Saturday, February 6, 2016

After the Salton Sea: Washing up & Reflecting

Standing atop Rocky Hill at the southern end of the Salton Sea
 We finished our counter-clockwise loop of the Salton Sea on Wednesday afternoon, nearly 8 days after we had started off from the same location, Obsidian Butte, on the south end of the Salton Sea. These 8 days included 6 full days of paddling and 49 hours of lay-over due to wind and ensuing dust storms. We had a delightful time. I am grateful that we got to explore this incredible body of water and see birds in numbers I never had before.
One of the more amazing daily occurrences was being surrounded by clouds of 1,000+ birds circling overhead, creating ripples on the water and an audible sound of beating wings. We never did get pooped on as the birds seemed to prefer not being directly above us. I wondered if this behavior was a protective measure that they've learned to help them avoid the shots of duck hunters.

Upon landing at Obsidian Butte, our after-adventure work began. I used a gallon of fresh water and a rag to thoroughly wash the interior and exterior of our boat. This was to remove the salt deposits that had built up. We later drove to Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge visitor center where we used their fresh-water & hose to spray off our sail and all its rigging, our life jackets and kayaking skirts and our paddles. The items were remarkably "clean" of dirt and grime, yet covered in salt deposits. The visitor center provided a delightful bit of shade and water in which to rehydrate ourselves. I continue to be amazed at how quickly my skin and internal body get parched.

After resting a bit, we walked the 1 mile path to the top of Rock Hill, where we were provided with a gorgeous view of the whole Salton Sea. We were seeing the Sea in new ways now, recognizing the various rocks and mountains and low areas around its perimeter as places where we had camped or come ashore for other reasons. The Salton Sea felt like it was ours, a place that we would now gladly claim and for which we would advocate. We had not found the Sea to be an ecological nightmare, or a post-apocalyptic setting. Instead, we had found it to be teeming with life and beauty. Yes, there were dead fish (water temperature gets too low in the winter for the tropical tilapia fish that inhabit the lake) and the water is exceptionally salty. It is not a dead sea, though. There were plenty of places to camp all around the sea, and ample resupply locations for both food and water. We even had three restaurant meals at various locations around the Sea - Bombay Beach, Desert Shores and Salton City.

Gorgeous view of the Salton Sea looking north from Rocky Hill, part of the Sonny Bono National Wildlife Refuge

Plant life near inflowing "American River" at southern end of Salton Sea
We are grateful to have found a place to have spent a delightful week on the water. I would highly recommend the Salton Sea to experienced sea and lake kayakers looking for somewhere to spend a week in the winter. I'd be happy to help out with information on resupply and camping spots.

I want to send out a set of thank yous to a few local people who helped us have a joyous and successful paddle trip. We met "Popeye" / David in Bombay Beach. He lived in a sailboat on the Salton Sea for the first half of 2014 and thus was able to provide us with a plentitude of information on the sea, including the make up of the shore at various spots around the water and stores with food. Another huge gratitude to Gary & Roxanne of Ray & Carol's Motel in Salton City. Gary offered to drive out along highway 86 to pick us up and bring us back to his motel for the night, with stops along the way to resupply on food and a giant breakfast burrito, courtesy of the Taqueria in the Salton City AMPM. The next morning, Gary & Roxanne drove us back to within 2 miles of our kayak with all of our necessary supplies for the following 2 days of paddling. This included 4.5 gallons of water, so we were especially grateful for them getting us two miles closer than the highway!

Gary "introduced us" to a fellow Salton City dweller, Kerry F. Morrison, by way to telephone. Kerry runs Ecomedia Compass and the Save our Sea Foundation. When Reed & I finished our paddle of the Sea, we were able to connect with Kerry in person at the headquarters. We made a short video of our experience on the Salton Sea, which they'll be editing and will hopefully be available in a few weeks. They're doing exceptional work towards rehabilitating the Salton Sea. One of their proposals is to bring water from the Sea of Cortez into the Salton Sea in order to keep water levels from dropping any lower. In order to bring awareness to this idea, they'll be doing a "Sea to Sea" hike this fall, 130 miles from the Salton Sea to the Sea of Cortez.

It sounds awesome, and it's got me wondering if it would be possible and reasonable for Reed & I to come back down to southern California after our season of work at Denali. There's nothing quite as motivating to me as a hike, and this one is on an exploratory route and for a cause! We may be back... I hope so.

We love the Salton Sea!
Sunset & Birds on our last night camping shoreside of the Salton Sea

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