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The Invasion of Lone Pine

Driving up U.S. 395 to ski Mammoth Mountain or fish the lakes above Bishop, you know you’re finally in the Eastern Sierra when you reach Lone Pine.

More than 100 long miles north of Mojave, Lone Pine, population 2,000, is a good spot to gas up and grab a bite at one of the local coffee shops. You can gaze up at Mt. Whitney, although many folks fix on handsome Lone Pine Peak by mistake. There is a fine visitor center with local histories and guides for sale. In all, a pleasant oasis.

Lone Pine is also one of the last places to remain terra incognita to fast food.

That distinction is ending. Carl’s Jr. is coming. McDonald’s and others are rumored to be next. Local teenagers must be delighted, but town leaders are concerned about the impact of fast-food architecture on Lone Pine’s western image.

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That image mostly derives from cowboy movies filmed over the years in the nearby Alabama Hills. But the aura is important to local tourism, especially with foreign visitors stopping en route from Death Valley to Yosemite.

Business leaders are preparing an “action plan” for the June 25 meeting of the planning commission, including possible regulations requiring the newcomers to give their storefronts a western touch. Others are worried about government dictating business decisions.

However it comes out, Lone Pine will survive this little drama. It will never be quite the same as before, of course. But no place ever is.


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