|In the late 80's early 90's I lived in San Diego, Ca. In hiking and Jeeping explored around that area, Anza Borrego included. I never spent time at the Salton Sea except to view at a distance. " It's dirty, smelly, a dead sea, poisoned, no one goes there" I was told. So I looked at it from a distance and never went to it's shores.|
Lately, after doing some reading, decided I would go there to see what the area was about, do some photography, and hike in the peripheral areas.
I had never driven Hwy 111 which runs very close to the eastern shore for quite a ways. I decided to go via way of Glamis near the dunes, then head north on a dirt road which paralleled the railroad tracks into Niland, then go north on 111 and hopefully find a place to car camp, on the water, for sunrise and sunset.
I threw my inflatable kayak in, not sure what I would do if the sea was calm; with the storm front coming in a rubber ducky bobbing on salty water on the flats is not a place to be in high winds.
The drive was sort of fun, it was scenic, I pulled off at an area on the map marked "Pre- Columbian" Indian trails. A placard and fenced off area showed a section of trail, I wondered how they could date that. It was part of a route from the Colorado River to the Imperial Valley.
The dirt track was great for train spotting. It runs right by the tracks for miles. Well maintained for the most part, then it sort of degrades at a wash, I had to backtrack and sort through some wildcat two tracks over the Coachella canal and get back on the main road to make it into Niland.
Another placard at Flowing Well, marked by Palms and a house or two. A former railroad stop for people coming out to farm or gold seek in the Imperial Valley.
The northern part of the Algodone dunes are very close to the dirt road here, I was able to keep it in 2wd only with generous application of the gas pedal. Trees were planted here to protect the railroad tracks. So a green tunnel on one side and lightly vegetated low dunes on the other.
Finally into Niland, and onto Hwy 111, a major paved road. The sun was getting low and I stopped in at Bombay Beach, whoa, pretty Ghetto here. I sort of liked it. The beach was closed to camping but I walked out to take some pictures, along with several other more serious photographers with their big SLR set ups and tripods.
The wind was up but the birds played, the sun turned the area orange, and the famous stench of decay danced around, but not bad I thought.
Bombay Beach consisted of several blocks of houses of varying vintage, some occupied, some not. Some original architecture. Reminded me of Old Miami beach, older weathered houses, in an older weathered neighborhood.
I was now in a hurry seeking a place to camp. I settled on one of the many state campgounds along this side of the sea, unimproved except for a picnic table and some port o potties, you just drive in, self pay 10.00, and back your vehicle up or set up your tent right on the beach. The bad was not far off the road and not far enough from the railroad tracks. Definitely not a wilderness experience. The nicer camp areas of Mecca Beach and Headquarters Beach are more developed, also more secluded, and cost more 20.00-30.00 per night. Hey, California needs money!
I slept in the vehicle. The moon was huge and pre dawn cast an eerie light on the water. The wind calmed down in the morning. I walked around and tried to capture some sea birds. I was comparing the Lumix Fx-40 superzoom a friend of mine has to the Sony HX-1. Both are not super at full zoom but the HX-1 definitely has the better autofocus and better detail and less grain at full zoom.
I packed up and went to the Mecca Hills to hike the Grotto, Rainbow Rocks loop. I decided to go back to the Sea to camp. I picked a different camp area, less people, and a more interesting beach. I don't think on the east side it would be easy to find a road and camp--- most places are farming or residential, and 14 miles of the shore has been designated the Salton Sea Wilderness, access by the state campgrounds only. I need to explore the west side now.
There had been a recent major fish kill, Tilapia, thousands of dried up bodies were washed up in places, a boon for the birds. No strong smell though, perhaps because not too hot yet. The Salton Sea has a strange beauty, with no boats on it and no swimmers, it sits surrounded by salt flats and desert mountains, in part of the trough of the ancient Lake Cahuilla. The whole area was weird and repellent in a way, and I really liked it. I'll be back.