It didn't seem right to go to a new neck of the woods and not go exploring, so we finished the adventure by visiting a bit of the natural and a bit of the historical. The Trona Pinnacles jut sharply from the bed of Searles Dry Lake and are found after a short drive to the northeast of the Spangler Hills OHV area. It's as if you've driven through an intergalactic wormhole - the pinnacles don't seem to belong on Earth.
After we finished at the Pinnacles and re-entered Earth, a short drive south on 395 and a 1-mile detour brought us to Randsburg. Randsburg is a living ghost town that sprang to life after gold was discovered on the side of Rand Mountain in 1895. Gold is still being profitably extracted there, thanks to modern ore-processing methods.
We're not about to say that Ridgecrest is desert racing's best-kept secret, because that phrase has been beaten to death. What does seem fitting is to call our drive off of the beaten track time and gas money well spent. We'll be there for MDR's 2007 round in Ridgecrest. Will you?
The Trona Pinnacles
When you're done playing in the Spangler Hills OHV area, a short drive on Highway 178 brings you to a marked exit for the Trona Pinnacles. The BLM road leaves the highway behind and winds its way out onto Searles Dry Lake. Tucked into a corner of the lakebed is a series of tufa towers made of harder and more resistant material than that which eroded around them. The otherworldly Trona Pinnacles left us wondering if we'd suddenly become members of a Star Trek away team. Since most of the Star Trek away-team members tended to die, we were extra careful during our visit. Several mines dot the area (mines in general dot the whole Mojave) and some are safe to explore, but most are not. Several mines are built straight down, so caution should be used when exploring in mining country. If there's a fence around a vertical mine shaft, it's to keep you safe, so take a photo or two and move on. There is no admission fee to the Trona Pinnacles.
Randsburg: Living Ghost Town
While the label "living ghost town" is a self-contradiction, it's also the best way to describe a place where gold was discovered in 1895 and is still being extracted in paying quantities. Randsburg's population peaked around 1899 when the town bustled with 3,500 residents. Today, a few residents remain, living off of either mining or tourism. In addition to gold, silver, tungsten, and borax are also mined in the area.