Winter Journey – Salton Sea – February 2017

Pastel sunrise at Joshua Tree National Park

Friday February 10th – we are going on an outing to the Salton Sea for my birthday. It is the first birthday without my mom to share the experience with me, which is sad for me, but other than that, I am grateful to be alive, to be healthy, to have Clifford as my spouse, to be in a good place where I find beauty every day.

First light on the hills seen from Cottonwood Springs Campground

Our trip to the Salton Sea is south from Joshua Tree National Park, where we are camped, through the hills to the lake. The road meanders through badland canyons, not climbing as much as I thought it might in seeing it from Joshua Tree NP.

Driving through the hills from Joshua Tree NP to Salton Sea

We smell the Salton Sea before we see it. It is an “accidental” sea caused by flooding of the Colorado River in the early 1900’s and would have been a fine lake except for agricultural practices, including the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides that run into this body of water and have no way out. It is quite a desolate “sea,” being way too salty due to this agricultural run-off, killing many species of fish. Very little vegetation grows along the shore and a murky sky adds to the sense of desolation.

Salton Sea
Murky sky adds to the sense of desolation

We visit the Visitors’ Center and learn about the Salton Sea and then have a picnic at a sheltered table a ways from the beach.

Showing off the “elf skirt” I got in Tombstone in January

After our picnic, we walk down to the shore. The beach is made of shells, not sand, and the carcasses of thousands of fish line the shore, causing the stink we smell.

This place is an environmental disaster, largely unknown. Programs have been planned to improve the situation, but California does not seem to have the money required to implement and enforce these needed changes.

Although there is not much vegetation, one shrub seems to be thriving in spite of the conditions and is blooming abundantly. Sweet-smelling clusters of tiny pink blossoms are attracting lots of honey bees, the one encouraging sign of life here.

Shrubs at Salton Sea
Clusters of sweet-smelling tiny pink blossoms attract honey bees

We spend a few minutes with the shrubs, enjoying their sweetness.

Abundant sweetness

Then we drive down the road along the Salton Sea and check out a couple of primitive campgrounds. Although there is a nice campground at the Visitors’ Center, I would be reluctant to stay in either of the primitive sites, let alone pay money to do so.

We head back to Cottonwood Springs campground, stopping a couple times to check out the possibility of primitive camping here in the canyons. Definitely a possibility, should the occasion and need arise.

Smoke tree in a wash in the canyons

We make a brief stop at Bajada Nature Trail where I take a few photos while Clifford checks his email.

Ocotillo at Bajada
Ocotillo blossoms
Dense green leaves of an ocotillo. Leaves only appear after adequate moisture.

And then on to home-sweet-home at Cottonwood Springs Campground.

A dear friend called, leaving a voice message with a poem by Mary Oliver, which includes the line “My works is loving the world,” which I am doing. Some days it is easier than others, but it is the work that I do and that I share with my photos.

Blossoms in the desert
Ironwood tree at Bajada

Today was a very good and happy birthday.