Once a year the wonderful community of Trona, California, and more appropriately, the men and women of Searles Lake, invite the public to come and participate in one of the most exciting mineral collecting trips in the United States.
People come from all over the world to experience the Trona-Gem-o-rama. Two days, three field trips, plus a rock show going on for both days.
There are several great local dealers who make the show a treat to visit, such as Tom and Steven Wolfe of TomWolfeMinerals.com and WolfeLapidary.com
If you like Petrified Wood and Petrified Tree Branches, Steven is the man to talk to! He gives lectures at local Southern California gem, mineral and fossil clubs.
Saturday hosts two field trips, both two and half hours long. More about those in another post, this one is about the Sunday field trip, which is four and a half hours long, starting at 9am. The “Pink Halite” dig, where you are guided out to a large area to collect at, filled with brine pools with bright pink halite crystals growing on the underside of the ridges in the ground.
Typically, these tools are perfect for the extraction of the salt crystals. A short handled 10 pound sledge, a custom made spike (which I left behind! ARGH!), pick and crowbar. The stretcher is often a great tool because wheeled carts and wagons have a tough time in the sharp ridges popping up everywhere across the surface. This year, any sort of cart, dolly or wagon would have been perfect and we only made one trip with the stretcher.
This year, 2012, the digging was very different than the last seven years. There were no brine pools, only a large flat white area of solid salt crust. That was quite a shocker compared to past years of getting wet in the brine pools and tearing your hands apart when the tools dry and salt crystallizes on them, creating a sand paper like surface on the tools.
Instead of getting wet in the brine pools, you simply had to go to a slightly protruding ridge, where white salt crystals are often visible on the surface, work with a pick or spike a perforated area a foot into the back of ridge, then, flip the broken chunks over to reveal the crystals on the underside.
People are scattered all over the lake bed, collecting their hearts out, trying to get the best material in the limited time you have on the salt flats.
After digging the halite, you have to pack it up and carry it out. That takes a considerable amount of time!
And then you have to get the salt home! A challenge in itself! You need lots of packing material and containers. This year we did not plan on being able to collect a lot of material, but we couldn’t fit another piece in the van and still had an hour left before the time was up!
While we were there we saw Stan from Midwest Minerals, a large wholesale company in Tucson, Arizona, mining Halite crystals.
He has a great idea, placing the found specimens directly into a crate, no muss, no fuss. We might copy him next year!
Every second weekend in October, you can find thousands of rockhounds descending on Trona in search of pink salt crystals! We hope you can visit next year! Hotel rooms are available in Ridgecrest, just a half hour away from Trona, find a room for the event on Hotels.com
There is an app for android you can download, one is free and one is $4.99, but BOTH of them have a five page article about collecting in Trona.