Hey guys! So this week, my friend Matt and I took a
trip down the Salton Sea and let me tell you, it was quite the experience. The lake is basically a 115-year-old engineering
mistake that has arguably turned into an ecological disaster. If you’ve never been before, I highly recommend
checking it out as it will make for a truly unique and surreal experience. Anyway, here’s a short video I made documenting
our adventure. Our first stop was on the North East shore
at the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. For some reason I assumed that the lake was
closed off to the public for health reasons, so I was surprised to find that the state
Recreation area was very well maintained with a series of picnic tables under newish looking
wood canopies. When we got out of the car, we were immediately
hit with the Salton Sea’s infamous obnoxious odor. Algae blooms occur periodically on the sea
and are fed by various chemicals in agricultural runoff from the surrounding farmland. These blooms reduce the oxygen levels of the
water and create a bacterium that emits hydrogen sulfide. In laymen’s terms, it smells like rotten
eggs. We walked out onto the beach toward the water,
which I imagine came up much closer to the campground years ago before evaporation took
its toll. The sea doesn’t have any bottom feeder fish
like Carp, so anything that dies in the lake ends up washing ashore. In fact, most of the beach was comprised of
pulverized fish bones from the many fish die-offs that have occurred throughout the past. When we were walking back to the car, I spotted
a brand new looking visitor center and thought, “oh we have to go inside.” We walked in and were greeted by a lone park
ranger who looked like she hadn’t seen visitors in years. She was eager to show us a short informational
film on the sea, so we walked over to a little movie room in the back and she popped in a
DVD. Here’s my rendition of what we watched: “Welcome to the beautiful Salton Sea, where
over one hundred thousand visitors flock to every year to experience the lure of the sea. Recent studies have shown that bathing in
salt water actually has several health benefits.” Yeah, that’s right. The propaganda-ish film we watched, produced by the state of California last year actually encouraged bathing in the Salton Sea because of its possible
health benefits. I’m sorry, but I won’t be jumping into
that smelly bowl of soup anytime soon. We hopped back in the car and headed south
to our next stop; Bombay Beach. Once a thriving resort in the 1950s and 60s,
Bombay Beach is now the scene of a mostly abandoned post-apocalyptic trailer park right
out of a Walking Dead episode. The town is home to some 300 residents as
of the most recent census in 2010 but from what I observed, I’m willing to bet the
population is half that at most today. Abandoned manufactured homes and trailers
line the streets, meeting their demise at the hands of vandals and becoming a canvas
for amateur artists. I ventured inside one of the old trailers
and got an uneasy feeling, so I didn’t stay very long. We drove to the west end of the town and over
a dike that was built back in the day to prevent flooding from the fluctuating lake levels. Past the dike were ruins of old trailers destroyed
in two great floods in the 70s, a make shift pirate ship assembled from the rubbage, and
an eerie art display of painted fish bones nailed to what I assume was the old Bombay
Beach pier. On our way out of town, we drove past the
Bombay Beach Drive-In which was lined with shells of old cars and boats including an
AMC Pacer which had quite an impressive VHS collection glued to its interior. Our next stop took us to the Southeast corner
of the sea, just outside the city of Niland. A place called Salvation Mountain. This art display is literally plastered onto
the side of a hill and is covered with Christian sayings and bible verses themed around the
Sinner’s Prayer. I walked into one of the caverns and instantly
felt like I was transported into a Dr. Seuss book. It was in here that I found a humble shrine
to the creator: a single laminated photograph of Leonard Knight stapled to a corner. Knight passed away in 2014 and ever since,
the site has been cared for quite diligently by a group of volunteers. I observed one of the curators, a bushy-haired
middle aged man in jeans, shouting at tourists who were walking too far off the established
pathway and being disrespectful to the art. He was working diligently to repair and paint
a massive hole that had formed toward the middle of the mountain. On the outskirts of the property sat an old
Jeep Wagoneer and flatbed truck plastered with similar bible verses and Christian themes. Just past Salvation Mountain lies a series
of vacant concrete slabs, the only remaining vestiges of a dismantled military facility
dating back to the 1940s. It’s now become a sort of haven for the
downtrodden and those seeking to escape modern society. An experimental art installation located within
Slab City known as “East Jesus” is assembled from discarded waste and is constantly growing. The art on display range from social commentary
pieces to just downright bizarre. Interestingly, when the land was given to
the State of California by quitclaim deed from the Department of Defense in 1961, new
legislation required that all revenue generated from the property be transferred to the California
State Teachers Retirement System. Sorry teachers, but I wouldn’t recommend
quit your day job quite yet on account of this place. For our last stop, we headed up the west side
of the sea toward Salton City. But first, we took a detour off of highway
86 and onto an old paved road which leads to the old Salton Sea Test Base, a remote
facility used by the military in the 40s for weapons testing and then space capsule parachute
drops in the 50s. We passed a US Border Patrol truck on the
road and eventually reached a 40-foot sand drift that had cut off the remaining mile
of road leading to the old base. Although we had a 4 wheel drive vehicle, we
decided not to take a chance of getting caught in the soft sand so I sent my drone up to
travel the remaining mile. It appeared not much was left of the base
other than a small test building, remnants of what appeared to be an old boat dock, and
testing pools lined with tarp now inundated with sand. Finally, we reached Salton City. Developed in the 1960s with an extensive infrastructure
of roads, sewer line and power grid, the city never really took off due to its isolation
and lack of job opportunities. According to the 2010 census, 81% of the surveyed
lots remain undeveloped and 38% of the habitable residences are unoccupied. Driving through the city, you’ll find remnants
of what once was a luring resort community. The Salton Bay Yacht Club attracted many of
the well-to-do of the 50s and 60s and featured prominent groups like the Beach Boys. Flooding destroyed the marina and the yacht
club was eventually demolished in the 80s. All that’s left of it now is remnants of
its parking lot and dead palm tree trunks. The first nine holes of the PGA Salton City
Golf Course opened in 1963 and attracted celebrity golfers like Desi Arnaz, Frank Sinatra and
Dwight Eisenhower. What remains is a barren desert landscape
with paved golf cart paths. Tourism began to diminish in the 70s due to
the Sea’s rising salinity and flooding problems. By the 80s, the local economy of Salton City
along with most of the other lakeside communities had crashed, causing homeowners and businessowners
to abandon their properties. All that’s left now is the skeleton of a
place that was once called “a miracle in the desert.” Well that’s about it for my Salton Sea adventure,
I hope you’ve enjoyed this video and I look forward to posting some more soon. And just a reminder to never stop exploring
because a new adventure always awaits.

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