The Salton Sea experience is probably a love/hate thing. How else do you explain something so large on the map that many have never heard of, yet have probably driven right past? I'd been meaning to go see it for myself and was ready to go New Years day but since I had spent Christmas in a cave (literally
), I figured I had better not jump too full force on the introvert scale so close together and put the trip back on the to-do-list. A couple good friends found out about my planned mission and signed on for the adventure to which I was glad to have the company and the 33.33% gas split.
The SS is not far away and it's not hard to get to. It shows up big as day (almost profanely I might add) on the GPS aerial when heading down the 10 into Cali. My lookings into had most of the POI's located around the northeast end. You have the Wildlife Refuge, Red Hill, the Mud Pots, Abandoned buildings, the "Beaches," and even Slab City and Salvation Mountain. I did as usual and planned the trip with 50% surety on where we'd be and let the rest just happen. It worked well.
After passing the dunes, we passed through farmland after farmland. As we got closer to town we kept our eyes peeled for signs of abandonment for the cameras. Town stuff was tough in that just because one house is vacant, it doesn't mean its neighbor is, or that the land is just free for the roaming.
Just outside of last civilization in Niland, we saw a good warm up spot and got our feet moving and eyes poking around. This was the water tower, bunkhouse, and grainery spot. After we'd had our fill, we continued on into Niland to fill our bellies. We passed other plots that looked abandoned. Steve marveled that one had people atop reroofing what looked unsaveable. On the return later, he figured out that they were not fixing it but stealing what was left. A lot of evidence of that could be seen in the places we stopped. Mostly anything metal or otherwise salvageable had been stripped.
We tried our luck at an abandoned commercial building but a truck pulled up behind us and the Hispanic driver, after we didn't understand what he rattled off, just said one English word, "Mine." It was highly doubtable but we left and then returned later in the trip.
Next stop was the Mud Volcanoes
and then the Sea itself.
My plan was to beat the sun down and end up on the shore at the end of the old Niland Marina Road. We made it there in time and had no neighbors as far as you could see in any direction besides a large crowd of loud birds. When the sun did go down, they headed on to other areas and it was quiet on our beach of dried fish bones. At our time arrival, what dead fish there were had been sun bleached and dried white and there wasn't much smell as is sometimes greatly reported. We gathered up wood that had washed up and some scrub and lit up the night and cooked our dogs. We retired under the stars in just our light sleeping bags and a comparably light breeze.
In the morning we awoke with the sun and took our time, and a bunch more pictures. When girls don't come with, there are things that tend to be forgotten, like plates and utensils. So we looked even more the rag tag group as we ate our syrupy pancakes, bacon, and eggs on our plates made of maps and gun magazines as we stabbed at our food with our pocket knives. It was a fitting scene.
We headed back to another warm up photo spot and then headed west. Next stop was Bombay Beach and while the town looks more occupied than reports read, the beach is still the same tourist attraction. The old trailers and shacks are still there sunken and being taken over by the minerals. People were there fishing and a couple photogs were doing some model shoots. We spent some time at notable scenes, then cruised the town, got some ice cream and left.
We explored a couple of locked up houses down the road that ended up not holding any interest and then stopped at the rebuilt Yacht Club. It's too bad we missed seeing the old one and the adjacent Motel before they were torn down. The new Club wasn't even open even though a lot of money had been poured into it. We made the loop around the west end of the waters and headed back down the south side to see more desolation at the Salton Sea Beach. This area had the most to offer in the way of deserted and discarded life. There were many skeletons of homes scattered about like the trash that surrounded them. It was still intriguing that there were so many occupied homes just nearby. We found the coveted yellow love seat couch and did our tourist duty by taking pictures of and in it. Our next stop was lunch in Salton City. As we ate, unsuspectingly, the wind picked up.
Back on the road the dust began to fly. We headed east until we found a farm road to take us north and back towards Red Hill where I had tentatively had my mind set on camping for night two. The powerlines along the road began jump-roping in the wind and we began to realize the exposed beach may make a bad location for the night. The 50 mile an hour wind began encouraging the "Sea" to froth and creep further and further east inland onto the salty flats. The photo opp we stopped at to snap the isolated trees trapped in the dry dirt was covered with water not long later. We climbed Red Hill because it was there and it didn't look like anyone ever was there to enforce the no-no signage. We walked out onto the flats to take the other set of trees' pictures as the sun burned out, our bodies leaning into the wind and voices lost. Tripods were rendered completely useless for the set and when the wind did dissipate for a moment, we would almost fall over without its balance.
With it growing dark, we hunted for some cover. We were forced to camp on the non water side at the base of the hill and we parked the car as wall two and our gear as wall two. It was bearable then and we were still able to have a cooking fire, but we didn't stay up too long. It was better in the morning but not good enough to stick around. We drove over to our final destination, Slab City, where it turned out the wind had forgotten about also.