Trona Pinnacles, tufas of the desert
If you are near the town of Ridgecrest, or just need to get out of town for a few days, you will want to plan a trip to the Trona Pinnacles. The pinnacles are maintained and controlled by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for open use, including short term camping. These tufa like spires are primarily porous rock of calcium carbonate with a few standing 140 feet tall. Among these tufa like spires Hollywood directors filmed several movies including, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek V, Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes and more. I wrote a blog sharing our recent visit, with directions and road conditions, see Trona Pinnacles.
When ever we travel out into the desert we never know if we will be able to even get out of the van due to the natural soil conditions in the desert. I learned long age not to get my hopes up in photographing desert scenes, especially when it comes to desert night photography, often just rolling off my van lift finds me stuck in the soft sand. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that most of the roads through the Pinnacles were hard packed dirt and rocks. I’m not sure I would want to try the terrain in my manual wheelchair, but electric wheelchairs and scooters would manage with little effort, good ground clearance is important to negotiate the rocks. This is a great place for many photographic opportunities day and night. Personally, I prefer photographing the desert in the early morning, beginning with predawn, and from sunset into the night for starscapes or star trails. Usually from mid-morning until early afternoon, if the sun is bright, the colors of the desert are washed out and the textures are void of shadows, so that’s usually my nap time. As a photographer I do take full advantage of weather conditions, if you have never experienced the desert during a storm or even heavy clouds, you are missing some of the most dramatic desert compositions.
Always plan ahead when traveling into the desert, especially a remote location like the pinnacles. The desert climate can change on you at any time and once that sun sets the temperature can quickly drop and you will find yourself looking for warmer cloths. Regardless of your length of stay snacks and water are a must. We always carry 3 gallons of water and a few days of food just in case we have car trouble or decide to lengthen our visit. This trip we only saw one other vehicle in the area our entire visit, and there was nobody around after the sun set.