last year, we had one of our best adventures to date, when we went gem mining in Trona, California. most people haven't have never heard of Trona, CA, either had we until i saw someone post on instagram about this awesome trip they took were there family was digging crystals from the ground. it looked like something my boys would love, so i contacted that person and got the deets.
it turns out that this adventure took place in Trona, CA, a hundred year old town just north of Ridgecrest, CA on the way to Bishop. this is about 2-½ to 3 hours north of Orange County. each year on the second week of October, they hold an Annual Gem-O-Rama and Searles Dry Lake Field Trips. this equals and entire weekend of gem mining fun, and ended up being SO MUCH FUN!!!!!
our adventure started out around 7am on Saturday morning as we headed from Ridgecrest to Trona. to make our drive more manageable, we stayed at a VERY CHEAP hotel in Ridgecrest the night before. then drove about 20 minutes to the town of Trona for the gem mining filed trips.
once you arrive at the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society building, you line your car up in rows to get ready to caravan to the Searless Dry Lake to do one of the gem mining field trips. there are 3 different field trips you can participate in, and each one is a unique experience and costs $15 per car. they take place at 3 different times....Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. before you head out, you are able to buy any supplies you need for the digging and also purchase a pancake breakfast if you are hungry.
the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society also holds their annual Gem-O-Rama this weekend, and if you love gems and crystals, this is a great show. there are rooms and rooms filled with gems available for purchase. and the boys had a lot of fun looking at the THOUSANDS the different varieties of rocks, gems and minerals.
there are many gem experts on site...you can even pick out a geode and have it cut right in front of you.at 9 am sharp, the caravan left for the first field trip of the day. this field trip is called The Mud Field Trip. all the cars drive together across the Searless Lake bed to the first excavation area. the lake was so beautiful and peaceful. it is a dead lake because it's much to mineralized for anything to live in it, so its water was still, untouched like glass.
The Mud Field Trip is were visitors can dig for a crystal called Hanksite. 15 -20 truck loads of crystal laden mud has been excavated and placed at this site for visitor to dig and find as much Hanksite as they want. the boys loved finding giant crystals that they could keep.
here is just a small crystal that i found inside the black clay and mud. there are thousands in there....big and small and you get to keep whatever you find and want.
this first field trip will get you super muddy and dirty. but that's okay...it's all about the fun. we found that rain boots are the best because you can just hose them clean. supplies that are best for this field trip are: garden trowel, gloves, carpet square or cardboard to sit on, buckets for your rocks, scrub brush, and brine (which you can buy onsite for about $1).
the first field trip was a success. so exciting, as we had never seen crystals like that in the mud.after the first field trip, we went back into town and lined our car up for the second caravan to the next field trip. at this time we ate our picnic lunch (you can purchase food too), checked out more rooms in the Gem-O-Rama show, and walked around the town to explore. Trona in 100 years old, and pretty empty. all the buildings look like you have gone back in time. not many people still live there. it was fun to check out the old buildings.
the second field trip is called The Blow Hole Field Trip. it takes place after lunch and is at an area on the Searles Dry Lake. here they drill 25-45 ft underground and spray out crystals for visitors to excavate.you definitely don't get as dirty at this field trip. you can pretty much pick up any crystals you see without using tools to dig.
the best part about this field trip is the drilling demonstration. you get to watch them drill into the lake bed and them spray out the rocks and crystals. when they are done, visitors can collect them. it was really cool.
these crystals look different than the crystals we collected that morning. these ones were more square and cube like.
we did not go to the third and final field trip. it takes place the next day on Sunday, and we didn't plan on staying overnight. we could have gotten another night stay at the motel or camped in Trona, but we were dirty and ready to go home. the third field trip supposedly yields the best crystals call pink Halite. The Pink Halite field trip sound pretty cool. you get to wade into brine pools to excavate the pink crystals. one day we will have to try it out.
we had the best time gem mining in Trona. we will be going again this year. it's coming up on the second weekend in October. and maybe you will join us! it is defeinly a great family experience that fascinates not only kids, but parents, grandparents and people of all ages.
for more information about the Searles Dry Lake Field Trips and Gem-O-Rama, click here. you will find all the information you need here. and if you still have any questions or need advice, feel free to email me. i will be glad to answer any of your questions. since i already have been, i know what to expect. last year we had no clue what we were getting into...and this year i feel better prepared and know what to expect!
Tips for attending the Searles Dry Lake Field Trips in Trona, CA
• make sure to arrive promptly at the designated time for you field trip, as the caravan will not wait for you.
• bring cash for souvenirs, supplies, food, pancake breakfast, field trip fee, etc.
• plan on getting dirty. bring extra clothes and shoes. rain boots are a great choice for the first field trip. bring a plastic bag to put dirty clothes in.
• cell reception is almost scarce. people with Verizon have the best luck with service.
• suggested supplies to bring: buckets, garden tools, scrub brush or dish scrubber, gloves, carpet square or cardboard to sit on, small shovel, sunscreen and camera. you won't need large pick axes or huge shovels.
• bring snacks and a picnic lunch. a pancake breakfast is available for purchase before the field trips in the morning, and there are a few places to buy lunch...but i highly suggest bringing plenty of food.
• it's hot! bring a hat, sunscreen and lots of water. freeze water bottles and bring them.
• the MUD FIELD TRIP is our favorite. it gets you the dirtiest, but is the most fun for kids.
• the is camping available in Trona, or you can stay in nearby town Ridgewood at a cheap motel just to sleep.
here is a short video of our time in Trona. if you are wondering what the field trips are like, this video will give you a good idea.