Katya and I hit the road again this weekend, finally making our way out to the Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain and Slab City. We threw the trip together last minute, tossing the camping gear and a full cooler into the car, and heading east on the 60. The drive was an easy 2 hour trip, arriving at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area just before 4pm. Entrance was only $20, campsite included. The grounds were well kept, and only a handful of other vehicles were around. The campgrounds were empty as well. Each campsite consisted of a large fire pit (grill included), a picnic table, and a good amount of flat, clear land for your tent; overall, a great setup. The smell of fish was in the air, though not too bad. There were plenty of trash cans around, several faucets, plus flush toilets and showers central to the campsites. We picked a nice shady spot, about 200 yards from the sea.
Before setting up camp, Katya and I headed to the beach to scout out spots for some nice sunset photos. Approaching the shore, the fishy stench grew stronger. The beach itself was a pinkish-white, covered in what looked like large grains of sand and pebbles. Yet, as we stepped upon the “sand” we quickly realized that the beach was actually made of fish bones and scales. Imagine walking on frosted flakes or dried pasta, the bones giving a unique crunch under my weight. More whole-fish skeletons littered the beach as well. The shore was spotted here and there with groupings of several bird species, relaxing on the glass-like waters. We found a few nice spots, then headed back to setup our tent and campsite. 30-40 minutes later we were all set. Tent up, bed made, fire pit set, and food ready to be prepped. The sun was just entering “golden hour” so we headed back to the beach. The soft light mixed with the still water, creating a beautiful scene.
As the light faded, the sun moving behind the western mountains, we worked our way back to camp, cracked open two beers, and started preparing dinner. I covered two potatoes with salt and olive oil, wrapped them in foil, and threw them on the grill over the fire. As those cooked I chopped up some onions and then worked on the steaks. Katya had bought a large rib-eye and a two-pack of Filet Mignon. I salted the rib-eye and one filet, saving the other to add to our breakfast the next morning. I pan-seared the steaks with butter and rosemary until they had a nice crust and a perfect medium-rare inside. The taters finished and the meat ready for consumption, we dug in. Just my girl and I, under the stars, having a delicious meal together. Bellies full, we set up near the fire, reading, talking, and just enjoying the quiet evening. Life’s pretty good. We tucked into bed around 10pm, with plans of getting up early for more photos at sunrise.
Decently rested, we arose half-an-hour before sunrise. The winds were strong, whipping the water into foot-high waves. The sky was just one immense cloud, casting a dull light upon the earth. This beach, that just yesterday looked so serene and beautiful, was transformed, bleak and frenzied. We tried a few shots but nothing real worked. Everything just looked brackish and flat. Slightly deflated, we headed back to camp. I cooked up some potatoes, eggs, onions and steak for breakfast, then we quickly wrapped up camp before it all blew away.
Heading south, we moved onto Bombay Beach, to try our luck there. We drove along the dike, stopping at a few abandoned buildings, til we found the ramp to reach the beach. The sky had cleared up a bit, and the area had several interesting features to photograph. A beached boat, a corroded crane, and the debris of several broken down houses.
Further south still is the town of Niland, you head east on Main Street a few minutes and you’ll find yourself at Salvation Mountain. A large piece of folk art, covering this small hill in paint and scripture; Just a great piece of Americana.
If you can make it out to Salvation Mountain, you can go a little further east. Slab City is just a minute or two down the same road and it’s one of the most unique places I’ve been too. Find an open spot of land and settle in, stay as long as you like. It was very disorganized yet it still had it’s own sort of sense to it. Random art, partial roads, and don’t forget the 24 hour library. Even those who wish to live on the fringes of society, people still form communities.
If you do make it this far, don’t miss East Jesus. A incredible art instillation that aims to “imagine a world without waste, in which every action is opportunity for self-expression.”
Nothing is trash, all things become art, you just need to find a way to use it. Just a fun way to end our little journey. We headed home, tired, but a enjoyable weariness, slightly cooked from the sun, smelling of fish and adventure.