The photos below are what we saw.
every trip north from San Diego involves I-15. Usually, we
leave in the middle of the day to avoid rush hour traffic.
But, on this trip we were not lucky. While we missed rush
hour, there were numerous traffic slowdowns. And it was
hot once we were away from the coast. We fueled in
Victorville and heading north or US-395. North of
Victorville, we spotted a large jet cargo aircraft doing
touch-and-goes at the regional airport.
the Trona cut-off from 395 and headed over the mountains.
From the pass we got a view of Searles Dry Lake in the distance.
our way through the mountains and eventually hit the turn-off to
the Trona Pinnacles. From the dirt road, we could see down
the Trona Railroad line to Trona with chemical plans nestled
against the far range of mountains.
up over a small rise and got our first view of the Trona
Pinnacles. These pinnacles are actually tufa which
resulted from hot springs boiling through brine lakes and
augmented by algae. These calcium carbonate pillars are
some of the largest in the west, possibly the world, and much
taller than Mono Lake tufa.
pinnacles stretch along a fault line where the hot springs
vented to the bottom of the brine lake.
of these formations were quite large. As we got closer the
size of the formations became apparent.
were trails that allowed us to drive among the pinnacles.
Pinnacles, we could also see Searle Dry Lake to the north.
A big, flat, bunch of nothing except mineral-laden salt which is
mined by the chemical plants in Trona.
around some of the pinnacles and decided to find a place to
camp. Kathleen spotted this large lizard as we pulled into
up in a random wash that had a flat area. We were
intentionally close to several large pinnacles because I
intended to try a new feature in one of my cameras. The
pinnacles in the distance are hundreds of feet tall.
quite hot so the first order of the afternoon was to attempt to
cool off. Beer helped, but the ground was hot and was
radiating like a stove. With the light breeze it was
tolerable, particularly after the 3rd beer and the shade from
crossed the Trona railway line on our way to the
pinnacles. As the sun was getting low, we heard a noise of
the approaching train. These trains haul the minerals
extracted from Searles dry lake to market.
the sun went down, Trona was bright pool of light in the
blackness of the desert. These plants work 24/7. You
can see the dust from their operation.
discovered a new feature in my Olympus camera that came with the
recent firmware upgrade. This feature allows in-camera
"stacking" of multiple exposures taken over time. The
directions for use were rather ambiguous so some testing was in
order. The first test was run after sundown, but not fully
dark. This stack is 4 60-second exposures. Note the
star trails starting to form.
long star trails which would require 30-45 minutes of
exposures. I ran another test when it was fully dark and
attempted to "light paint" the pinnacles with my
flashlight. I discovered a number of (rather obvious)
facts. First, even a strong flashlight is weak from the
camera's point of view when seen from hundreds of meters
away. Second, if there is ANY dust in the air, the
flashlight will show it. The speckles in the photo above
are not from high-ISO but rather dust in the air highlighted by
the flashlight. Look closely and you will see my shadow
under the large pinnacle at the right. I painted the
pinnacles for about 15 minutes to get the illumination you see
above. Total exposure time was about 40 minutes.
Interesting, but it would have been more interesting to
let the previous test just continue to run for another hour or
so although if I do it again (and I will) I will start when it
is a bit darker.
It was a calm, clear and
cool night so we slept well. Tomorrow, we would head up the
Panamint Valley and over to Cerro Gordo Ghost Town.
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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2015, all rights
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.