Old West, alive and well
Hollywood loves Lone Pine, Calif., a dusty town in the Eastern Sierra. Since 1920, crews have been making the 31/2-hour drive to shoot hundreds of movies, TV shows and commercials with the majestic Mt. Whitney and the knobby Alabama Hills as backdrops. Visitors can walk in the footsteps of Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas and John Wayne and relive the heyday of western filmmaking.
Plenty of chain motels dot U.S. 395 in Lone Pine, but for a local feel, drive about 15 miles north to Independence. Here, the rustic Winnedumah Hotel (211 N. Edwards St., Independence;  878-2040, winnedumah.com) sits across the road from the tiny (at least by Southland standards) Inyo County Courthouse. A full breakfast is included, and it’s said the owner entices visitors to dine by using a fan to send the smell of sizzling bacon wafting toward the guest rooms.
You wouldn’t expect to find flavorful continental cuisine in this town of 2,000, but that’s just what Seasons Restaurant (206 S. Main St., Lone Pine;  876-8927) delivers. Diners never seem to leave disappointed. For an appetizer, consider the fresh ahi ($13) accompanied by a seaweed, wasabi and ginger salad. The New York strip steak ($27), coated with cracked peppercorns and topped with a brandy Dijon cream sauce, is a popular entree.
A visit to the interesting and informative Lone Pine Film History Museum (701 S. Main St., Lone Pine;  876-9909, lone pinefilmhistorymuseum.org) is a must. As its website points out, this is where “the Real West Becomes the Reel West.” There’s a treasure trove of artifacts, including pearl-handled pistols and silver-inlaid saddles. The museum is also home to an annual film festival Oct. 5-7. This year’s theme is “Celebrate the Centennials,” a tribute to Paramount and Universal, which have been making movies since 1912. Together, the two companies have shot 110 movies in the Lone Pine area.
The lesson learned
While the Eastern Sierra embraces its moviemaking past, don’t forget that just nine miles north on U.S. 395 is where tens of thousands of Japanese Americans were interned during World War ll. The Manzanar National Historic Site (U.S. 395, Independence;  878-2194, nps.gov /manz) chronicles this bleak chapter in American history.
Rooms at the Winnedumah begin at $85 a night. A nice meal for two at Seasons can be had for about $75, not including alcohol. Admission to the Film History Museum is just $5; kids 12 and younger get in free. At the museum, be sure to pick up a copy of the informative Movie Road Self-Guided Tour brochure ($2).