The Road to Trona
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
Our first major mining trip, as a couple, to the annual Gem-O-Rama event in Trona, California... And other stops along the way.
The salt flats in Searles Valley, Trona, California. Picture taken in October of 2017.
It All Began When A.J. Lost His Job
Have you ever wanted to do something extraordinary?
Every great beginning starts with something ending. For us that ending was Anthony getting fired from his job as a subfloor insulator - not at all glamorous. When he came home that afternoon with the news we decided that the unfortunate circumstances couldn't have come at a better time, the Gem-O-Rama event was only 2 weeks away. Rather than making it a whirlwind trip, we decided to pack up the car that night and take off in the morning for a mining adventure. We'd hit up all the spots AJ knew about and find some new ones - after all, why not?
First Stop - Hallelujah
If you know mining and minerals you've probably heard of Hallelujah Junction or Peterson Mountain. After receiving permission from the claim owner to go dig the area, we attempted to take the car up the mountain. Since it wasn't their mining season the road had been dozed out to keep people from doing exactly what we were attempting to do - drive up to the deposit. We made it down the winding, bouncing, boulder-filled road to the base of the mountain from the highway. Then began the uphill climb. The car was able to make it only a couple thousand feet before the four-cylinder lost power. With the gas pedal pushed to the floor, AWD on, and in overdrive, she just wouldn't move. The timing for turning around couldn't have been worse. The road was only a car and a half wide - definitely not for passing - and a cliff on both sides. With Anthony at the wheel, we attempted to back down the hill. When the brakes were applied the car slid another 3-4 feet before stopping. Eventually, we made it to a wide enough point in the road to turn around and head for a flatter area to park. Time to climb, again, this time on foot. We made it 3/4 of the way to the deposit up the slope of the mountain, but now a new obstacle loomed - sunset. The desert is no place to be walking around through brush at night, nor is it smart to try descending a mountain in the dark. We had to pack up and head out before we were able to dig any crystals... We'll get back there one day!
Death Valley Treasures
Quartz Crystals, Pyrite Pseudomorphs, Chrysocolla and Amazonite. Oh My!
In the weeks leading up to the event in Trona, we explored all over the Inyo County area and the edges of Death Valley. We found quartz crystals and Pyrite Pseudomorphs - Limonite after Pyrite - at one spot. Just walking the hill scratching the ground.
Around Bishop, in the old Tungsten mining district, we winded up treacherous roads to old mine shafts and ore shoots. In this area, we found Garnets and Epidote. We even found the diggings of what would later become our mining claim - the Micastro Mine.
At the Reward Mine we found lots of amazing quartz crystals, many with an iron coating and a secondary growth of Calcite blades on them, still one of the best digging places we've ever had the pleasure of exploring - read our other blog for more about this incredible dig spot.
The next day we headed over to an area of desert just outside of Lone Pine. With the intention of just staying just a few days to clean some of the specimens we had already found, our camp was invaded by bees. They had come for the water we put out. There were so many we decided to abandon camp for a bit and explore the ridge next to us. The ridge was made up of picture granite. One area had dark blue barrel phenocrysts and on the other side of the ridge, the picture granite was speckled with teal feldspars - Amazonite. The granite was so hard to work we only left with a couple of water bottles full of teal chips for future decorating rock.
It's the Journey and the Destination That Counts!!
The Gem-O-Rama event in Trona, California was unlike anything either of us had ever experienced. This is a four-hour free-for-all to collect some of the most mind-blowing pieces of pink Halite from anywhere in the world. We left with more than the car could hold - so we put stuff on the roof. There are three days of different events, a gem show, and nighttime socializing. Since Trona is a small town there are not many options for lodging, plus everyone wants to be lined up for the next event. It was here that AJ and I made lifetime friendships with some incredible, like-minded people.