Trona’s a small gritty mining town in the Searles Valley in the Mojave desert (not far from Death Valley), and I’ve struggled long and hard to realistically show the small bits of it that I see when I drive through on my way elsewhere (as I probably do once or twice a year). I don’t really mean the landscape or the townscape as such; I mean the weird mixture of industry, domesticity, and harsh desert beauty that comes together when you see the junkyards on the edge of town or you stop at the little rest stop on Trona Road (the main drag) or you see the glinting hills and mountains of the Mojave looming behind the plant, or you pass the “Trona Tornadoes” sign on the local high school or the large white windowless Catholic church next to the road, or when you see the Trona Pinnacles way down in the distance.
People think of the place as desolate, but it’s much more than that — it’s a real place, a place where real people live and work and go about their lives, not a stage, and certainly not a setting for hipsters passing through taking selfies in front of the plant or stores.
This is just one more attempt to “get” the place, as seen from near the rest stop on Trona Road. All I’ll say is that I did a doubletake when I first looked across the road… and that you’ll never get Trona by taking a few photos and driving through every now and then (like me).