Looost In Spaaaaace – Trona Pinnacles, CA
We’d been on this god-forsaken washboard road driving 5 mph for almost 30 mins and we were only half way there. It felt like we were being bashed around in a cement mixer, or perhaps belted into one those old hip vibrating machines that were popular in the 50’s. I briefly wondered if I was jiggling away any of my waistline before I come crashing back to the present with another gut-thunking bump.
Did I do the right thing by dragging everyone out here??
I’ve been fascinated by the Trona Pinnacles ever since I first read about them on a blog several years ago. This outer-worldly spot in the middle of a flat, featureless, landscape has more than 500 calcium carbonate spires reaching up to 140-feet in height that rise like phoenixes from the ground. It’s a 14-square mile art-piece in the middle of nowhere that formed underwater in the ancient Searles Lake between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago. Calcium-rich groundwater and alkaline lake water combined to grow tufa formations, much like the living models you see today further north in Mono Lake. The entire process totally blows my mind especially in a spot where modern-day humidity is so low your eyeballs feel like sandpaper.
These are some of the most unique geological formations in CA and they could not be in a weirder place.
Our handy dandy van-man, Glen offered to scout out the road a day ahead of the “beastly” pack, and had reassuringly reported back that it was “not in the least bit tippy”. This, together with a quick call to the Ridgecrest BLM office to confirm the same had me totally fired up to go. It was going to require 5 miles of teeth-chattering rattling to get there, but the spot was going to be totally worth it. At least I really, really (really) hoped so. Almost an hour later we all arrived dusty and shaken to our camping spot, a rocky ledge with 360-degree views overlooking the spires. We wobbled out of our rigs to take in the scene.
Oh holy mother of all boondocking locations. This was everything I had expected and more!
The next two days were passed just hanging and exploring this fascinating and remote location. There are 4 types of spires here categorized as towers (tall spiky things 30-40 feet high), tombstones (stubbly squat things 20-30 feet tall), ridges (long, toothy runs up to 140-feet high) and cones (little guys less than 10 feet tall). As you walk through the landscape you feel like you’re walking on an alien planet surrounded as you are by the intensely dry, rocky ground and the towering formations.
This outer-wordy feel has captured the eagle eyes of Hollywood who’ve landed the location for over a dozen sci-fi movies including Lost in Space (or, as my mind always says it Looooost In Spaaaaace), Planet of the Apes (2001 version), Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. A talking race of apes dominating humankind? Oh yeah, it all makes sense here.
The nearby Borax mines, first developed in 1873 only add to the unearthly allure of the place. Back in the day, 20-mule teams of horses hauled Borax from the oasis of Searles Lake to San Pedro through wagon routes with creepy names like Poison Canyon. The brand name 20 Mule Borax persists to this day (bet you didn’t know that one, eh?)
Our pack of 5 walked the trails, hunted down some cool Geocaches and spent the evenings watching the kaleidoscope of colors dance around the spires. All this against the backdrop of a deadening silence broken only by the rumbling of an occasional train and the rip of a nearby fighter jet buzzing the desert floor. My camera clicked incessantly, the cats lounged in the sun and doggie provided no end of cool photo ops. Cool surroundings, cool buddies and almost no-one else around. What more could you want?
But the desert is fickle and the forecast was calling for a round of big winds and rain, something our beast-size masses definitely didn’t want to be caught in. Also the urge to move was strong, or rather the urge to soak in a ridiculously luxurious hot tub of water was strong. So yesterday, mere 2 days after we got to the Pinnacles we moved on to an old-time favorite in Desert Hot Springs. Glen’s gone off to fiddle with van-stuff in LA, while Technomadia and us are jello-blobbing and re-hydrating our parched skin in the hot mineral waters of the southern desert. Our pack has had a good run, but as with all nomads we must eventually separate.We’ll meet again and you can bet your bouncing butts that we’ll be back here too.
What a spot!!!
- Trona Pinnacles BLM Link -> Click HERE
- Trona Pinnacles Desert USA Link -> Click HERE
- Poison Canyon -> Click HERE
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