Gem-o-Rama 2016 Road Trip

Road Trip to Gem-O-Rama 2016

As always, click on any image for a much larger HD version, and note all the video is HD so adjust your settings.  The crystals of Gem-O-Rama 2016 are in this separate blog post

My prospecting buddy Kirk suggested we road trip to Gem-O-Rama this year for its 75th anniversary.  I have always wanted to make that event, but for the last several years have not wanted to hassle with coordinating a trip.  Having someone to go with was a game-changer for me, and I was able to take off of work and home life to make this happen.

We decided that camping would be fun and definitely the cheapest route, so we packed up our stuff knowing the days would be warm in the desert and nights would likely be cold.   We also packed up appropriate prospecting equipment.  

Itinerary

Here is the first leg of the trip. California or Bust !!!

We started off the trip with Colorado’s first snow.  As luck would have it, the snow was most intense when we planned to leave, and the drive was a bit dicey until the sun came up!  Our goal was to make it to Valley of the Gods in SW Utah (the actual destination was kept secret…little did I know that Kirk had spent quite a bit of time in the SW and had some amazing routes for us on the road trip!)

slick roads

Roads were very slick west of Denver all the way through South Park. Kenosha Pass was re-opened as we were embarking…we saw why!

After leaving South Park the roads cleared up and we had a pleasant drive.  Kirk had made the longest playlist of cool tunes I think I’ve ever heard; I don’t know if it ever repeated.  We discovered we have many similar interests in synth-based music and I met my match when it comes to 80’s band trivia!  

Utah Roads

Guest lodging

One has to be careful when traveling this area of the country–we narrowly escaped this attack!

Durango Oaks

The aspen were almost done and the oaks were starting to turn.

Valley of the Gods

I love this part of our country!  I had not been to Valley of the Gods, likely because I don’t frequent German travel websites (this must be a popular place for Germans to tour the US because we met a lot of German tourists in this area).  The beauty of the SW Utah desert is world famous!

Valley of the Gods

Two episodes of the BBS program Dr. Who were filmed in Valley of the Gods.  You never know when Daleks would be around the bend…

Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods Valley of the Gods

Moki Dugway

It was getting late in the afternoon and I figured we must be staying in this general area. Kirk told me to find Moki Dugway on the map, I said whaaat?  But eventually I found it on the map as we traversed Moki Dugway, a hidden road along a cliff wall onto the top of the mesa.  Moki Dugway led to a mesa that jets out over the San Juan River and overlooks Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley.  It is one heck of a gorgeous place to camp, that’s for sure!

Moki Dugway

Valley of the Gods

Moki Dugway

This is the view from our campsite at the end of the road that Moki Dugway dropped us on. This is looking east back towards Colorado over Valley of the Gods.

Moki Dugway Sunset

The sunset was beautifully colored as there was a fire burning west of us. It was obvious were were under a major flight corridor as we saw planes throughout the evening and night!

Monument Valley

Our view of Monument Valley to the South, with the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west.

Moki Dugway - Evas Point

The camp on the top of a cliff! It got quite chilly up there that evening!

Moki Dugway Moon

Monument Valley

Moki Dugway

Monument Valley

Monument Valley, with the start of the smoke plume from the forest fire to our west, from Moki Dugway.

Moki Dugway Milky Way

The sky was clear and the stars were awesome. We saw several shooting stars but no satellites, which we both thought was pretty strange given how clear and dark the night’s sky was!

Moki Dugway Milky Way

I did catch a Moki Dugway shooting star (and airplane)!

Moki Dugway

Kirk enjoying breakfast on Friday morning!

Evas Point

Looks like we camped at Eva’s Point, so said the sign affixed to this old tree. I wonder who Eva was and how many times she posted her favorite spots in the desert southwest?

Day #2’s Leg

We woke up, got a bite to eat and then headed out.  We stopped at Goosenecks State Park which Kirk stated the last time he was there it was not a State Park.  We parked and took in the amazing bends of the San Juan River.

Goosenecks State Park

After that we went through Monument Valley and continued through Page, AZ where the Glen Canyon Dam for Lake Powell was located.  

Monument Valley

Page power plant

Page Arizona power plant

Zion National Park

Zion is an amazing place, and the word is out.  In 2015 it was the 6th most visited National Park.  We were a little behind in our itinerary so we didn’t have much time to stop but the views and geology as we drove through were awesome!  

Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park Zion National Park

We continued through the barren landscapes and went through Las Vegas on Friday afternoon at sunset, which is rush hour.  Note to self, take the newly built bypass on the north side on the way home!  South of Vegas heading toward Los Angeles we witnessed a solid line of cars heading the other way into the City of Sin!  Not being a huge fan of Las Vegas, I’d have to admin this was my second best trip there; we went straight through without stopping!  (the best was on the way home when we took the bypass loop and didn’t go through it at all, lol)!

Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

This was our view from camp at Trona Pinnacles.

Our destination was Trona Pinnacles in the Searles Valley, where we’d camp for two nights while we were picking crystals at Gem-O-Rama during the day.  We got to Trona Pinnacles after dark and the moon was setting as we found a place to camp.  Trona’s landscape consists of around 500 tufa (calcium carbinate) spires making it look like an alien landscape.  Actually, it was just that in the movie Star Trek V: The Final Frontier among many other hollywood blockbusters!  

These tufa features were created long ago (10 to 100 thousand years ago) when calcium carbonate groundwater seeped into the bottom of large inland lakes that were present at that time.  The calcium rich groundwater and the alkaline lake water created these deposits, the lakes drained, and we’re left with the Trona Pinnacles.

Trona Pinnacles

Looking east from camp at some of the pinnacles at the crack of dawn.

Trona Pinnacles

Looking at camp from the base of the pinnacles near us.

Trona Pinnacles

On the top of the pinnacles during pre-dawn looking north towards Trona and the Searles Valley Mineral plants.

Trona Pinnacles

Camp from the top of the pinnacles.

Trona Pinnacles

Campers on the other side of the pinnacles from us.

Trona Pinnacles

Here is a cool time lapse I did from the front door of the tent looking west.  This was a 4+ hour capture using my 14mm f2.8 lens with 330+ open exposure shots.

The 75th Annual Gem-O-Rama 2016

Wow, what an amazing event.  I have detailed this event is a separate blog post.  I will say that the crystal digging was very simple and easy, and the Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society put on one heck of an extravaganza!  It’s nice for a change being able to drive right to the spot and pick crystals with minimal effort!  It was extremely well organized and very family friendly.  Here is the flyer for 2017, you should think about going!  

Searles Valley

One of the Brine Lakes mined by the Searles Valley Mineral Plant.

The return trip home

We finished with the halite collecting field trip on Sunday around noon and headed home. On the way we visited the ghost town of Rhyolite as we traversed through the 99 degree Death Valley (remember we started our trip at 29 degrees).  We stayed in Mesquite in a stinky motel and progressed through central Utah meeting up with I-70 which from there was a straight shot home.

Rhyolite, Nevada

Gold was discovered in 1904 in the hills around Rhyolite, and in 1905 the town was formally established and platted.  As many of the gold rush towns of western America, the town was in a boom mode and growth was swift. Just several years into the boom of the town, however, several economic events including the San Francisco earthquake squelched the investment in Rhyolite’s mines.  By 1908 Rhyolite’s population was peaking at around 8,000, but the mines were beginning to fail due to lack of investment or lack of production.  By 1910, residents moved as more and more financial hardship hit the town. By 1919, the Post Office was closed.  

What amazes me if that in 15 years the town went from nothing, to nearly 10,000 residents, back to nothing.  Much of the infrastructure of the town was moved to the nearby town of Beatty, so at least resources were re-purposed.  Today Rhyolite is a interesting town of ruins, with the train depot currently being restored.  

Rhyolite Bottle House

Tom Kelly built his bottle house in 1906 and then raffled it off. Note that the bottles do not show inside the house; the only light is from the traditional windows.

Rhyolite Bottle House

Recycling bottles did exist!

Rhyolite

One of the iron doors of the jail house built in 1907.  

Rhyolite

The Porter Brothers’ store was erected in 1906. They sold everything from food to automobiles!

Rhyolite

Cook Bank. Built in 1908 for $90,000. It was the tallest building in town, 3 stories plus basement. The vaults were in the center and the 2nd and 3rd floors were business offices.

Rhyolite

This building was state of the art having steam heating, electric lights and marble floors.

Rhyolite

Porter Brothers’ building, with dust trail from approaching vehicle!

Rhyolite

The Las Vegas & Tonopah Depot, erected in 1909.

Rhyolite Rhyolite Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Rhyolite

Sign advertising Rhyolite station, with “Rhyolite Ghost Casino” painted on top.

Rhyolite

Looking into the front of the Jail

Rhyolite

Nevada Sunsets

Beatty

The irony here is terribly funny. This is “The Dream” resort in Beatty, NV. They must have run out of funding after they got the sign up, because the sign is all that exists of this resort.

Nevada Sunsets

Sunset on Sunday night in the middle of nowhere!

Mesquite

Sunrise in Mesquite

Utah

Some of the landscape as we progressed through Utah.

Utah

Utah