Sunday, November 27, 2016

Road Trip :: Guide to the Salton Sea

     This year, I really wanted to avoid the shopping madness that is Black Friday.  After being bombarded by all those REI ads on Facebook to #optoutside, I thought a small road trip would be a great way to get away for the day.  One of my friends even agreed to drive - score!

     If you've never been to the Salton Sea and are thinking about going, I will use this post as a partial guide to the Salton Sea and highlight some key places you don't want to miss!


1)  You know you're getting close to the Salton Sea once you start seeing windmills.  Around this area you'll also find the Cabazon/Desert Hills Outlets, the Cabazon dinosaurs, Joshua Tree, and Palm Springs.  I suppose if you left super early, you could hit up some of these other places, but Salton Sea is deserving of its own full day of shooting. :)

Starbucks (Mecca, CA) - In my numerous other trips out to the Salton Sea, the Starbucks at Mecca is usually where a lot of us would meet up.  This is probably the last you'll see of commercial chains as once you get to the Salton Sea and surrounding areas, it's mostly mom and pop shops.  The am/pm mini mart at this junction even sold Thrifty ice cream! :-O

     Since we would be having a late lunch at the Ski Inn later on in the day, we decided to grab a few snacks for the road.  I grabbed some Muddy Buddies.


2)  On this particular trip, our first stop was Salvation Mountain.  It looked quite faded since the last time I saw it.  Its creator, Leonard Knight, died a few years ago and now the mountain is being maintained by a volunteer group.  Over the years, Salvation Mountain has gained more status as a place to visit out in Imperial County.  There were many tourists there, and that's something I don't recall seeing during my first trip back in 2009.  I felt bad for the guy on duty who repeatedly had to tell people to stay off certain parts of the mountain.  If you're visiting a place, try not to be a douche and follow the rules posted on the signs, people.

     I really wish the sky had more clouds.  I have some photos from 2009 and 2011 that I really love where the sky was absolutely gorgeous.

     You know my Peak Design Everyday Backpack had to come along on this trip.  I keep saying how the bag is a little larger than I'd like it to be, but it does hold everything that I want to bring along with me.

     I definitely noticed some cracking inside the structure of Salvation Mountain.  I quickly took some photos, and went back outside...just in case. :)

     This plaque dedicated to Leonard was something new at the mountain.  I'm really glad they put up something that commemorated all the work he put into this place.  

     One of my friends apparently also ordered the 30L version of the everyday backpack.  We both agreed that Peak Design needs to start selling dividers a la carte so that people could better customize how they want to section out their bags.


3)  Salvation Mountain is technically located in Niland, CA and it is also next to Slab City.  I had never been to slab city before.  On previous trips, I knew we were close to it, but I never really knew how close until now.  It was literally just a few minutes down the road.  

     There were old shoes scattered about the road, sometimes in clusters, and some hanging from a tree.  They were both artsy, and strange to see. 

     One of my misconceptions was that Slab City was a very small community of trailers/campers.  However, we discovered that the trailers are scattered throughout a much larger area.  Once you see this information kiosk, you drive down a little further until you see a sign for other places such as East Jesus and the Slab City Library.

     This man was selling jewelry on the side of the road.  


4)  East Jesus is part of slab city, but I thought I'd highlight it anyway as a place to visit.  It is filled with art made from scraps and junk.  Some of it is really cool, and some were quite strange.  

     Brick Henge

     This is the dog of one of the guys that runs East Jesus.  She was such a cutie. :) 

     Jack is one of the people that runs West Satan.  We didn't venture into this area as we were strapped for time, but I think it was more of the same type of art.

     Everyone we encountered in Slab City was quite friendly.  This is the complete opposite of what I thought it was going to be like.  Before we left, Jack even handed us his "card", and mentioned he had a reality TV show he publishes to Vimeo. 


5)   We headed back in the opposite direction to find the Slab City Library.  It was quite an interesting place to see and photograph.  The signs said it is a 24 hour library.  I can only imagine what it's like to visit this library at 3 am.  

I really wonder how this place fares when it is raining.  Hopefully they have lots and lots of tarp!  

     For a place that's out in the middle of nowhere, they really have a wide range of books!  They even had them in specific genres.

     This sweet thing is one of the cutest residents of Slab City. :)  Did I mention this library has a bar?!

     I found their extensive collection of National Geographic magazines pretty amazing.  They dated back all the way to the late 60s and early 70s and were in great condition considering their age!

     The original Google.


6)  You won't see it pictured here, but one of the places you can check out at the Red Hill Marina is the 3 sisters.  They are 3 trees that are out in the middle of what once was covered in water.  Now it's just a salt bed.

Here is an old photo from January 2011.

     I saw a photo from 500 Pixels that I really wanted to capture.  At first, when we saw these small pier-like structures, we thought this was it.  When I compared it to the image I saw, I knew this was not the correct location.  

     A quick U-turn and a few more feet down the road was this.  Unfortunately, the "pier" that was used in the photo was only accessible if you were willing to be knee-deep in water, and that was something I was not willing to do.  I settled for one of the closer piers, and even then it was quite sketchy walking on those boards. 


7)  After Red Hill Marina, we headed back towards Bombay Beach to have lunch at the Ski Inn.  I've always wanted to go inside this place.  From the outside, it definitely looks like a place you should NOT go inside, but once inside, you'll find that it's just your typical dive bar.  I read somewhere that one of the Food Network chefs had visited the Ski Inn.  I'm not sure if that accounts for its rise in popularity (and it's 4 star Yelp review!) but they had a steady flow of customers during the time we were there.

     The food is nothing fancy and just your basic American bar/comfort food.

     There were dollar bills (and other currencies) taped all over the walls and even the ceiling.

     If you are looking for fancy dining, you may not find it around the Salton Sea area.  The food was okay at the Ski Inn, and I recommend checking it off your list if you're making the trek out this way.  Another pace to eat is a place called Bobby D's.  It's closer to Salvation Mountain in Niland, and they have pizzas, burgers, and the like. 


8)  Next stop - Bombay Beach.  This is always our last stop, because we tend to want to shoot a nice sunset here.  There wasn't really a cloud in the sky, so I knew this sunset would be no match for the ones we've seen in years past.  Once we got out of the car and were hit by the pungent stench in the air, I knew we were at Bombay Beach.  One of the first things that you'll notice if you've been out to Salton Sea before, is the noticeably lower water line.  

Here is what it looks like now.

And here is the exact same location back in May 2009.

     Yep, there really is a drought in California. 

     We used to photograph these stumps that were in the water, and now they are all exposed and you can literally walk right up next to them.

Here is a photo of the water and the same stumps from 2009.

      I'm pretty sure this couch was put here by people looking to dump it, or use it for a photo shoot. 

     There used to be all these cool decaying structures around Bombay Beach, but a lot of them were torn down and removed.  This boat must've also been placed here, because I'd never seen it before.  


9)  After the sunset, we made a run for the International Banana Museum.  It was one of the things I saw in my research for this road trip.  They charge $1 "admission" if you want to take photos inside.  We were mainly there to get some desert to cap off our trip.  The banana milkshake is what they're known for, but I can vouch for their sundaes as well. :)

     The "museum" is literally one room with a bar area to the left once you enter.  Scattered all around area banana after banana after banana.  If it has a banana on it, looks like a banana, or remotely resembles a banana, this place has it. 

      Don't forget to sign their guestbook! :)

     I would definitely give them a 10 for presentation! 

     Aside from the stops I listed here, there are many other things to check out at the Salton Sea.  We didn't even make it around the whole sea or stop at the recreation center which is fairly new.  Driving around the whole sea is something I'd definitely be interested in doing one day!  Do you have some favorite stops that I didn't mention here?  I'd love to hear what they are! :)