Then and Now
Nine years ago, in April of 2011, I met the most captivating man at a Dodger game. He was like no one I had ever dated, and he was everything I ever wanted. He was always open to helping me successfully complete my every whim, he never made me feel cray cray for all the off the wall ideas I had, and he made me laugh... hard.
In the past nine years, our adventures have taken us to the most beautiful, and the most random of places, and it all started with our very fist trip to the Salton Sea.
Well, I should say, it all began in Palm Springs. He took me to Palm Springs for my Birthday. We had the time of our lives, and did all the things you do in Palm Springs. We dined and dined, we wined and baked.. I mean basked in the sun, we visited galleries and the museum, and at the end of the day, we wanted to check out something a little off the beaten path.
The Salton Sea. An ecological disaster, a dystopian wasteland. The Salton Sea, with white sand beaches void of sand, made of dead fish bones and barnacles. The Salton Sea, home to the ruins at Bombay Beach. The Salton Sea, home to numerous mud volcanos. The Salton Sea, home to the stench of a thousand dead and rotting fish in the heat of summer.
It sounds awful, I know. But this haunting landscape set the scene for a newly formed couple to realize how absolutely perfectly they fit. We were simply blown away by all of the sights. We spent an entire day exploring every nook and cranny. We took pictures and walked inside the ruins left behind.
The Salton Sea lays 236 feet below sea level, and is the result of a failed irrigation attempt in the late 1800's. The gist of it is, water was pulled from the Colorado River through canals, to bring water to farmland in the desert. The river overflowed in 1905, breaking the levees and flooded the Salton Sink, creating the largest lake in California.
Because the lake rests on a salt mine, the salinity of the water is 30% greater than that of the Pacific Ocean. Meaning, each time the salt level rises, it kills off thousands of fish and barnacles. And because there are no bottom feeders in the Salton Sea, all the dead fish, and fish and barnacle bones wash up to shore, creating beaches with sands made of bones.
The first time my husband and I visited the Salton Sea was in the dead of summer, when the beaches were littered with dead fish in various stages of decomposition. It was surreal. I can't explain why we fell in love with this place, but we did. It was like exploring a different planet.
Though the creation of the Salton Sea was accidental, in the 1950's and 60's it brought many benefits. Fish thrived and because of the abundance of fish, birds flocked to the Salton Sea. Developers seized the opportunity and built the Salton Riviera. This riviera was built in Bombay Beach, one of the Salto Sea's beach towns. Branded a "miracle in the desert, yacht clubs, hotels, homes, and schools sprang up along the shores of the Salton Sea, as it became a premier resort destination to the stars.
Unfortunately, the ecosystem began to deteriorate in the 1970. No drainage in the lake, runoffs of pesticides from near by farms and various other conditions, made the lake uninhabitable. The Salton Riviera was eventually abandoned, and in its wake left ruins and decay.
When hubby and I were there nine years ago, Bombay Beach, home to the Salton Riviera, was a true post apocalyptic wasteland.
Forward to January 2020. Hubby and I are no longer two kids exploring the world around us. We HAVE two kids who love to explore the world around them, just as much as their parents still do. The boys are six and four, and one of them has developed a huge interest in all things abandoned.
So, this year, my husband and I decided to forgo our annual solo New Year's trip, to take the boys to where it all began. The Salton Sea.
We booked a lovely Airbnb in Indio, CA, and invited our good friends along for some family fun and exploring. We did want to get some time to relax, so we booked something on another bed of water.
Our Airbnb came with a kayak, so the day of our big trip to the Salton Sea, which was about 20 miles east of where we stayed, I took advantage while everyone slept. Not a bad way to start the day.
When I got back, we made and had breakfast with our kids and friends, and set out to show our babies the Salton Sea.
My, what a difference nine years make. There is now a $7 fee to visit the Salton Sea Recreation Area. And with a vibrant visitor center, it is worth the price of admission.
As we parked and stepped out of our cars, the lack of a foul scent hit us immediately. Lots has changed... or maybe it was because we were visiting in the winter months. In any case, we were grateful, as our kids would have surely made a big stink about the stink.
And while the beaches were still littered with barnacle and fine fish bones, they were far from the barren wasteland we experienced in the past.
As a matter of fact, it was quite pleasant. Serene.
The park ranger at the visiter center told us that they even have paddle boat and kayak rentals on one of the shores of the Salton Sea; while the video we watched informed us that the Salton Sea, much like the Dead Sea, was now considered to have healing waters.
I'm not sure I believe all that jazz, but I can understand what they are trying to do here.
Even Bombay Beach, once full of ruins and remnants of once upon a time, is being given new life by artists bringing attention the the small town. The interest and expression all culminated into one big art movement called the Bombay Beach Biennale.
"The Bombay Beach Biennale is a renegade celebration of art, music, and philosophy that takes place on the literal edge of western civilization, at the shores of the Salton Sea. The Biennale, founded in 2015, transforms abandoned housing, vacant lots, and decaying shoreline into a unique canvas for creative expression. Artists, philosophers, creators and makers across many mediums donate their time and talents to the volunteer-led happening.
The Bombay Beach Biennale continues to evolve from an “art moment” to an “art movement”."
Of course, on our trip, this was news to us. We were simply taking our boys and our friends to the Bombay Beach Ruins, homes, resorts and other buildings whittled by salty winds, rotted beyond definition by triple digit temperatures.
Stumbling upon this renegade art celebrations was the icing on the cake.
Then and now, the Salton Sea was and is bustling with treasures to be explored. Then and now, its shores did not and do not disappoint. We will make this trip again and again. With family, with friends, and alone, as we did all those years ago.
The Salton Sea is a constant adventure waiting to be taken on, and we accept the challenge.
Do be aware of your surroundings. Renegade art celebrations, abandoned ruins and barren beaches do attract a certain contingent, and you may or may not see the sight of a random pink bunny riding a bicycle in the light of day. Among other things.
Whether you are a parent on not, do come prepared with drinks and snacks. To say that the local convenience store is less than fully stocked is an understatement. Run by the sweetest woman you will meet in your life, they keep it light to prevent theft and spoilage of food.
The drive to the mud volcanos is long and takes you along a long dirt road. And if you plan to make the drive, make sure you are not doing so within two weeks of the last rain, as the rains do wash away these natural wonders, and flood the areas.
Wherever your adventure to the Salton Sea takes you, enjoy. It is worth seeing at least once in your lifetime.