Hello everyone! Blake here – just got back into LA after my first scouting trip to the Salton Sea and figured I’d share my musings. I had the pleasure of meeting Randy, in person for the first time, at the North Shore Yacht Club (which as a quick aside, is by comparison a strikingly modern building on a stretch of Route 111 that is otherwise littered with abandoned structures of dubious purpose, mobile homes and a smattering of fish & bait and liquor stores in various states of decay). The Yacht Club, as I understand, sat abandoned from the 1980’s until a 30 million dollar facelift was completed in 2010. There were however, no yachts in immediate sight – my guess is that “yacht club” is more of a vintage term, harkening back to the sea’s golden era, before speculators fled town, before runaway salinity, when major hollywood celebs spent long weekends soaking in the Salton, when there were yachts.
Speaking with Randy, I fished for his exact plan of attack – I had anticipated a 10-15 mile hike, which from the comfort of an air conditioned apartment sounds innocuous, however after arriving, after stepping foot into the great boiling pan that is the Salton Sink, seemed significantly more monumental than initially thought. Randy noticed that I was carrying a gallon of water in hand (a habit that came about on my annual hike to the San Jacinto peak), in addition to the 3 liters in my Camelbak and remarked that my supply may be overkill. Said gallon may have ended up saving Randy a potentially life-saving trip through the brush to highway 111 to frantically flag down help from a passer-by.
The first few miles up the coast were a breeze, as literally the breeze from the putrid sea helped temper the now near triple-digit heat. We crossed several irrigation channels (7 in total), each one increasingly wide and difficult to cross. The first time my feet got wet felt like tragedy, however as the hike wore on, it became commonplace, then as heat-stroke set in, refreshing. Randy noticed that the Sea was jet-black in color, as if an oil tanker had run-aground several miles to the south and we were witnessing the fallout. The color was more likely due in part to some geographic feature of that specific stretch of coast that neither Randy nor I could explain.
Upon reaching an irrigation channel which required a hike inland to circumvent, and conveniently where my camelback ran dry, we turned around, figuring the return trip would be only slightly more grueling than the semi-uncomfortable first leg. I noticed that the brush was covered in spider webbing, with golf-ball-sized holes for arachnid entry & exit – as if out of a scene from the 1990 Jeff Daniels’ movie Arachnophobia. From my brief research, only one specific type of spider would necessitate such a gaping hole – America’s favorite, hand-sized nightmare.
Frantically checking to make sure my pack was free of hitchhiking creatures, we trudged through the 6-inch-deep “sand”, composed of barnacle & fish-bone remnants. A mile or so into the return hike is when the telltale signs of heat-stroke began to set in. With Randy’s GPS reminding us that we had 2 miles remaining, I felt uneasy, extrapolating how bad I would feel with each consecutive mile. I found some solace, in a somewhat sadistic fashion, knowing that Randy was in as much pain as I; at least my discomfort wasn’t an outlier and so perhaps I was not as mis-adjusted to the furnace-like conditions as my increasingly-delirious mind had deduced. Disturbingly, it was not a lack of water or nourishment that lead to feeling like utter shit, as I religiously gulped my now luke-warm water, but rather the weather conditions over which I had no control whatsoever. Upon returning to the car, which I had hoped was not a mirage, Randy and I sat motionless in disbelief, replenishing fluids and struggling to comprehend how we would hike more than twice that distance in a day, for perhaps 6 or more consecutive days, in a heat perhaps 20 degrees warmer.