Headed for Trona, we camped for a night at the beautiful Red Rock Canyon. If it looks familiar it is probably because of all the movies filmed there – from cowboy flicks to Star Trek. There is something hauntingly beautiful about camping below the crimson cliffs and enjoying the desert in the various shades of the day. To us, it is also full of memories of the years we would take the kids camping there.
Once home to the Kawaiisu Indians, there are petroglyphs in the area here at the western edge of the El Paso mountains. During the 1870s the colorful rock formations served as landmarks for 20-mule team freight wagons that stopped for water.
There are also remnants of the 1980s mining era operations.
Redrock is a State Park and considering there are no hook ups, showers, etc., the camp fee is rather steep. We paid $26.00 and that was the senior discount price. But we enjoyed the solitude, the view and the peacefulness of our campsite. And the stars at night were fantastic.
HOLD YOUR NOSE: WE ARE ENTERING TRONA, HOME OF THE SEARLES LAKE MINING COMPANY AND LOTS OF SAND AND SALT
Known as The Gateway to Death Valley, Trona is about 20 miles from Ridgecrest. It is such a depressed little town plagued with the constant smell of chemicals and earth that refuses to grow grass. There is very little landscaping around the businesses and homes and I’d guess about half of the residential area homes are abandoned and boarded up.
We were allowed to camp about 3 miles out of town and although it was just a sandy field, we loved the view, the stars, the sunset and our friendly camping neighbors.
Everyone grabbed their buckets and starting collecting rocks. There were lots of young people, students who gather the rocks, clean them up and sell them for a fundraiser for school entities and clubs. The kids in town collect containers all year long, fill them with awful stinky brine water and sell them to the collectors. That is what you clean your rocks with. If you clean them in regular water, they are water soluable and will break down and disappear.
I felt damn important with my gloves on.
This is pink halite. We didn’t go on the trip where this is found because we read in the brochure: “When looking for pink halite do not wade more than calf deep into the muddy brine water.” Yuch! Alan bought this specimen for $6 which is less than we would have spent on waders.
TIME FOR THE DEMONSTRATION. “STAND BACK” WE HEARD FROM THE LOUD SPEAKER. A pipe then pumped up material from 40 feet below and spewed it out onto the lake bed. When it stopped the crowd waded into the muddy water and again began digging. The blow hole was something to see!
Back at camp, everyone brought out their brushes and brine water and began cleaning their finds. In novice fashion I started scrubbing my rocks and the brine water began stinging my hands. I learned to wear rubber gloves when working with that awful stuff. And it stinks.
Rock hunting was fun and we collected a bucket full for our rock garden. But Alan’s favorite event of the weekend was going to the Trona High School v. Big Pine Football Game. Trona has the last dirt high school football field in the nation. Remember, grass won’t grow here!
Unfortunately the Tornadoes lost the game. It is 8-man football. They once played Rio Hondo Prep. I loved seeing the spirit of the crowd and the team bursting in community pride.
HEADING OUT ON SUNDAY WE STOPPED and HIKED AT NEARBY TRONA PINNACLES WITH ITS PICTURESQUE TUFA TOWERS.
GOODBYE TRONA. WE’LL BE BACK NEXT YEAR FOR MORE ROCKS!