As a Californian, I have seen quite a bit of the state at this point. Recently, against the advice of fellow travelers, I had taken great interest in the post-apocalyptic bizarre sites that Cali has to offer. It is worth noting that, in general, I have this really bad habit of not listening to people. What I mean by this is that if someone tells me that I should not visit a particular place, well, that only makes me want to go more and prove the nay-sayers wrong. This attitude pretty much explains why I spent a month in India a few years back. It also brings up the question of why I recently visited the Salton Sea.
If anyone has ever described this odd place to you then you have most likely heard sentence after sentence of "its creepy" or, in the words of my waiter in Palm Springs, "bring a weapon." All of my conversations about California's inland sea were met with the same sentiment: "don't go." Naturally, I went anyway. At first glance, I thought to myself: 'I don't know what everyone else is talking about. This isn't so bad.' Then, as I got closer to the water (around the moment in the photo below) I realized: 'OHHH. It is that bad.' Right after I snapped this shot, I looked down at the ground which is when I realized that I was not standing on sand. I was poised atop years and years of dry, smelly bones. Awesome....
Today, the lake has a salinity level 25% high than the Pacific Ocean and no body (or fish) is into that kind of life. In fact, now, the entire "beach" is made up of small decomposed barnacles and bone fragments as a result of the salinity levels killing off anything that once lived in the lake. And that situation smells bad. Really. Really. Really. BAD. I had not smelled anything that bad since I visited the animal tannery in Fes, Morocco and that was definitely the worst smell of my life. The Salton Sea is a solid rival. In fact, in Joshua Tree residents have reported the air smelling of dead fish... 47 miles away! (Ohhh, no mam!) Of course, I learned all of this after this little expedition. Again, awesome...
It is honestly really difficult to believe that this used to be a thriving community called the "French Riviera of California" where weekends were spent at yacht clubs and afternoons were filled with drinks and boat races. (Read More about the Histor-sea here.) Now, the Salton Basin is nearly completely abandoned and the surrounding area is referred to as "Slab City." You might remember this area from "Into the Wild." Kristen Stewart's character and her family lived in a camper in Slab City. I drove around Slab City and would have photos to share; but I did not feel particularly safe; and, well... I chose life.
Much to my dismay, a few people still "vacation" along the shores of the Salton Sea and literally trudge through dead fish to get into the water. Now, I grew up water skiing in Alligator Alley in south Louisiana. I am accustomed to brown water filled with scary things, but this is on a whole other level of "No thanks, I'll stay on shore. Oh wait the shore is made up of millions of dead animal particles. Not a problem, I'll be in the car."
Even still, I wouldn't say it is the dirtiest or smelliest place I have been. But, it certainly wasn't the prettiest. Strangely enough, the photos make it look more captivating than it is in real life. We will have to wait until the release of the iPhone 457 S that can capture smells in order for everyone to fully grasp this Salton Sea experience. Until then, my advice on planning a trip to this part of Cali is that the International Banana Museum you pass on the way into this area might be the better "vacation" stop option.
There you have it. Not all adventures are fan-freaking-tastic. I set out to prove everyone wrong, but turns out this place is just a whole lot of "no thanks."