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

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