Monday, January 18, 2010


Every year the Town of Trona, California throws open its doors for Gem-O-Rama. We were first introduced to Gem-O-Rama through Mike Rowe on “Dirty Jobs.” He had come to Trona to help prep the lake bed for this crazy experience. In 2009 Gem-O-Rama fell on the same weekend as my husbands birthday – so we got a group together and drove to Trona.

Trona is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Edwards. Heading out the North Edwards you take Hwy 58 towards Barstow till you hit Cramer Junction where you take a left. Then follow 178 to Trona. There is not much to see on your way to Trona other then open desert.

We made a quick stop at the Trona Pinnacles National Natural Landmark just to check it out. ( If you have seen “Land of the Lost” or other movies set on foreign planets then you have probably already seen the Trona Pinnacles. The pinnacles are actually “toufa spires” that rise from the bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. You can “scramble” up the side of the pinnacles to get a closer look. I will warn that once you turn of Hwy 178 you are on dirt road for much of your visit. We made it in our Toyota Matrix but be warned, it was a bumpy ride.

If you head to Gem-O-Rama make sure you pack your lunch. Trona has a few little restaurants but with the crowds from Gem-O-Rama they were swamped. We were able to find a nice shady picnic table for our lunch right off of Hwy 178.

Don’t let the Searls Lake Gem & Mineral Society web page fool you – Gem-O-Rama runs like a well oiled machine. The festivities happen on both Saturday and Sunday with each day featuring different field trips. If you aren’t sure which trip you want to be on they had a movie running of what the different trips looked like. On all field trips you drive your own vehicle on to the collecting site and you pay per vehicle, not per person. When we arrived we had already missed the morning “mud pit” field trip. This is perhaps the dirtiest of all the field trips where people actually dig through the mud to find pink hyalite. The next field trip to the “blow hole” started at 2:30pm. This gave us plenty of time to walk around and enjoy the many gem collectors booths. One of the girls in our group makes jewerly and found some amazing deals on beads through these vendors. We also go snow cones (for $1) to beat the heat. They run fieldtrips to see the Searls Lake mineral factory but the line was so long we knew we wouldn’t make it before our 2:30pm “blow hole” trip.

The “blow hole” was just as we had seen it on TV. We arrived to find large mounds on the lakebed where Gems had been pumped out of the brine solution and left on the lakebed to dry out. Everyone left their cars and ran toward the mounds. Before we knew it we were up to our elbows in gems. (These gems are water soluble though so you can’t just rise them in plain water – they have to be rinsed in a salty solution.) The rule is that if you can carry it – you can take it home. Just when digging in the mud started to get boring it was time for the live blow hole demonstration. Within a few minutes water and Gems were spraying out of this nozzle from the ground spreading mud everywhere. When they were done a whistle sounds and everyone runs into the fresh mud to find more gems. (Or if you are like us you just ran into the mud to run into the mud.) Families are invited to hang around looking for gems till 5pm – but shortly after the blow hole demonstration our buckets were full and we decided to head home.

Will we visit Gem-O-Rama again – probably not. Its something everyone living out here should certainly do once. It is a great outing for kids though – so long as you don’t mind them being really dirty!

This is one of those trips you need to pack appropriate clothing for - don't pack anything you won't mind ruining.

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