Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shutdown Vacation in Death Valley: Trona Pinnacles

If you are a Star Trek fan, you've seen the Trona Pinnacles a few times.  They were used as a backdrop in Start Trek V.  They are the result of calcite towers on an ancient sea bed.  While not technically in Death Valley, they are pretty close to the south end.  We had to take the long way around (past Manzanar) as the more direct highways had been washed out by a flash flood a few months before.  The good news is my friend Mark, a jet pilot stationed at China Lake, says he's seen a lot of road work and has had lots of fun doing low passes over the guys in bulldozers.  So it will be open again soon, but it's something to keep tabs on if you head into the area.

Trona is controlled (loosely) by the Bureau of Land Management (meaning it was open during the shutdown), and the area is marked and open with only basic restroom facilities.  The road in is not paved, so take a tough vehicle and have a contingency plan.  The hiking trail is maybe an hour or so long if you do all of it, but you can see all of it from your car, if you don't feel like getting out.  I also use the word "trail" in a loose sense - you can pretty much wander at will.

A close up of the ground.  And a lizard.

Ridgecrest, CA is the nearest city, 20 minutes to the north and west.  Ridgecrest is the city associated with the Naval Aviation Base at China Lake, so it is pretty large and has hotels and lots of variety in restaurants.