Monday, January 17, 2011

Rest, Relaxation, and Rejuvenation in the Desert

We're back from a fabulous 3-day weekend on the north shore of the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea sits at 224 feet below sea level - meaning it's blisteringly hot during the summer, but during the winter it's one of my favorite places.  We left Friday afternoon, and took the drive east on I-10 to the 86S, and where it crosses over the 111, we got off and went south on the 111 about 9 miles to the Headquarters Campground.  This is a state recreation area - but the full hookup sites here are only $30 - and since Don's now a real senior citizen, we paid $28 for each night.  The 15 sites sit in a row at the upper end of a huge parking lot - which never has more than 2-3 cars parked in it, usually none - with a breathtaking view of the Salton Sea and the Santa Rosa Mountains to the west.   There's a well-used train track that runs along the highway behind us, and the trains pass dozens of times each day, both north- and south-bound. Don and I have differing opinions about it. I like it - the rumbling, rumbling, rumbling as it approaches, the horn that sounds as it approaches a nearby crossing - but Don says it bothers him.  He's said that he'll put up with it for my sake. 

There are several other state campgrounds along the north and east shore of the Salton Sea, but they don't have hookups.  Mecca Beach Campground has a dump station, though.  Corvina Beach and Salt Creek Campgrounds are laid out in a long line along the beach, and you pull in to your site parallel to the road. Mecca Beach is a loop. If I were camping without hookups I'd pick the two along the beach.

Don went fishing after we got set up - the Salton Sea is crammed full of tilapia, corvina, sargo, and croaker - but none of them were biting. Dinner Friday night was simple - grilled cheese and soup - and we then went outside to enjoy the sunset.

Friday night's sunset. The structures along the water's edge are picnic cabanas.

Saturday morning's sunrise.

Saturday morning we were up before the sun, since we wanted to see the sunrise.  Not only did we see that, but we were treated to the sounds of thousands of birds - seagulls, doves, egrets, and many many more that I can't name. (Sometimes I regret not getting into birding, but I've had many other passions in my life and just can't add another one at this stage!)  We sat for an hour, enjoying our coffee and the view of the sea.

After a breakfast of waffles and sausage, we decided to take a hike.  The camp host had given us a little sheet of things to do in the area, and one of them was a hike into Painted Canyon in the Mecca Hills Wilderness.  I had no idea either existed. We drove back up the 111 to Mecca, then took Box Canyon Road east out of Mecca to the turnoff for Painted Canyon Road.  That road was only graded this past week - many parts of it had washed out after the winter storms.  This area has some twisted and turned rocks and hills due to its location along the southern end of the San Andreas Fault. 

The Mecca Hills

Our road was going to end up in the far left of the picture, between the very low light hills and the higher dark hills.
When we got into the canyon, we hit a very sandy patch in the road - the truck bogged down, and Don was worried we were going to get stuck. Our truck is light in the rear and is not 4WD, so getting stuck in the sand was a strong possibility. He backed up onto a solid piece of ground to the side of the road, and we decided to hike from there.   We noticed several places set aside for 14-day camping, but saw only some young men with their tents. This would make a great boondocking spot if you could get past the sandy portion of the road.

Some of the rock layers that are standing on end in this part of the canyon.

The view back west, down the canyon. The tallest peak to the right is Santa Rosa Peak. It's at the center of its own wilderness.

Looking east up Painted Canyon as we began our hike.

The canyon begins to narrow.

As we hiked up the canyon, we were passed by about 4 Jeeps, trucks, and cars. About 2 miles in, we arrived at the parking area for Painted Canyon. There were already 5-6 vehicles there.  From this point, according to a sign at the entrance to this part of the canyon, you're in the Mecca Hills Wilderness.

A pair of hikers heads into the narrows.


Yours truly!

As we continued towards the narrower part of the canyon, I developed a pretty painful tug in my right groin, and we were forced to turn around since we knew we had a pretty good hike back to the truck.  (That groin pull is still pretty tender - I have to lift my thigh with my hand if I want to raise my leg.  That's what I get for being out of shape!)

On the way back, I was drawn to this area of greenery - and discovered a seep (small spring) at the base of the canyon wall.

We made it back to the campground in time for the two football games - and since I really wasn't interested in the first one, I decided to go in search of the closest geocache I could find. This one was called Bob Uker Seats.  It was located at the Mecca Beach Campground, in the rear of the outdoor amphitheater.  It was hidden under a bush.

The general area of the cache.

The cache is back in those bushes!

After locating the cache and submitting my "find" report, I came back to the trailer and watched the football games with Don.  Dinner was a treat - steak, dilled new potatoes, and peas. 

Sunday morning again found us enjoying the sunrise with our coffee, and Don pointed out how the sun was hitting "our" mountains.  We live up in the ones in the picture below - and believe me, we were glad to be leaving that snow behind for the weekend!

Sunday morning's sun hits the San Bernardino Mountains

Breakfast was biscuits and gravy - I had to use up the other half of the package of Jimmy Dean. Since the football game was coming on earlier than the day before, I told Don he didn't have to go with me on the morning's exploration. I had heard about the mud pots and mud volcanoes, and had go find them.

First, I went south on the 111 about 26 miles to the Wister Waterfowl Managment Area - turned right and headed towards the Salton Sea. I saw the small "Mud Pots" sign, and followed the road to where it ended.

"Boiling mud? Actually, it's carbon dioxide gas rising from below the water table. Mud pots are vent points and they tend to occur along the earthquake faults which run through this valley. Look for them along this field between here and the Salton Sea."

View from the parking area.  Two large and one small hole.

This one, which was quiet while I was there, showed signs of recent activity.

This one appeared to have been dormant for a while.
So, I was a bit disappointed that the mud pots weren't bubbling. I'd seen a couple videos of them on YouTube, and was hoping to see them in action.  Oh well.

From there I headed south in search of the Mud Volcanoes. I found them - but you can't get close to them since they're surrounded by a deep canal and then a field of mud. 

Here's a very well-done video of the Mud Volcanoes:

The Mud Volcanoes
I made it back in time to watch most of the football games with Don - way to go, Jets! - and then we enjoyed some barbecued chicken and yet another gorgeous sunset.

The colors darken in the eastern sky

I was able to capture the moon in this one

I can't get enough!

Love the red glows in the western sky

Last one.  
This morning we enjoyed our last sunrise, then a breakfast of corned beef hash and eggs.  We were packed up and on the road by 9, and made it home in time for lunch.  There's still snow on the ground here, but it was 55˚, so it continues to melt.  Inside the house it was 48˚ - the heater ran for a long time to warm it up, and now Don has a nice fire going. Back to work tomorrow!


Merikay said...

Your lucky you can go out camping for a short weekend once in awhile. We just worked around the house as usual this weekend!

Lynilu said...

Wow, those are gorgeous pictures! It looks like you had a marvelous place to R&R. I'm jealous!

Rick said...

You sure managed to pack a lot of great hikes and sight seeing into one short weekend. The pictures of the canyon, sunsets, sunrise and the vistas are all spectacular.

I hadn't hear of those mud pots before, I may have to check those out sometime.

K and D in the RV said...

Beautiful sunset pictures - good job! THe mudpots will be added to our list!

Sondra said...

WOW you packed a lot into that weekend!! What a beautiful spot to explore. Sorry bout the groin pull I did that getting into my Blazer a yr ago and it still gives me trouble! Its pretty high off the ground and I reached too far-
YOUR photos are excellent! I really love the sun hitting the San Bernadinos...and the sunsets great stuff! Birding is great at any age, and the best part is you can bird everywhere and anywhere- in town in a refuge at home, from your bedroom window--I think you would really enjoy it!

Travels with Emma said...

What a great weekend trip. Thanks for taking us along. :)

heyduke50 said...

one of the spots on my hitlist you shared here... thanks.

Rustedgranny said...

Sunrise, Sunset. Impossible to see too many. Your photos are breathtaking! Have added canyon and mudpots to my "must visit" list. Thank you for the tour guide..keep 'em coming.

Chuck and Anneke's RV travels said...

What a great area, we will have to add that to our list. Thanks for the tour.

On Da Road said...

Beautiful pics. I might have to head down that way when I leave the Palm Springs area. Thanks for the post!