By Mark La Ciura
contributing writer 

A visit to Father Crowley's Overlook

 

January 6, 2024

Mark La Ciura.

Winter time is a great season to make the pretty scenic trek up Highway 395 to the Father Crowley monument and overlook. It can be done in the summertime but the weather conditions are more people friendly in the winter.

The overlook sits at 4,249 feet above sea level just off Highway 190. You hang a right at Olancha, California that will be state route 190. The gateway to Death Valley.

Often called the desert padre, Father John Crowley was a catholic priest in and around Death Valley, California in the early 20th century. He was the first priest to celebrate mass at the top of Mt. Whitney on the 14,495-foot peak mountain. There is a wealth of information online about the father's life and his work in Death Valley doing Catholic masses in the desert. He did this with no church, bringing the Catholic faith to all who would listen. You know what people say, any place where people meet together is a church. No roof needed.

Back to our trip north up Highway 14 and US 395, there are many locations to stop and enjoy the desert vista views. One interesting location on the way up is Red Rock Canyon, known as a well used filming location. The list is very long but the location has been used for its interesting rock formations. Tons of western flicks were shot there in the 1940s to the 1970s, and a few sci-fi motion pictures and television shows, as well. The same can be said for the area Red Rock Canyon to Lone Pine, California in Inyo County. There is a hotel in Lone Pine that had a room reserved for the actor John Wayne. They never tell people the location of this room today.

I love old movies and it's fun to screen an old western films at home, then find the general location of the film off the highway using the mountain range as a reference point.

One film that fits this bill is "Bad Day at Black Rock," shot in 1954 staring Spencer Tracy. Tehachapi Rail fans love this movie.

A WWII veteran arrives via a very pretty black widow Southern Pacific stream line passenger train to a small desert town. He is not greeted warmly. This veteran played by Tracy is just trying to deliver a medal of honor to a father of a solider that saved his life. It's a great movie and well worth your time. The film was shot near Lone Pine and around state route 190. The film crew built a small town for the filming and you may find some remains of this once you find the location. I give the film five stars.

Once you have arrive at Father Crowley's overlook, the vista views are fantastic, and there are restrooms at the location. I suggest you bring a lunch and plenty of water. Make sure your car is in good working order before setting out on this trek. The overlook always has a fair amount of bus traffic that stops from time to time to check the views, but there is plenty of parking. I have been there many times. Most of the time, the park has a Death Valley park ranger available to provide information about the overlook.

Another high point of the trek is "Stars Wars canyon." The overlook is on the edge of the canyon and you never know what you could see flying overhead. It's used by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marines to hone their jet flying skills. These military jets today fly safe and around 1,000 feet above the canyon.

We are very blessed to have so many great things to see near Tehachapi. Father Crowley's overlook is about 2 .5 hours drive at 168 miles via Highway 14 north and US 395. Then head east for 37 miles to the overlook from Olancha, California on Highway 190.

Go see these locations with your own eyes. Photos don't do it justice.

 
 

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