The Salton Sea is a terrible, wonderful place. Desolate mystery meets unfathomable miracle. I’ll make the history short – The sea is the largest body of water in California, although it has not always been there.. In the early 1900s the Colorado River was diverted into a large desert basin (now the sea), and was expected to dry up. It didn’t. Thus it turned into a miracle – “A Palm Springs with a Sea!” People flocked to the latest vacation trend – homes were built. Restaurants, spas, schools. It was wonderful. But not for long. The sea turned – it became saltier than the ocean. Millions of fish were killed, the air became unbearable (especially in the 120 degree summers), and the sea flooded. People fled – apocalypse style. Literally. It’s going to be hard to explain to you. When we arrived, we drove down deserted desert roads, hoping they would lead us to the sea. They did. At first we pulled up to a desolate beach, save for about a dozen strange looking birds (it is a haven for migrating birds due to all the washed up dead fish), and a couple warning signs telling us to turn around. We walked along the beach and realized we were not walking on sand, but years old fish skeletons – nice. We came upon the eerie “town.” We saw swing sets about to fall over, lots of eviction signs – or signs the authorities had put up deeming the houses “unlivable”, boarded off, uninhabited homes. We went into a couple door-less homes. Clothes, furniture, shoes, pictures, and checkbooks were thrown around the room – as if the homeowners left in a desperate hurry. The foundation of the house was literally in pieces as if it had been hundreds of years since anybody had lived there. But there were other things like checkbooks, beer bottles, and pictures that made it seem like someone still lived there. A drawing on the wall of a woman (the same woman who had left her checkbooks behind), saying “Rest in Peace”. It was dated 10 days prior to our visit. John turned to me at this point and said, “alright, let’s get out of here.” After taking a few more pictures, I literally leaped over the aged insulation on the floor for the door – seriously, scared I was going to be left in this god-forsaken place alone. The pictures will tell the rest of the story of what we saw that day. At the edge of the town is a “mountain”. It’s called Salvation Mountain. You may recognize it and its creator from the movie Into the Wild. The man ended up stranded in the desert when his car broke down. He ended up creating this. A mountain out of straw and mud and 100,000 gallons of paint. It took him over 3o years. He still lives there – without electricity, in a trailer. We walked up to him, alone, in his car. He was laying down, resting, in the serious heat. We were the only ones there, except a younger man who seemed to be helping him keep the place clean. It’s just so eerie, the whole thing. The younger man said he lived in Wicker Park for 16 years. Our neighborhood. Makes me wonder all the crazy things we could be doing years from now. There are so many other things I want to tell you. If you’re interested, I’ll link to a phenomenal video about the sea at the bottom of this post. Enjoy.
Watch the video that inspired our trip HERE.