Friday, March 27, 2015

2015-2 Life on the Edge... of the Salton Sea California


Exploring Yuma AZ and The Saltan Sea California

my route over the next two weeks

Lynda Vista Rv Park
Campground:  Rolle's Lynda Vista RV Park, Yuma AZ.  Passport America rate:  $14.00  full hookups, 30 amp service.  Nice in town Rv park with about 110 campsites.  5 English speaking TV stations.

Campground:  Silver Sands Rv Park, Thermal Calif.  Passport America rate:  $10.  Just north of Salton Sea Beach.  It’s a tired dusty campground.  Swimming pool is empty, but it will do for a few days stay and they gave me a very nicely shaded campsite. Very rare to have any shade in this part of the country.

Yuma AZ
Distance Traveled:  116 miles

There’s no need to be in a hurry when you’re a full-timer.  So today, instead of heading directly to the  Sultan Sea which would have been over a 4+ hour drive, I’ve broken it up and will stay in Yuma for 4 days.  Yuma is surprisingly a good size boarder town.  It’s a growing city with  93,000 permanent residence.  With an additional 85,000 winter “snow-birds” (Rv-ers and mobile home owners/renters).  Lots of trees, green grass and irrigation as it’s the last stop of the Colorado River before it trickles into Mexico.  The Colorado River is the most dammed river in the world with numerous irrigation canals feeding off of it. Many acres of desert land is irrigated for growing cattle feed and there are many cattle stations designed to fatten up the cattle before going to the slaughter houses.  And not far from Yuma is the small community of Date Land where they of course grow dates.  I could see a huge date farm with large palm trees fanning out against the bright sunny skies from the highway before crossing over a barren mountain range heading into Yuma.

Yuma’s in bloom this time of year.  Oleander, Crape Myrtle, and I’ve even seen a few hibiscus bushes which always remind me of Florida.  My campground is one of the smaller ones tucked on a side street with numerous other less well maintained parks catering to the locals who don’t make a lot of money.  Many of the larger Rv parks have between 800 and 1,000 campsites catering to all those snowbirds.  I went to one of many Swap Meets here in town.  Mostly Spanish speaking vendors and clients selling cheap Chinese gadgets and colorful Mexican clothing and shoes.  Quite a few food vendors as well.

Seems like everyone in this neighborhood has at least a half a dozen chickens and roosters all running loose, along with cats and a number of dogs.  Wouldn’t expect to see that in your average 90,000+ size city, but here in Yuma, it’s the norm.  I kind of like seeing the chickens and roosters scurrying under fences and between bushes looking for the perfect bug or what ever chickens look for.

Salton Sea California
Distance Traveled:  120 miles

Another day at the beach

Date Palms
I crossed into California, in about 10 minutes as it boarders Yuma, as a small sign on the overpass leading me onto the I-8 entrance informed me.  The traffic on I-8 was light this morning and in California, trucks and vehicles towing a trailer/camper are restricted to 55 mph.  Making for much less stressful driving on a major highway.  The scenery was filled with sand dunes and where high fences separate the Us. From the Mexican boarder which I could look over into quite easily.  No extra charge for Mexican peeping.  The Colorado River is channeled via canals filled with essential water heading for San Diego and the Imperial Valley farms.  They follow the highway, occasionally crossing under the highway as it switched sides.  The deep blue water in the canal is quite a contrast to the barren desert, except for the vast irrigated farms and Date Palm orchards that have transformed much of the desert valley in these parts.  After about an hours drive, I headed north on highways 78/86, both had little traffic as they passed through the Imperial Valley and finally the boarder of the Salton Sea.

Salton Sea

I am here because I have heard so much about the history of the making of the Salton Sea, Slab City, where many dry-campers spend the winter and Salvation Mountain.  There is a wonderful PBS tv documentary on the Salton Sea and describes it’s heyday and gradual demise as the lake continues to shrink in size.  I’ll attach a link to one I found on the web.

as far as I can tell, no one swims or does any boating on this very salty sea

an old boat ramp

created from irrigation run-off and a break in the Colorado
River in 1929

I should mention along the route today that I stopped in the small town of Brawley Calif.  Why you ask?  Because they sell “date shakes” and I'd never had one before.  It's a thick creamy shake with dates of course.  Terribly rich and decadent, but well worth the stop.  Even picked up a package of very small date bars.  Something our Mom used to make to perfection and I’ve been a fan ever since.

So today, Thursday, with temps going up to 94 degrees, I got a very early start as I drove around the Salton Sea.  I’m doing a complete loop around the lake today and want to get to Salvation Mountain and Slab City before the day gets too hot.  The north end of the Salton Sea has a number of farms including more date farms, citrus groves and I’ve even seen vineyards.  Had no idea grapes could grow in the heat of the desert.  I guess with all the irrigation going on anything’s possible.  As I head south again on the eastern side of the lake I pass by over 12 miles of State park land.  Multiple campgrounds are along this sections and the land includes a cluster of trees and palms in and around the campgrounds.  The further south I head along the lake, the more barren the landscape becomes.  With train tracks on one side and a vast dirt sand landscape leading to the lake.  I had been warned that the lake smells of dead fish, but I have not noticed any bad smell what-so-ever.  It could be that it’s too early for the fish kill off which I would imagine occurs as the summer 120 degree weather heats up.

After 45 minutes of driving, my first stop is the beaten and battered community of Bombay Beach.  Now sitting about a half a mile from the lake as it has receded over the years.  The community has long lost it’s resort status (if it ever did) and is now barely holding on as a home to folks living off of Social Security and what every else they have to survive in this hostile environment.

Bombay Beach

an open air store

a funky looking Double-wide

I continue my journey to Niland, a small barely surviving town that is the entrance to Salvation Mountain and Slab City.  Salvation Mountain is my first stop.  It’s Leonard Knight’s vision created out of local adobe clay and straw plastered where necessary over the mountains before painting every inch of it from donated paint.  It is “his tribute to God and gift to the World”.  I felt much joy at seeing Leonard’s colorful vision in person.  Having seen it in pictures and on TV documentaries in the past.  Today, a small group are caretakers of the mountain and volunteers often come by to donate time and paint to patching up the massive work of art.

First sign you are at Slab City and Salvation Mt

Because of expected heat of the day, it’s supposed to get as high as 96 today, I’ve gotten here shortly after sunrise.  Before the sun came up it was already 72 degrees.  Probably not the best time to take pictures as the sun has barely come up over Salvation Mountain, but I and others are already exploring the site, taking our pictures and marveling at the artists vision come to life.  Climbing to the top via the yellow brick path so as not to destroy any of the painted surfaces of the art work.  I talk with a number of fellow visitors, wander through a maze of “rooms” created off to the side of the mountain, all looking very magical like an Alice in Wonderland feel and fanciful in design.  Word on the street is that the State of California may designate it a monument and help in preserving it.  Hope they do.

one man's vision

I walked up the yellow brick road

what great color

Then it was onto Slab City which is right next door.  Once part of a military post that was decommission.  The government removed all the buildings except for the concrete “slabs” and then gave the land to the state of California  with a quick deed.  No restrictions.  It has over time become a squatters dream.   Snowbirds, boon-dockers and  aging hippies have found the place and call it home.  Each forming communities of interest as they gather here for the winter or for a hearty 150 souls who remain all season.  They even have a church and a stage with entertainment throughout the winter months.  Solar panels are very popular with this crowd as there is no water, electric or sewer out here.  Glad I had a chance to visit Slab City and who knows, I may even spend a bit of time here one winter, when all the other snowbirds are in residence.  Probably wouldn’t stay too long though, as it’s pretty remote for my tastes.  But it’s all a part of the adventure, seeing how others live and exist in this world.

art in the desert
one of the slabs

What a great paint job 
a travelers dream, boat and camper in one 
quite a compound

My next stop will be Barstow California.  I may make it to Borrego Springs tomorrow before heading out.  With temperatures reaching into the 99 degree area, I’m not sure.  It will have to be another early morning adventure.  But it is a dry heat…

Have a super great day and many great adventures.

More pictures on my PICASA acct.

A Bonus Report follows:

Borrego Springs

steps lead to a viewing are in Anza Borrego Park

Anza Borrego Desert State Park.  On my last day in the Salton Sea area, I drove in the surrounding mountains and valley community called Borrego Springs.  I thought by getting an early start I might be able to take a short hike of maybe two miles, but even though I got to the State parks visitor center by 8 am, it would not open until 9 am.  Already way too late and the temps are expected to get up to 99 today.



early morning and the temps are already in the 80's

The drive up through the barren mountains called the Borrego Badlands is a stark contrast having been camping so close to the largest lake in California.  The many dirt trails through the canyons and washes are a haven for the dune buggy, ATV, and 4 wheeler crowd as I saw many of them dry camping with their Rv’s out in the desert landscape and riding through the desert on their ATV’s.  Even saw a large jeep tour getting ready to head on out into this rugged land.

Borrego Springs is a very nice desert oasis town nestled between the surrounding mountains.  It is able to survive in this hostel environment due to the natural springs in the area.  It is a true oasis with California’s only native palm tree growing here.  Groves of Palm farms, desert resorts and a few Rv parks are in town along with a number of shops and restaurants.

downtown Borrego Springs

One of the attractions in the area are the sculptures created by Ricardo Breceda throughout the Galleta Meadows on the north and south side of town.  It is all due to the vision of Dennis Avery as the towns benefactor for these wonderful creature in the desert.  So even if your not able to go on a hike, just visiting Borrego Springs to see the sculptures is well worth the drive.

Galleta Meadows

there are dozens more to be seen

While I was at the visitor center, I also got a chance to see some plein-air painters setting up and the instructor providing an outdoor class on painting the local scenery.  Really got me inspired to think about starting to paint again.  I particularly liked the work of one artist who does hers on 6”X6” boards.  An easy size for the Rv traveler to paint and display.  She’s retired and took up the hobby, selling her art at a festival in Laguna Beach Calif.

really like her technique

the art instructor with a few of his students

Ok, that’s it for this weeks reports.