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The Trona Pinnacles

January 25, 2024


The Trona Pinnacles

The Trona Pinnacles

Day 3 – Lone Pine Trip: Cerro Gordo Trail and on to The Trona Pinnacles


“You don’t have to be rich to travel well” -Eugene Fodor


The passage of time continues to mystify me. Mainly, how fast it seems to fly by. The holidays came and went and now we find ourselves in a new year and I think to myself, “Why has it taken you so long to finish this blog sequence?” I’ve procrastinated, pure and simple which I’m now rectifying.


The eastern edge of California truly is a gem and I think, overlooked by the masses, including myself up until recently. If you haven’t traversed this area yourself, I encourage you to plan a trip and do so. Linda and I were just reminiscing about how much we enjoyed this trip and can’t wait to go back and continue our exploration of this area. If you haven’t already read our blog post on Day 1 of our trip, give it a whirl. Respectively, Day 2 in the Alabama Hills was magical.


Check Out Our Video Diary of Day 3 of Our Trip:


We Almost Missed the Continental Breakfast


Day 3 started slowly for us. We were hunkered down at the Best Western Frontier Motel in Lone Pine feeling tired before we realized it was 8:45 am. Linda threw her jacket on and headed out for the lobby in search of the continental breakfast which ended at 9 am. Before I knew it, she was back with coffee in tow and several good breakfast choices for us to munch on. By the time we packed up and headed out, it was 10 am, a late start that would end up causing several ripples in our day as you'll soon read about. 


At the Entrance to the Cerro Gordo Trail


The Alabama Hills were just so spectacular that we decided to head back and play around a bit more before heading South on the 395 to Highway 136 and East toward Death Valley. I had mapped out a trail for us called Cerro Gordo on the outskirts of Death Valley that is a steep 23-mile loop trail that traverses an old salt mine operation that brought salt down off the mountain via a series of aerial trams. This was a cool trail. Not technically difficult in the least but quite steep in areas with an incredible view of Owen’s Lake down on the valley floor. Eventually, the trail meanders to the ghost town of Cerro Gordo, a town that was purchased several years ago by a man who is trying to rebuild the town. Unfortunately, due to getting such a late start, we decided to turn around at about the halfway point as it was getting late, and we needed to head towards the Trona Pinnacles. I wish we would have been able to make it to the ghost town as I wanted to see it. This will be a good reason to head back that way though. By the time we made it back to Highway 136, we were a little over 2 hours away from the Trona Pinnacles so we high-tailed it that way and hoped to make it before dark so we would have the chance to hike and explore a bit.


Dusk Was Approaching Quickly


As we made our way through Ridgecrest and onto Highway 178 towards Trona, I hadn’t anticipated it would take as long as it did to get to the Pinnacles after you turn off 178. It’s quite a long jaunt on some heavily wash-boarded dirt roads and in some places, deep sand. Dusk was quickly approaching, and I was feeling pretty upset with myself as the Trona Pinnacles were one of the things I had really been looking forward to seeing on this trip and it was now apparent we would not get to explore it as I had hoped for. 


The Trona Pinnacles at Dusk


The Pinnacles are truly beautiful, and especially so at Dusk. As we approached, we began to smell a rotten egg odor and I later learned it was from local mining companies around that location. Trona has been mined for potash since World War 1 which is an important element used in making gunpowder. There is also a lot of sulfur in the area that causes the bad smell. When we finally made it to the Pinnacles, the roads were now covered in a very deep sand. If you ever decide to head out to this area, make sure you have a good high clearance 4WD vehicle, otherwise, you will most likely find yourself stuck. We shifted into 4WD and onward we went.


We Made the Call


We stopped for a bit to get out and wander around but by now, it was just getting too dark, so, we made the call to get back in the Jeep and explore as much as we could with the available light we still had. When the sun finally set all the way, it was dark, I mean real dark and very disorienting. Without the navigation screen in our Jeep, it would have been next to impossible to find our way back. Eventually, though, we did make it back to Highway 178.


Sequoia Lodge On The Kern River

Lessons Learned


This trip was created as a big clockwise loop and I had made a reservation for us at the Sequoia Lodge on the Kern River which was 95 miles away. Had our day stayed on schedule, the timing probably would have worked out just fine. In retrospect though, had we stayed in Trona, we could have gone back to the Pinnacles the next morning and get to experience it as I had intended. We’ll chalk that up into the “lessons learned” category and store it away for future use.


Room # 17


By the time we made it to Kernville, it was pretty late. We had been contacted while en route by the manager of the lodge wanting to know if we were still coming and we told him we were and were on our way there; thankfully, he agreed to wait for us. When we arrived, the Sequoia Lodge was an unexpected treat. It was quaint and nestled in a very picturesque area on the Kern River. We stayed in their most popular room, room #17 which is out on the far corner closest to the river. We unloaded our stuff, got Kobe settled in, and headed out just down the road to Kern River Brewing Company for a late dinner. My friend Marty had told me that Kern River Brewing was a great place for a good meal and was that recommendation ever on point! We had a fabulous dinner and we’ll find our way back there someday without a doubt.


The next morning, we awoke to the sounds of Kern River down below our cozy little room. We threw on some shoes and took Kobe out for a quick walk which he was super excited for. He wiggled around in excitement and when the door opened, he was out ready to smell and explore every bush, rock, and whatever else he could find.


As we look back on this trip, it was a truly special time. Other than planning where we would be staying each night, we took each day as it came and had no real expectations, we went where the mood took us. This is how Linda and I prefer to travel too! We both have the heart of an explorer and not knowing exactly what we’d be doing each day is part of the fun and part of the journey.


Thank you for joining along with Linda and I for such a fun trip. If you find yourself wanting to plan a similar trip and have questions, feel free to reach out! 😀


All my best,


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