While visiting Death Valley National Park in 2011, I took lodging in Lone Pine, California. While driving back to Lone Pine after my first visit to the park, into the setting sun with the Sierras rising before me, I saw what appeared to be a series of adobe-like structures in the foothills. They had a spooky haunted quality. My first thought was that it was all a trick of the light. As I approached Lone Pine the they sank below the intervening high ground and by the time I arrived at my motel, eager to get out of the car and track down some pizza, I had pretty much forgotten about them.
I went by the visitor center the next day to get some information on the condition of the roads to some prime Joshua Tree groves, only to find out these particular roads were in rough shape and only accessible with four-wheel drive. The ranger, noting my disappointment over loosing a Joshua Tree photo op, and knowing that I was looking for photogenic subject matter, asked if I had heard of the Alabama Hills. I asked what they were and suddenly the ranger was reaching under the desk and pulling out all manner of preprinted maps and directions outlining the Alabama Hills. As it turned out, they are what I had seen in the foothills the previous evening.
I returned to the Alabama Hills again in 2013.
Whereas the first visit focused on the rock formations themselves, the second visit was about enjoying the opportunity to walk through them, absorb their magic and study their relationship with the surrounding terrain.
I could easily see myself returning yet again.