The second leg of the trip took me through to the Salton Sea area and Niland before ending up in Phoenix, Arizona. After cutting across Joshua Tree National Park, I finally emerged on the southern Cottonwood entrance. Punching in the next destination on my “trusty” GPS thinking it would take me out west on the I-10 and then back south on Hwy 111 as I had mapped out on Google Maps, it instead directed me through Box Canyon Road. Sure, it cut my travel time in half but it was also through some obscure deserted road in between the mountains. Although I must admit, despite the loss of satellite and cell phone reception, driving through the canyon surrounded by the rocky faces of the mountains along the road was much better than dealing with the freeway traffic. I was just thinking that I’m glad I had no car problems otherwise I don’t know how long I’d have to wait for another car to come by since I had no way of communication.
After a good half an hour of driving on my lonesome, I caught sight of the Salton Sea. It is the largest body of water in California, stretching 56km in length and 24km in width. While standing on the deserted shore of Mecca Beach, it was hard to imagine that this place was once dubbed as California’s French Riviera back in the ’50s and ’60s. I first knew of its existence earlier this year when out of boredom, I thought I’d look at what was around the Joshua Tree area on Google Maps (yes, nerdy I know but I’m addicted to Google Maps). I saw this body of water just South-East of Palm Springs and the name was alluring. Salton Sea… so I zoomed in and found some beaches along it with some grid-like zones indicating that there were residential areas there. Like Palm Springs, I thought it would be a sort of resort area but as I looked at it on the satellite view, I noticed that the whole area was dry and undeveloped. The water looked murky but often times you can’t judge it properly so I decided to look it up and what I found was more intriguing than I had expected.
Below is a picture of an advert for the resort back in the day. Apparently people used to have holiday homes here and come fishing, boating and generally to get away from the city to relax and swim in the man-made lake. Well, partially man-made that is because this Salton basin used to flood periodically because of the Colorado River but then some developers decided to use this to provide irrigation for the nearby farms and thus the Salton Sea was formed.
(More can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salton_Sea)
This place is also somewhat saddening. Looking at the empty car parks and picnic benches at Mecca Beach, I wondered if anyone still went there. I guess not. When I got out to take a walk around the empty beach, I didn’t last more than 15 minutes. It was hot, humid and the air stank of fish. Apparently a number of years ago, scores of dead fish washed up on the shores of the sea because of the lack of oxygen and the increasing salinity of the water due to the continued evaporation of the sea.
On my way out, I decided to take a quick drive through Bombay Beach, the residential area on the Eastern shore. It seemed so far and removed from everything. There was a small convenience store but it looked like it was closed. The windows on the trailers were all covered in dust, just as the road was. There was no greenery in sight apart from the dying pot plants hanging from the roofs of the trailers and the small one storey houses. There were old rusted cars wasting away in the sun and there was no one in sight. I did however see a “For Sale” sign outside one of the houses and wondered how long it has been on the market for and how much they were asking. By the time I drove out, I had a ton of questions on my mind. Who lives here? What do they do and why did they choose this place? Did they like living there and have they become used to living with the heat, humidity and smell? I wanted to know more about this community and its people because this place felt and looked so far off the map that I wondered if they had been forgotten by the rest of society, only to have it slowly evaporate away just like the Salton Sea.
More on the Salton Sea: