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Trona Pinnacles, San Bernardino County, California

If you are looking for an otherworldly landscape, this is the place for you. A skyline made up of about 500 tall tufa spires dotted the barren landscape as we walked in an ancient dry lakebed named Searle Lake. Searle Lake was one of many lakes filled with glacial meltwater connecting the Sierra Nevada to Death Valley as glaciers melted from the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  According to one of the information boards, half of  all of earth's minerals are found on this lake bed, one of which is trona, the park's namesake. 

Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park

Venturing into Sequioa National Park is venturing into a land of ancient giants.  As we drove up Generals Highway from the south, we encountered many a giant around every corner, some as part of a family of giants, others as lone giants.  We couldn't wait to park and start our hike once we reached the Giant Forest Museum. Luckily, there were many trails for us to stand in awe of these trees as old as 3200 years old.  Of course, despite its name, Sequioa National Park is not just about giant sequoias.  We managed a trail or two into different environments as well, walking through snow to reach a mirroring subalpine lake, and walking through dry foothills to a cascading waterfalls over marble rock. 

Sierra Buttes and Sardine Lake, Lakes Basin, California

Sierra Buttes Fire Lookout Trail

The Sierra Buttes are a series of crags in the Lakes Basin in Northeastern California. At 8587 feet above sea level, the Buttes are the highest peaks in the Lakes Basin. The Buttes are composed of erosion-resistant rocks exploded from undersea volcanoes about 350 million years ago. Gold was mined here in the mid-to-late 1800’s. In 1869, a 106 pound gold nugget was uncovered near the Buttes.

Chilnualna Falls, Wawona, Yosemite National Park, CA

We started our May long weekend at 10am at the trailhead at Chilnualna Falls. Parking was scarce, but we managed to snag one of the last two regular spots, lots more for creative parkers. Parking area and some of the road in was dirt/packed gravel with potholes, though our low clearance 2WD sedan made the journey just fine. A sign indicated the presence of mountain lions. Definitely keep kids close.