After our aborted attempt to visit to Trona Pinnacles, I turned the van north up Hwy 178 to continue our explorations. Just a little up the road, I could see the most amazing rock formation — massive gray plates of rock thrust vertically as they swarmed over a great lump of a hill, putting me in mind the dorsal plates of a Stegosaurus. I cruised slowly by, searching for a safe place to park so that I could photograph the formation. However, as happens so often when you find something of great interest, there was no turnout or even a slice of shoulder to pull onto. In fact, there were “no parking” signs all along the road for some distance. I never mind walking a mile or two for a photo, but with it being so hot, I didn’t want to leave Sabrina in the van while I hiked back, and felt the roadway was too dangerous to bring her along. I might have tried a “drive-by shooting” if I could have poked along and braked for a second or two, but the traffic along this stretch of road was, to put it mildly, a little nuts — big transport trucks and squads of fat white pick-ups zooming back and forth from points on the Searle Dry Lake flats (seen above), and one of a couple of plant installations (see below — click on images for larger views). Perhaps some day I’ll have a chance to revisit and photograph the formation on a quiet Sunday morning. In the meantime, you’ll have to imagine a rocky hill that resembles a great sleeping Stegosaurus.
I continued along the highway which skirts the west side of the lake bed, past processing plants, and the towns of Argus and Trona. At a rest area across from the above installation, I found a pavillion displaying a number of posters explaining the geology and extraction methods employed at the lake bed, and others of the mineral products processed at the plants. I can only say that the scale of these operations is huge, and yet my guess is that similar and probably much larger operations must exist in such deserts around the world. In any case, I found myself feeling like an alien life form, emerging from my land roving vehicle, into some place where I seemed invisible to the ant-like residents who tore back and forth between the colony and their food source.
While in the pavillion, I studied a large map of the Panamint Valley, thinking to continue north to explore further, but decided to turn back and take care of a few things back in Ridgecrest as Sabrina and I would be pushing onward to Arizona in the morning. On the way back south along 178, we passed areas of sculptured blue hills that resembled scaled-down versions of Blue Basin in John Day Fossil Beds. Once again, I was reminded of how all places, all thoughts, all objects, are connected, to one degree or another.
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