mt. kept hidden behind the clouds. Here's our blogs from years past....

    The Alabama Hills were terrific....we could've spent days poking around there!

  11. A beautiful location, there is so much to see and do there. Manzanar is very well done in my opinion, all the facts presented clearly allowing for individual opinions to be formed. And hopefully lessons learned. I think the gardens are amazing - definitely my favorite part.

  12. Your pictures of the Alabama Hills are outstanding. It is a place I so want to visit. I couldn't agree with you more in your talk about Manzanar. Our country has a lot to be ashamed of and I think it's time we admit our Genocide policy toward the Native Americans and apologize. When are they going to pardon Leonard Peltier??

  13. Sophie looks like she is having a blast!

    We have yet to visit Manzanar, it is on the list. The very last thing the US needs is an ignorant hater in the white house. Diplomacy is the way to handle foreign and domestic relations...not bombastic egotistical BS spouting.

  14. Thank you Jim for your thoughts. They reflect the sentiments of Richard and I. We visited Manzanar about 5 yrs ago. We need to have the good and the bad things in our history taught to our young people. We are not the perfect society some would like to portray us as, and we can never hope to be if we don't recognize where we have gone wrong.

  15. Such a great post and gorgeous photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

  16. Jim, will echo what others have said about your views on Manzanar and our history. I believe your thoughts are spot on. So many of us will not take the time nor have the inclination to delve into our sordid past. It is so much easier to let someone else do the work for us and so we get wrapped up in their hype. I found Manzanar to be so moving, so sad. How can we feel so righteous with these types of stains soiling our history? Thankfully you have something as beautiful as the Alabama Hills for balance. Love the cloud formations that so often seem to be kissing the mountaintops. Great photos!

  17. I went by myself to tour this place and cried the whole time. There was a Japanese family walking the area where the gardens were. I spoke to them but could barely look them in the eye.