Salton Sea Experience

This past weekend four of us decided to head East to explore the Salton Sea. One of the guys had been before and the rest of us had low expectations and little knowledge of what lay ahead.

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First, I should make it clear to others that want to go here that you don’t want to swim in this sea. You probably don’t even want to boat on it, but people do and kayak too. The sea is evaporating and the salt content has gotten so high that fish are dying left and right. The “gorgeous” white sand beach you see in the picture above is really a combination of fish bones and shells (see below). Second, it is the desert so it’s already up over 90 degrees and there is little shade.

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If you can get past those two negatives, this really was a cool place to visit! After a three hour drive (plus a stop for lunch in El Centro) we set up camp in a State Park with solar-heated showers and bathrooms. Definitely car camping šŸ™‚ Then we geared up and drove through citrus fields to get to Painted Canyon. The hike we took was about three hours round trip through canyons, up ladders, and to the top of the surrounding walls. It was really fun, especially scrambling on the way up! We could see the Salton Sea from the top and the sun was setting so it was really pretty. The way we chose to come down was a little tamer but let us see a different part of the canyon.

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We feasted on sausages, s’mores, and beer that evening and just enjoyed sitting around the campfire. I got to spend the first night on my new tent and it worked out great! Because the temperatures were so high, I left the rain fly off and could see the stars from my pillow. In the morning we made oatmeal and coffee before breaking camp and heading south.

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Our first stop was Bat Cave Butte, which involved us parking by the side of the road, jumping the railroad tracks, and walking less than a mile to the hills. The bats were obviously gone for the day but we enjoyed scampering through the tunnels and up on top. Then we paused at Bombay Beach, which looked like it used to be a boat launch town but hasn’t been used in a while. We looked around quickly and decided it was best to leave before we found ourselves trapped back in time like this sleepy “town”.

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Back in the car to head to our last stop, Salvation Mountain. Now I love funky stuff and graffiti so this was right up my alley. A man basically started building a structure from hay barrels and mud, then painted it as he went. It’s all very religious themed, with some secular influences like the yellow brick road which takes you to the top. There were huge, abandoned water storage tanks nearby that were painted as well. One illustrated the evil corporations of the world and the other was a “wheel of Kama”. Like I said, this was a quirky place. When we had our fill of salvation we jumped back in the car to trek home.

Overall, I’m not sure I’d rank the Salton Sea on any of my top travel lists but it was a really fun overnight trip that got me out exploring new parts of California with my guys. Be sure to check out more pictures on Facebook soon!


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  1. Trackback: Sequoia National Park | Rays of Funshine

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