We traveled to Death Valley for the first time last weekend to share in a wonderful celebration with dear family friends. Before we headed back to LA on Sunday afternoon our friend encouraged us to exit the valley using a route that was not the route proposed by google maps. There is a town, he said, that you simply must see. His urging, plus the fact that the words "alternative route" are, to me, the most beautiful in the English language (take that Henry James with your "summer afternoon" Have you ever spent a summer afternoon stuck in a small, air-conditionless house with 2 hot, crabby kids who just didn't feel like going to their expensive, non-refundable camp that day? I didn't think so) meant that we would go home through Trona. We piled into the car, turned on some driving music, I spread the map in my lap ( God, how I love to sit in a car with a map spread out in my lap) and headed out.
About an hour and a half later, heading south, having climbed out of Death Valley, you enter the Searle Valley and then hit the outskirts of town.
It doesn't take much imagination to see the abandoned wagons of pioneers, braving the terrible conditions and the climate in search of a better life.
Trona takes its name from the mineral trona abundant in the nearby Searles Dry Lake Bed. The history of the place is interesting - the Wikipedia link above can tell you a lot.
This the Searle Valley Mineral soda ash processing plant, the largest employer in town.
If you are one of the thousands of people heading to Death Valley from Los Angeles over these next several weeks I encourage you to take the route through Trona, at least one way. It's a fascinating look at a small company town in a harsh, harsh climate, natural and otherwise.
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