Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Past is Our Future

As the end of the year approaches, you see everywhere the lists of the best and the worst of the year in retrospective. It is, we think, an interesting commentary on our lives as humans that we spend more time, often, looking back than looking forward. And, as the warning etched in the mirror warns, what we see in the rear-view mirrors of our lives, are closer than they appear. Some of the greatest discoveries of the past year never really made big news, but as we look back, these discoveries may have an incredible impact on our future.

Skull 5
So, the tale begins, as we look back on some of the most intriguing scientific discoveries of the year, and ponder their impact of our lives.

Let's start with the discovery of an incredibly well-preserved skull found in Dmanisi, Georgia. This 1.8 million year old skull  may be a missing link suggesting we, the members of the Homo genus, may not have been a distinct species coexisting with the likes of Mr. Neanderthal, but instead, branches from the same tree which has brought us to us. This skull, referred to as Skull 5, was found with others of variable characteristics demonstrate that hominids flourished outside of Africa at a significantly earlier date than previously believed. This could be the turning point in rewriting the theories of how we became to be as we are.

And now, from evolution to faith, we have the completion of a ten year investigation and criminal trial involving an Israeli antiquities collector who acquired an ossuary, a limestone burial box inscribed with the earliest known references to Jesus. The conclusion: it's the real thing. On the side of the ossuary, the words "James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus," is chiseled in an Aramaic script, and the investigators have concluded it is legitimate.

Ossuary of James, brother of Jesus

This would be an unbelievably rare find scientifically, historically and spiritually -- physical evidence of Jesus and his family.

Now, from the awe-inspiring to the curious. The linguist in me was utterly mesmerized by this next little tidbit. Those who study such things, have known since the 19th century that all modern Indo-Eurpoean languages have descended from one root. This single tongue, aptly named Proto-Indo-European, (or PIE for short -- mmmmm, pie) was spoken by our ancestors from roughly 4500BC to 2500 BC. They left no written texts, yet academics working together all over the world have managed to recreate what they believe the spoken word may have sounded like. Click below to listen.

And now to the truly fantastic: the US Government finally released classified documents confirming the existence of Area 51 as a real government testing site. The report is a snoringly long 400 page (the pdf is available on the link below. Although significantly redacted before release this year despite having been written more than twenty years ago, the most interesting fact about this document, is that it makes no reference to the status of Area 51 after 1974.

From science fiction fantasies to science fact: 2013 also witnessed the confirmation of the existence of a new element, never before discovered. This 115th element, Ununpentium, is a super-heavy element discovered in Germany, and confirmed by Russian chemists. Now, not to get too excited, this element has an incredibly brief life-span (measured in milliseconds) and is in the company of five more elements awaiting confirmation. But it is exciting to think that since the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published that first periodic table with fifty-nine elements in 1869, how much we have learned about our the make-up of our own planet. 

And now, for science fiction meets fact :  Voyager I has left the solar system. After a thirty five year journey, which began one year before this image made famous in the first Star Trek movie, Voyager has reached interstellar space. This is a milestone -- travelling almost 19 billion km from the sun, this is the first human creation to reach out beyond our own solar system neighborhood. 
 And so we end our trip looking back on 2013 with an eye to what lies ahead. Discovering the truth about ourselves, our past, and the world in which we live, is, we believe, a noble goal for the future of J and L.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

'Tis the Season with a Reason

At J and L we believe in Christmas and the reason behind it. This may not be politically correct but it is how we feel. Since the purpose of our blog is research, travel and exploration, we recently searched and found some celebrating the greater purpose for this wonderful time of year.

Del Rosa Christian School in San Bernardino, California put on the production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the Sturges Theatre in downtown San Bernardino on the 12th of December. It was a great production directed by Jessica Barr, the 6th grade teacher who planned, produced. and cajoled a large group students into performing this tale in a professional and well-packed venue.

These children did their best to do Dickens proud and succeed they did which brings this writer to the point about this season. The joy we saw on the faces of those young actors made us realize that this is really the time for giving to those we love. Parents. grandparents, uncles, aunts, and family friends were in that large audience in the middle of December and all attention was on the children on stage. Cameras snapped, video cameras whirred and cell phones flashed as these elementary school thespians went from scene to scene doing their very best to entertain the crowd but also to instill the message Dickens himself wrote down on paper.

It is the small things in life that make a difference. A smile at a stranger, a chuckle with a friend, forgiving those who have offended us and reaching across a sometimes cold surface with a hand to be accepted or not. This is what the great writer showed Scrooge and us with his prose.

It is a time of the year when we need to look inside ourselves and wonder how we can do better for those around us. We only have one chance at it.

Those children that night showed this writer they truly loved those in the audience because each and every heart on stage was bursting with enthusiasm and excitement to prove they could give their best for their family and friends.

And is not that the reason for the season?

Bravo children - bravo.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A New Adventure - Film Investment

 In 2008 J and L decided to do something they had never done before - invest in a Hollywood movie. Real estate, stock, bonds and the lotto we were used to investing (or gambling) in but a big time film production? Never - but what sort of adventurers would we be if we didn't try something new?

Approached by a financial consultant with this 'great idea' we decided to give it a chance. After all, isn't that what gambling is about? So we put up what was to us, a good deal of cash to help finance, along with a good number of other investors, the making of Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return, an animated film. There is trouble in Oz and only Dorothy can help!

The story is adapted from Roger Stanton Baum's novel. He happens to be the great-grandson of L. Frank Baum the original author of 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' which is a mainstay in American story telling.

Due to the confidentiality clause J and L can not detail any of the inner workings of the film but we had a chance to view it on December 7th, 2013 at the Universal City AMC Theatre at the Universal Studio City Walk in Los Angeles. It was a 'sneak preview' for the investors and turned out to be a very relaxed and enjoyable evening. The author Roger S. Baum and his lovely wife sat in the seats directly in front of J and L and it was quite a thrill to meet such an accomplished man with many 'Oz' books to his credit.

The production team, the brothers Roland and Ryan Carroll were on hand to give a short explanation of the time-table for release and other facts and then Baum stood up and addressed the crowd giving the film two thumbs up.

"I truly believe this will be one of,  if not the best film of 2014."
Of course, the entire theater crowd nodded their heads in unison hoping the film will be a smash and have great returns on all our investments.

After a few moments of introductions and the like, Summetime Entertainment ran the first of a series of trailers for the film which truly knocked our socks off. It was powerful, to the point and had us wanting to watch the film.

Then the film - WOW!

Being an animated movie in 3D brought all the characters vividly to life and with the voices of Lea Michele (who plays Dorothy), Martin Short, Patrick Stewart, Dan Aykroyd, Jim Belushi, and a host of other major stars only added to the professional quality of the movie. It is truly a very well polished and entertaining work.

When the credits rolled slowly away on the screen and the lights came on we knew that we had just watched a wonderful family film which any age viewer will find enjoyable and memorable.

We smiled all the way out of the show knowing that on May 9th, 2014 in over 4,000 theaters across America there will be smiles just like ours after viewing such an uplifting piece of art.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Last Letter

As educators J along with L get many pieces of paper to 'look over,' peruse, and to edit from our students and most of the time it strictly deals with the mechanics of writing. A task most school-aged children, especially middle school, have not yet mastered. Being a creative writing teacher, J usually has his hands full with short stories, articles, or poems which need a lot of attention from youngsters who believe the term 'edit' is a disgusting four letter word. But once in awhile a piece comes along that needs nothing but to be read. This is a poem received just this Friday from a young boy (who's name has been withheld out of respect for the family).  It is typed exactly as it was handed in. It was not a class assignment, but an act of love.

My Last Letter

It feels like my world is standing still,
I keep telling myself it can't be real,
I finally reached my biggest fear, to awake one
day and your not there. Even though all the pain,
and struggle, your still my dad and I will always
love you. The time ahead is going to be hard,
most wounds will but also most leave a scar,
I always talk to you but now you can't respond
But I know you're here and still got my back,
to my family we need to try and find, a way to
band together because time is blind, you used
to smile from cheek to cheek, And now your gone
it broke me down piece by piece, But I have to
smile because your not weak, And I'm happy
now knowing your at peace, it has to get worst
before it gets better, But I had to write you
Just one last letter.

This poem was written by a thirteen year old boy who lost his father to cancer in October of 2013. When J heard the news he took the boy aside and told him if he ever wanted to discuss the matter privately anytime would be fine. November 22nd turned out to be that day when he handed me the poem.

Through this act of love and pain, a young man brings out the meaning of the upcoming Thanksgiving. Give thanks to those we love and never let a moment slip by because those moments are not guaranteed in the future.

The father in the poem must have been one good guy since he had a hell of a great son.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Conspiracy Theory

It seems the month of November, especially this year, is the time of conspiracy reminders. With the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address (not to mention all the rumors surrounding President Lincoln's assassination), and the recent film regarding the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster and the 'stonewalling' surrounding the investigation into the cause of the accident, J and L decided to add to the phenomena of conspiracy theories. Not that we have anything even close to these monumental mysteries, but what the heck, these are the things which make America such a great, and interesting country.

During the course of research for an upcoming novel, Operation Scorpion, J decided to take a drive out to the Yucca Mountain Nuclear Depository. You know, the one located in southern Nevada which has supposedly had over ten billion American tax dollars spent constructing the facility, only to have it defunded and 'abandoned' in 2010.The remote location in the Amargosa Desert is home to the Nellis Air Force Range, and, coincidentally, also the location of the ever-fascinating Area 51. Yes, the same Area 51 around which stories swirl regarding little green men being dissected after crash-landing in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947.

Can it get any better than this?

J had written to the Nuclear Waste Department in Eureka County, Nevada, requesting a tour of the facility which had been under planning and construction for decades. It is a fascinating engineering project, designed to provide a space for the safe disposal of all nuclear wastes produced in the United States for thousands of years (please refer to the sites listed at the end of this blog for confirmation and further detail).

Our traveling companion during this adventure was the frequent fellow-explorer, Paul Bakas, good friend and photographer.

There had been no response from the Waste Department, so the adventure was afoot as we try to find our own way in, as did some of the characters in Operation Scorpion (due for release in 2015).

A quick three and a half hour drive north to Baker, then northwest to the town of Amargosa Valley at the junction of Highways 373 and 95, and we thought we'd be near the entrance, if not the footprint of the nuclear site.

We were wrong.

We stopped and asked for directions at three different establishments, including the Chamber of Commerce, but no one could give us directions to the facility. Rather strange, we thought, considering the scope of such a repository for nuclear waste, including a purported five mile long tunnel built into the Yucca Mountains before being defunded.

Hard to hide such a thing. Or was it?

Off to the hinterlands, four-wheeling in the trusty Toyota FJ for hours upon hours of searching, but to no avail.There were plenty of hard-packed dirt roads, large enough for construction vehicles, and a few signs for YMP (Yucca Mountain Project) personnel, but no discernible entrance to the increasingly mysterious facility.

Dusk was smothering the mountains as we decided to call it a day. We were dirty, tired, frustrated, and hungry. So we drove back to Beatty where we had decided to set up camp for the evening.

This is when it really got strange.

Sitting down to a nice dinner at the Sourdough Saloon with a cold beer, J's cell phone pinged and up popped an email from the Nuclear Waste Advisor (who shall remain anonymous) stating that there were no tours of the area because the program was shut down. The site had not been licensed to receive nuclear waste and all there was to see was an exploratory tunnel, but nowhere to store material.


I shared the email with my fellow explorer, Paul, and his eyebrows curled a bit upwards. "Rather odd to receive such an email right after we spent the entire day driving around the back end of the thing, wouldn't you say? Almost as though someone knew we had been there snooping around."

"Since I sent the first email weeks ago asking for a tour and explaining my reasons. Yes, I would agree with you."

Paul nodded. Not really much of one to dwell on conspiracies, his reply was to change the subject.  "And I agree this food is tasty and the beer cold."

Couldn't argue with that logic, but there was certainly a growing sense of confusion and yes, perhaps a little paranoia floating around in my cranium.

That confusion turned to something more quizzical as we left Beatty the following morning and headed into the very small town of Death Valley Junction for breakfast. We discussed our empty-handed mission of the previous day with a friendly waitress, who shall also remain nameless -- the reader will understand why. I mentioned our search and the contents of the email I received from the waste department.

"That's funny," the waitress observed. "My husband worked there and we have drivers coming through who say they already are delivering low level radioactive material out there. They have armed guards surrounding the entry gates to Mercury. Strange message to write saying it's not open when we all know it is."

And this is how governmental conspiracies begin!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Things that go bump for the Holidays

A pleasant surprise for the upcoming holidays is that J of J and L has had a fictional short story accepted and will be published in an anthology along with other very talented writers to be released on December 14, 2013. The book will be available at Black Opal Books and many other online bookstores. It is a collection of 'spooky' and 'mind numbing fear' written by some of the best up coming authors in the near future. Watch for their names on the novels and stories they create. Please take a moment and visit their web sites and see what they have to offer.

"To read is not an exercise for strict entertainment but one of necessity for a strong and independent individual." John R. Beyer

We at J and L would never lead our fellow adventurers down a wrong path.

Dr. J feels quite humbled to be published with these very accomplished writers, but likes the company.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor's Center - Update

Not long ago J and L decided to revisit the newly rebuilt visitor's center (the previous center had been burned down by an arsonist) at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest located in the White Mountains. The year before the only structure to greet us had been a small and narrow temporary mobile office which had to be utilized until the new center had been constructed and reopened.

White Mountain Visitor Center
The late afternoon was brisk, very brisk with a north wind blowing down the Owens Valley bringing the temperature down into the thirties when J and L walked into the beautifully stunning visitor center to be greeted by two very friendly and knowledgeable rangers. Dave Hardin and Philly Brooks who manned the long desk full of tourist information concerning the Ancient Bristlecones and the surrounding mountain areas. The interior of the center consisted of a rather large visitor's area including a large rock fireplace (not burning unfortunately) with comfortable looking overstuffed chairs surrounding a coffee table. Book and 'touristy' sort of purchasable items hung on various metal racks and wood bookshelves.
The writer at work
We had made it just a few minutes before the center was to close for the day but both rangers were rather kind to forget the clock and devote a few minutes to a pair of inquisitive explorers. Questions were asked and answers received.

We learned the center was open when the roads cleared of snow, usually around the middle of May or beginning of June (depending on the amount of precipitation received in the White Mountains) and closed around the beginning of November. There was only one road up and down off the mountain and at nearly 11,000 feet above sea level can make the drive treacherous depending on weather conditions.

One interesting fact we learned was there were very few insect issues and no bear problems, unlike across Owens Valley in the Sierras due to so little rain. Made camping under the stars much more enjoyable than slapping at flying thingies all evening or waiting to be eaten by Smokey.
Sierra Nevada Mountains
Philly Brooks was asked why she loved her job so much as she obviously did to this observer and her reply was simple and almost poetic. "What I love about the Bristlecone Pines is that it is different than anything else out there. It's so quiet, no noise except the wind through the branches, no bugs annoying a hiker and miles of trails to wander and simply enjoy life."

Dave Hardin was asked a similar question. "I like the White Mountains because it's like a marriage when one understands they have to accept the whole picture and not just an isolated portion of that person they are marrying. Makes for a healthier relationship and that goes for nature also."

Philly and Dave
Both of their answers must have some validity especially since over 30,000 visitors per year from around the United States and the world visit this very spot where some of the oldest trees on earth reside.

Asked what happens when the weather suddenly changes from sunny to cloudy threatening snow in late spring or early fall Philly simply smiled and said: "We get the hell off the mountain and lock the road barriers behind us."

Heeding Advice
With no cell service, no internet and steep terrain we would have to agree with the ranger.

Seasonal Information:

The Visitor Center is open mid-May until sometime in November depending on weather and snow/road conditions. Call the White Mountain District Office for exact opening and closing dates: 760-873-2500.


An easy drive along Highway 395, either north or south, at the town of Big Pine travel east on Highway 168 for 13 miles. Then turn left at the signed junction for White Mountain Road to the Bristlecone Pine Forest and continue 10 miles until the end of the paved road at Schulman Grove. Turn right into the visitor center parking lot. Do be careful since the road is narrow in spots but well-maintained.  Also watch for sudden shifts in the weather when the roadway may become icy or snow covered.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

An Adventure with Paddy

Slieve League
The weather was warm. The skies the kind of blue you want to see in another's eyes, and the North Channel as calm as Chuck Norris facing a group of thugs.

Summer weather on the Nuala Star
Unusual for anytime on the year in North Ireland, but on this late afternoon in June of 2013 the skipper, Paddy Byrne, admitted it was a strange omen.

"Why just yesterday I had a boat full of German tourists, probably ten in all, and it rained like heaven had a leak. Been raining pretty steady now until you two showed up."

A good omen? Perhaps.

Paddy was the Captain and owner of the Nuala Star, a 36 foot motor boat out of Teelin Harbor in Donegal Bay. It so happened that his was the only tour boat at the time taking tourists to see the Sliabh Liag Cliffs, the highest in Europe at 1972 feet above sea level.

Paddy was definitely a salty sailor with over twenty years sailing the high seas around the world. Could not be in better hands that with this wonderfully entertaining man and experienced skipper.

J and L had decided to see Slieve League (English transliteration of Sliabh Liag) but worried we would be just one couple among many. To our delight no one had signed onto the six in the evening sailing and it was only J and L and Paddy.

Cruising out of the harbor by the small Irish town of Donegal was surrealistic, with little houses dotting the green rounded hills off the bay reminded us of the Irish films which in part had been the driving force for our visit to the island.  That the fact that we are both Irish and this was after all the mother land.

With the sea breeze, the temperature took a dip south as we puttered north in Paddy's boat to gawk and say things like: "I can't believe what we're seeing."  "Isn't that beautiful?" "Why is there a stone watch tower up there?"

J and L Researching and Exploring on the Nuala Star

We listened enraptured to Paddy's brogue as he told of this and that of the ancient and recent history of the cliffs and surrounding lands.

With cliffs towering above, we were amazed and hugged each other (Laureen and John, not Paddy -- though that would come later) in the jubilation we were again having a private tour to see a wonder of the world. The last was in Bolivia on the Island of the Sun, where we had a private audience with a Shaman and drank from the Fountain of Youth.

Photos were taken, questions were asked and questions were answered.

Suddenly the Nuala Star headed into the wind and the engines came to a full stop. J and L looked at each other when Paddy headed below deck.

North Channel Courage

"This is my swimming spot - gotta take a swim," came the brogue from down the steps.

Paddy really did not mean it since he did not how to swim , as we soon discovered. He usually, in his words, hung on the back of the boat and floated.

"Thank God I don't have a bathing suit," J said to L.

Our Captain, Paddy Byrne, and Dr. John
"I heard that," Paddy said and suddenly a pair of men's swimming trunks were thrown onto the aft deck (the back of the boat for you land lubbers).

J looked down at the trunks. "Not a good sign."

"What are you going to do?" Came L's response.

"Get cold and have a great memory."

The water was cold, dark and spooky.

Paddy kicked his feet by the rear boarding ladder while J shivered and breast stroked away from the boat and into the chilling waters of the North Channel.

It was cold - very cold.

Looking out on an Irish summer afternoon.
L was busy taking photos when Paddy said: "I'm done." and climbed on board.

There were still thirty yards between J and the boat and he wished the Captain would stay just a bit longer until he got even with the bouncing and bucking motor boat.

Cap'n Paddy
"But I'm still out here and there could be monsters down in these cold waters," J huffed while swimming rather quickly.

"Ah, that be the myths," Paddy grinned while toweling himself off.

No monsters but ten minutes of warming up within the salon, J appreciated the dry surroundings.

There were hugs and smiles all around after the unexpected dive into the waters (this is where J and Paddy shared a quick man-hug).

"Not many blokes ever take a swim with me."

I looked at the muscular man at the wheel of the boat. "You challenged me."

"If you had said no, I dare not go into that cold black water by meself."

"Should have said that earlier," J responded.
End of a perfect adventure

The rest of the early evening was more than delightful as we cruised slowly back to the docks.

A picture perfect day with a new found friend who had not been afraid to dive into something new and unique.

Could this be the Irish creed? It was certainly a good omen.

For further information:
Contact Cap'n Paddy at:

or check the website at:
Sliabh League Boat Tours

or Chartering the Nuala Star

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Road Less Traveled

Why taking the road less traveled is worth it

Visibility Measured in Feet
 On September 21st J and L decided to head north out of the small town of Trona after visiting the Trona Pinnacles and drive to Panamint Springs on the way to Highway 395. Little did we know that the Trona-Wildrose Road was closed about fifteen miles north of the town due to massive flooding on July 22nd and July 28th respectively. Coming upon a road closure sign post with large dirt berms blockading the roadway showed the county of Inyo meant business on keeping the 150 to 200 vehicles which used the road each day.

Being researchers and explorers we simply slipped the Toyota FJ into four-wheel drive and pulled into the sandy desert bypassing the blockades. We were on a mission to get to Panamint Springs through the Panamint Valley and weren’t about to backtrack to Trona just because of some supposed washed out highway. The team does caution others to perhaps not follow our lead but with years of experience in the desert we try to be prepared for any conditions which we may encounter. Those preparations have paid off time and again as we leave the comfort of the pavement and head into the hinterlands.

 What J and L quickly saw ahead of them was a Hollywood version of a highway caught right after an end of the world film.

Where's the shoulder?
Hunks of asphalt missing, road cave-ins on either side of the roadway, buckled surfaces threatening the very existence of our powerful war horse, and the strangest sensation was there were no other vehicles to be seen. For nearly twenty miles we drove through this land of devastation without seeing another human or any sign of life for that matter. To even deepen the feeling of traveling through an apocalyptic period was the miles wide and thousand foot high sand storm directly to our east. The twirling and blowing dark sand seemed to follow us menacingly as we drove carefully and very slowly northward. But, again, being who we are we finally turned the FJ into the very desert that gave existence to the sandstorm so we could get better photographs.

The wind and fine sand were pounding us as we exited the vehicle and started snapping and filming.
It was awesome.

View from the Top

After a few minutes of being sandblasted it was time to retake our position inside the vehicle and finish the journey we had started an hour earlier. With visibility nearly zero at times we finally drove around the north barriers and entered onto State Route 190 and turned west toward Panamint Springs. 

A cold beer for J and a Coke for L at the Panamint Springs Resort was the perfect ending for an adventurous and exciting, though sometimes worrisome, travel through Panamint Valley. 

Tourists  at the resort were busy snapping photographs of the tall blowing sandstorms to the east and making comments like: “They look so dangerous.” “Look how they tower above the landscape for miles and miles.” “You would not catch me out there in the midst of it.”

Haboob - Arabic for blasting/drafting - first named in the Sudan

Oh, what they had missed by not traveling the road less traveled.

Looking east from Panamint Springs toward Death Valley

On a side note – according to the Inyo Register the cost to prepare the Trona-Wildrose road will be in the millions and the time to prepare it is undetermined due to the severity of the thunderstorms which wreaked havoc through-out many of the roads in Death Valley and surroundings desert locales. 

As always, stay careful and be prepared for the unexpected.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Pinnacle of a Story

Real and Surreal, Star Trek V
Where would one go to explore and find the location of some of the best known Hollywood movies such as Planet of the Apes (2001), Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), and the all time favorite Lost in Space television series shot back in 1967?

On the Set - Planet of the Apes
 The answer is quite simple - the Trona Pinnacles within the California Desert National Conservation Area. In this 'out of the world' landscape over thirty film projects are filmed yearly and to walk around the tufa spires can easily allow the adventurer to see why this desert location is chosen as a backdrop for those television series or full-length features.
Pinnacles in Perspective
It is quite stunning as well as rather spooky.

Stunning due to over 500 tufa spires (porous rock formed as a deposit when springs interact with other bodies of water), some reaching to over 140 feet into the sky, which stretch for miles within the dry bed of the Searles Lake basin and spooky due to almost foreign life like images one might see on the flat screen on a cold windy night.

J and L decided to take a trip to the area approximately ten miles south of the small town of Trona, California to view for ourselves this Mecca for the unusual. Not Trona but the Pinnacles five miles off of the Trona-Red Mountain Road across a dirt path which is fine for a two wheeled vehicle but a four wheel one are best if there is a cloud in the sky. Being a dry lake bed the area rarely, but it does happen, gets a lot of rain in a short amount of time which turns the ground to soft thick mud. Makes driving almost impossible and often the dirt road is closed by the rangers who need to keep the uninformed safe from themselves.

Closing in on the spires
As we drove closer and closer the landscape took on a stranger and stranger appearance as the tall tufas seemed to be calling out to us for exploration. These hardened shapes of rock dotting the floor of the dry lake had actually once been underwater approximately 10,000 to 100,000 years ago. With runoff from the Sierra Nevada's to the west many tens of thousands of years ago there developed multiple inland seas stretching from Mono Lake (where tufas can be seen jutting out of the lakes waters) to Death Valley which includes Searles Lake where the Trona Pinnacles are located. An interesting side note is that J of J and L and Paul Bakas once kayaked in the night around the tufas on Mono Lake - talk about a scary outing seeing these giant porous rocks sticking out of the black waters while silently paddling - it was like being on another planet but well worth the shivers.

There is a sign on the five mile drive to the tufas indicating the danger of low flying military aircraft and as soon as we read it sure enough a large military turbo-prop scooted across the desert floor a mere hundred feet about us. We could almost feel the propeller wash.

The sign didn't lie.

Video courtesy of Paul Bakas, Videographer and fellow Explorer

When in the area of Trona, it may be a once in a lifetime chance, the Trona Pinnacles is a must to view up close and personal. The stark beauty of the towering towers is enough to make the trip worthwhile but remember, when visiting you may never know who or what you may encounter.

 An Alien Encounter at the Pinnacles