Practice Mission #3: Operation Restore Confidence

This week we completed practice mission #3 from Salt Creek Beach to Bombay Beach.  The objective was to restore confidence after the near-tragic previous mission and test out some new tactics. This was a make-or-break mission. If we could not complete this mission in better shape than the previous, we would have to rethink the entire adventure, including the possibility of a full abort.

The plan was to make the 10 mile trek from Salt Creek Beach south to Bombay, scouting any water-refill locations and mapping any hazards.  The biggest difference between the previous mission and this one would be mandatory rest stops every 1.5 hours which included actually sitting down to rest the legs and feet as well as using the water to cool off.  We would also be consuming “gels”, Gatorade, Nuun water, and Salt Sticks to keep our electrolyte levels in check, all things that we neglected to do on the previous mission.  Of course we would also be enjoying anything bizarre or interesting that we happen to come across, and as with every Salton Sea mission so far, we came across plenty.

Corvina Estates

Not even two miles south of Salt Creek beach we hit Corvina Estates, a run-down mobile home park.  I’ve driven by Corvina Estates a dozen times on Highway 111 and from what I have seen from the road I didn’t expect much but as always Salton Sea did not let us down!

Corvina Estates is private property, and from the road it doesn’t look like much. Since it’s roughly 2 miles south of Salt Creek and 8 miles north of Bombay Beach, most people probably never get to see what it hides: A private marina, complete with private boat slips.

picture of the Corvina Estates Marina at Salton Sea

Of course the marina was nothing more than a puddle, and the shoreline had receded to at least 100 yards away.  It was amazing to look at the walls that indicated how high the water level had previously been.

The marina was complete with a dozen or so private boat slips which today were nothing more than rotting reminders of things gone wrong.

Boat-parking

Boat-parking

Further north were several boats, stranded in the desert like something out of a scene from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

boats-in-desert

Cool Down Breaks

As planned we walked another mile or two before our mandatory rest and cool-down.  The beach was much easier to walk on than on the previous mission 10 miles north. The depth of barnacles was much less requiring far less energy.  Neither of us were tired or even felt hot, but we took our mandatory break as planned.

Swimming in Salton Sea

Part of the plan was to get over our squeamishness about going into the water and find out how effective a swim in the water would be at cooling us down.  I have swam (or, is it swum?) in the water of Salton Sea hundreds of times, but the last time was over 35 years ago.  Since then the salinity has increased 3X and there has been a lot more time for all the rumored sewage from Mexico to flow in.  From what I’ve read, the rumors of raw sewage from Mexico flowing into Salton Sea are greatly exaggerated if not outright false, and the salt levels kill virtually all bacteria.  According to all official published accounts, swimming in Salton Sea is perfectly safe.

We found a clean looking spot to take our first swim, but Blake was not convinced:

 

blake-in-salton-sea

Blake is not sure it’s a good idea

But, Blake being the brave soul that he is pushed aside his fears. Before I realized it, he was floating in the water yelling about how great it felt.

Blake floating in Salton Sea

Just like Hawaii – almost

Next it was my turn.  My plan was to wade out until the water was deep enough and jump in for a full-on swim.  My plans began to change after my second step into the water as the mud sucked-off my shoe.  I trudged onward, but by the time I was 20 or 30 yards out the water was only 2 or 3 feet deep and my feet were sinking into the mud up to my knees. The further out I went the deeper the mud got and it was getting a bit dangerous.  I decided to try to do a Nestea “Plunge”, but that didn’t work out like I planned either.

Watch the video that shows me waddling in the mud and proves you can swim in Salton Sea:

The water temperature was around 80°F but with an air temperature of 107°F it still felt good. With the breeze the cooling evaporating effect felt like an air-conditioner.  Cool-down swims are our new favorite thing!

Bombay Beach

We continued the trek for several more miles, taking more cool-down breaks until the Bombay Beach shanty-town came into view.  Despite going 2 miles further than the last mission, the cool-down breaks, gels, Salt Sticks and Gatorade had worked.  Blake and I both felt good enough to grab a quick bite to eat at the best restaurant in Bombay Beach, The Ski Inn.

Blake ordered the world famous Patty Melt, and I ordered a cheeseburger.  The food was good and the cold drinks were cold, but the look of depression or desperation was showing on the owner’s face.  We were the only customers for almost an hour when we were joined by a small group from Switzerland.  We exchanged pleasantries, they followed us on Instagram, and we went on our way.

Success!

Practice mission number 3 was a success.  Confidence is restored, and we can’t wait for the next mission.

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