Saturday, June 28, 2008

Climbing Stairs (The Music Box Location)

(GPS: N34 04. 985 W118 16.510)

(Edit {1/10/2010}: Just an FYI for those that randomly come in here or new readers so there isn't any confusion. Originally, I had a video up with clips from Laurel and Hardy and the Three Stooges. The point of it was to show the same type of gag used going up and down stairs. At the end of the video I showed a walk I did up the Music Box Stairs. That video was taken down a long time ago. The areas in both movies were filmed nearby, but are not the same. I have never claimed they were the same location because it is pretty obvious they aren't. The video had an annotation noting this, but it is not up anymore and I took the link to it off this blog which also mentioned this during the time. However, I just noticed I still had the tags from The Three Stooges and the name of the movie still listed on here. I just erased the tags from this entry.)

Here is a still from the Laurel and Hardy movie:

I walked about 2.8 miles to get here from Downtown L.A. Short hikes like this do not bother me. Homeless demanding quarters out of me does not bother me either. A person exercising on the stairs for about ten minutes does not faze me at all because I can wait that out. Showing up on a day where trash cans have to be in a picture is annoying. Sometimes I have bad luck like this. Notice the house on the right is the same.
To celebrate this movie's location it was named Music Box Steps and you can see the sign here:
This plaque was added to one of the bottom steps. You can click it if you want to read a bigger version of the picture.
Here we are at the bottom looking up.
Here is how it looks these days looking down from the top.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bad Day at Black Rock Location Hike

(GPS: N36 38.040 W118 02.390)
(EDIT: I have taken down this video. I will put up a new one at a later time).

I was tempted to call this one Bad Days at Black Rock. This is a blog entry I wanted to do over 6 months ago. Each time I went to this location there would be a few technical problems, and the weather was not always what I had wanted in getting some video and pictures. My latest trip was not too fun either with mosquitoes trying to get as much blood out of me as possible. It was a case where I had to keep moving they were so bad. What you are going to see in this entry is a combination of three trips to this location.

Honestly, this is not the location I would take someone to if they have not seen the movie and have no interest in the area. There are much better areas to check out compared to this one. Not all locations I go to are that inspiring to go to. Still, since this movie is a classic, I am sure there are some out there that might want to see where it was filmed at.

A little about this movie, Bad Day at Black Rock is probably my favorite of the post-western or modern westerns that has been made. In many ways it is very much like a western, but since the time frame is post-WW2 it is way out of the frontier era of the old west. It is often said that the western is dead, but we do get a few westerns out as big screen movies every few years and made for tv westerns come out each year. I do think we may start seeing more of these types of modern 20th century post westerns era movies due to the success of the recent No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood. BTW, just as an aside, I see why people liked those movies, but I did not really care for them that much. No Country had some really good suspense in it, but after I watched both movies I felt like, “Wait, what was the point of this?”

Bad Day at Black Rock is very film nourish with the mysterious Spencer Tracy coming to the isolated town of Black Rock and being “welcomed” by equally mysterious Robert Ryan, Lee Marvin, Ernest Borgnine, and Walter Brennan. They are trying to figure out why he is there and Spencer Tracy is trying to figure out why they do not want him there. There is much more to this, but if you have not seen the movie then I suggest you DO NOT read any reviews about this online or anywhere. Just watch the dvd or see it when it comes out on cable (TCM just showed it) or your local tv station (PBS is listed as playing it). I am starting to get more and more like this, but I usually do not read many reviews online. I used to write a few myself, but sometimes people write these long rambling things and spoil some of the good stuff you should see before you read about. There are some reviews and general descriptions of the movie that spoil some of the keys to the story that you are not supposed to know until later in the movie. I found out it is best just to watch something rather than read about it since only you can decide what you really like.

In the video I show how to get there. You have to take Narrow Gauge Road just outside of the main part of town in Lone Pine. Eventually, you encounter a gate on the northern side (to your left on the other side of the road). If the gate is closed you just open, drive through it, and then close it again. I usually just park here, pass the gated area, and start walking. It is about a mile.
Originally, there were a few real trains that traveled through here. The train and tracks used in the movie were taken down a long time ago. In the movie, don’t blink; you see the train crossing over a bridge. The following is where the bridge was at:
There is a gas station or garage that a few crucial scenes take place at. From the movie:

This area that I am standing at is where the garage would have been.
I mention this in the video and wanted to mention this a little more here. It is quite possible this is rubble from that garage. I am not going to say it is or is not. I have seen too much from other locations that could have been added much later. Many things can happen over the years with people traveling and visiting certain areas and making them dump spots. On the other hand, there are locations that I have seen something like this and I am virtually certain it is from the movie set.

I think when some people visit areas like this they have this idea that something must have remained from some set some 30+ years ago. They come, and to their great disappointment there is nothing there. So, they start searching the area for traces. They might find a piece of wood, etc. and think they have found something from the set when all it is something someone threw on the ground two months earlier. In many cases it is unlikely one would find something after all these years because people were hired to take down movie pieces.

I have noticed this on documentaries on cable channels too. I have seen people go out in fields claiming a medieval battle, never before revealed to the public, took place at some location just by looking at a map. I have seen crack pot adventurers look for lost treasure in these types of documentaries. With the recent Indiana Jones movie there was a real screwball one about a guy trying to find crystal skulls. I taped it, watched it while I was out of town, and wanted my two hours back. Somewhere in it they revealed that the skull the guy owned was originally purchased through an auction and was probably fake. A lot of these documentaries like to ham it up for the audience like you might see in a “reality” show. When the facts are known you have to wonder what you can believe about them. You get the idea.

Here is probably the best shot I have looking at what would have been the main street of Bad Rock. The main town building would have been on the right side of the road.

This is looking toward the north side. You can see where the train track would have been at one time here:
A few tidbits about this movie:

Ernest Borgnine was acting in this movie when he auditioned for the title role for Marty. He was at the Lone Pine Dow Villa where he gave a heart breaking script reading. When he saw that the people who were auditioning him started tearing up from his emotional acting he knew he had the part.

Supposedly, Spencer Tracy and Walter Brennan did not care for each other too much during this movie. Politically, there were on different sides of the spectrum with Tracy being more liberal and Brennan being more conservative. The story is that right before a scene would be filmed Brennan liked to throw three fingers in the air at Tracy and say, “THREE!” He would time it right so that Tracy was supposed to get irritated right as they started filming. It was a way of taunting Tracy as he had two academy awards compared to the three Brennan had earned.

As I said a bunch of times in the video and here, this is not really one of my favorite areas since it is so isolated with nothing really to see. It is just like the feeling in the movie of an isolated area in the middle of nowhere apart from civilization. It is not as scenic as other nearby areas. Not every location I visit I feel is gold, but I still like to show them anyways. I do have a few other locations from this movie I will show at a later time.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Mono Lake Crack

(GPS for Black Point: N38 01.680 W119 05.815)

Here is one I like because it has a spooky effect to it. The first minute or so is at Black Point which is not that impressive, but is to show you where I was at. A few hundred feet away is the opening to the area "Mono Crack."

If done correctly I would not consider this a major hike. A few years ago I came up from the wrong side during the hot summer making it almost a death march. If you have 4x4 you can get real close. I do not, but I knew a road that would get us within about 45 minutes of getting to the top of Black Point. It is the high point around Mono Lake, but I would not consider it a serious elevation hike. Although it looks impressive from seeing it from the 395 HWY. The picture below shows the type of terrain you have to go through to get to the top.

Since the area is really bushy you can not go straight to the top, but follow any dirt path you can around each bush. The bushes are not that crowded around, but enough at some points where you have to walk away from the destination you want to go to in order to get around. Once at the top I checked out the views of the area, but due to the excess of clouds and gray weather it was not as scenic as what you might see during the summer.
You will notice the islands above. Below you can see towards the south and the South Tufa where Clint Eastwood's High Plains Drifter was filmed. That area would be toward the middle on the other side of the lake. Eventually, I am going to head back over there. It has been about ten years since I was last there so I need to head back in one of my next trips there.

Here is what I really came for. There is an area to the southwest of the top that has a few areas that the earth has opened up a bit. You can stand on top of it and look down below. Some places you can jump across the crack easily, but if you mess up then you fall at least 30 feet if not more. This is not an area that one should go to alone, if you do becareful, because if something happens to you then you will be stuck out here for a very long time before another person shows up.

Note: the gps coords N 38 01.600, W 119 06.000 get you pretty close to the area, but it will be up to you to find where to go in. You will want to check out the area overhead first anyways standing over it before you head in. You need to keep heading west to find the entrance I used. Please be very careful when standing above the crack.
The area narrows a bit at different points. The picture below is where I like to stop and hang out for a little while.
I am at the same point as above, but this is looking down. This is why I do not continue through.
I have not tried, but am told that you can drop down here and continue through. There is someway out in the other direction. I do not know when or if I will go back, but when I do go back I will probably search for an exit from above before I try. Of course, if I had brought a ladder...

Let me list some of my old blog entries where I have shown a few different looks of Mono Lake:

Awesome View of Mono Lake
High Plains Drifter

The High Plains Drifter one is actually pretty old being taken some time back in the late 90's. As I mentioned, I really want to get back there and do a better job getting more precise locations on that one. It is okay for what I did at the time, but I can do much better these days.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Cliffs of Nyoka (The Iverson Ranch Series)

This one is an easy so I will make it quick. I won't give out gps coordinates because it is almost at the same spot as Lone Ranger Rock. Go back to that blog for that and another picture of these rocks. If you know where that is you just look south, and it is there. You can't miss them. These rocks get their name from a serial called, The Perils of Nyoka. In the scene Nyoka, played by Kay Aldridge, is being chased by a gorilla called, Satan. He forces her off the cliff where she falls to her the video on for this one for more explanation on this cliffhanger.

The Cliffs of Nyoka (Youtube Version)

The Cliffs of Nyoka (Vimeo Version)

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Comanche Station Location (The Alabama Hills Series)

(GPS: N36 39.550 W118 08.461)

Here is one that is a bit different. Technically, it really is not in the Alabama Hills area. It is much further north on Movie Road and out of the way of the great rock structures of the area. Not too many things have been filmed out here compared to the rest of the Alabama Hills.

Notice the trees in this next still from Comanche Station:

Now compare to this:
The common theme in my Alabama Hills Series is that people and environments change, but rocks and hills/mountains pretty much stay the same over a period of time. Trees tend to live short lives. Although I must note, the Bristlecone Trees about 80 miles away outside of Bishop and Big Pine in the Ancient Bristlecone Forest are the oldest living organisms on the planet going back a few thousand years. It is possible that some of these trees go back to the time of these movies, but you can see that a lot of other trees have grown in that were not here back during that time.
The actual "Comanche Station" in the movie was really not a big part of the movie. Budd Boetticher's movies with Randolph Scott tend to have titles that are a red herring to the real story. On the other hand, the house on "Anchor Ranch" in The Violent Men was featured throughout the movie here. Including the climatic final scenes. I will say something about "Anchor Ranch" and the real one at the bottom. The following picture is the entrance into the area with Movie Road in the foreground passing by.
"Comanche Station" would have been in the background right side of this next picture. The house in The Violent Men would have been much further back near the incline.
The small horse stable would have been to the left in the background of the following picture:
One of the silly things I mentioned in the video is something I call the "Comanche Station Guardian." Whenever I visit this area there is always this guy sitting by on one of the trees:
He usually starts making loud sounds. In the video, he was flying around and at one point I thought he might dive bomb me. I have seen more than one of these there, but if you see him there tell The Comanche Hawk I said, "Hi!"

I mentioned that in The Violent Men they refer to that ranch here as "Anchor Ranch." I was told the story once, but can not remember all the details. Someone in Lone Pine would be better explaining this. As I remember, this movie took place here and you might notice that there are a bunch Anchor signs in the movie. When you first head into Lone Pine heading north on the HWY 395 on the left side you will see the real Anchor Ranch and there is a Anchor Sign near the private road that takes you into the ranch. Originally, if my faulty memory is correct, they took one of the signs from the movie and put it there. The one that is currently there is not from the movie, but a replacement. There really is not any connection between the two locations other than that. However, the real Anchor Ranch I have just described was used for tons of old b-westerns going back to the 1940's. There used to be something called the Hacienda that shows up in a lot of Hopalong Cassidy movies. I was there last October. The last remains of a wall fell down a few years ago. One of these days I might put up a funky video of a dead cow being dragged by a truck near there. Kind of dark and morbid; it is April Fool's Day type of material, but may not get the best reactions. ;) I have pictures of this area, but there really is not much to see there other than using your imagination.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Christmas in May (aka Sounds of Silence)

Memorial Day weekend was rather unique this year in the Sierra Nevada. The weekend is traditionally, for practical purposes, the beginning of summer to a lot of people. Usually, the area is not hot, but rather warm with the sun out. The area is not totally predictable though since thunder showers can happen on any day in the afternoon. I would have never thought that it would rain and snow the whole time I was there last weekend.

If you have seen some of my blog entries in the past I have shown this area before. I will list them at the bottom. I went to bed on a Saturday night listening to a random pitter patter on the roof. I figured it would be gone in the morning. I woke up and heard the same random pitter patter. The visibility outside was very poor, but then I saw that I had awoke to a winter wonderland. Some guy greeted me with, "Nice spring weather." I replied with, "Yeah, Merry Christmas!" Here is how the visibility was looking across Upper Twin Lake:

This next picture is close to Mono Village. Normally, with this location, you would be able to see Matterhorn Peak (aka The Great Silence, my emblem, my icon, etc.) in the background. This was not the case at all this weekend. I never saw it while I was there along with practically all the other mountain peaks in the Eastern Sierra.
In the above picture there are switchbacks that begin the hike to Matterhorn Peak (and a few other areas; like a different way into Yosemite). I usually go up those switchbacks ever few days over the summer. Of course, during the summer the weather is totally different. Here are how these switchbacks looked during the snow:

This is looking down on Upper Twin. Lower Twin is barely visible in the distance.
As I went higher the snow started to get deeper. I could have forced the issue and continued, but I really did not have the desire because there was some other areas I wanted to take pictures of down below.
Looking in the western direction was interesting to me because there is a hike I do ever few years that way. It takes you to Barney Lake (and then Peeler or Snow Lake if one wants a much further hike). I have a lot of pictures looking this way, but with different colors. Having the snow and clouds like this was something I have not seen very much of here at all. I was here on Oct. 31 some years back. When I started that hike it was cold, but after I had cleared the switchbacks the first major snow storm of the season happened. It was really depressing at the time since I had to turn around. This was much more enjoyable. I am just glad it does not usually happen in the middle of August.

If you want to compare with how this area usually looks during sunny conditions then check out these old blogs:

Out of the Past at Upper Twin Lake
Out of the Past Part 3