Our first stop was Rock Hill Trail – a short walk on the southern edge of Salton Sea. (It was on the way here that we met standstill traffic due to construction.) Once we arrived, Charlie and I took a moment to have some breakfast (0630 is too early for either of us, really). We took a look around the wildlife refuge, read a sign or two, and found the observation deck. Sight-seeing for the lazy. 😉 The scenery was a bit underwhelming and the dirt trail was like walking through finely sifted flour, so we kept to the observation deck for a few pictures before carrying on.
Slab City. This is one of the destinations you should Google. It looked creepy to me online and my opinion didn’t change in person. To be honest, I don’t really get it. I assumed it was just going to be old, abandoned buildings and miscellaneous pieces of art. It wasn’t. There were plenty of abandoned structures and spray-painted buildings but, it seems, Slab City is really more of an eclectic RV/mobile home community. The homesites were in different states of destruction/decay and, from the looks of them, I’m pretty sure most of the RV’s don’t run anymore. As I drove around, I saw individuals and families that clearly lived in some of these homes. Do these people also work nearby? Where do they get their food & supplies? Are the kids homeschooled or do they go to school? I don’t know. The pieces of art were creative, for sure, but once I realized these were homes, I didn’t feel comfortable walking around and snapping pictures through what was essentially their front yards.
Mixed into Slab City is a spot called Salvation Mountain. It looks like a big dirt hill that has been paper-mached and painted. The bright colors definitely drew people in. It was a sight to behold. I particularly enjoyed the old Ford pickup truck and the bulldozer decorated with hearts. While I was there, it seemed another group was out for a photoshoot or making a video of some sort. They had climbed to the top of the mountain with umbrellas as parasols. More eager to continue on than to watch what was happening, I hopped back in the car and Charlie & I were off to the next stop.
Bombay Beach is on the eastern shore of Salton Sea. I had seen several pictures online showing a beautiful, empty beach with blue water and a blue sky. As a result, I had planned to stop at Bombay Beach for awhile. I wanted to enjoy a picnic lunch, let Charlie stretch his legs, and snap some photos of the stunning blue scene. Well, the thing about Bombay Beach is that it is set in an area not too different feeling from Slab City. I know some of the homes were still occupied, but had you told me the entire town had been evacuated a few decades before, I would have believed you. Boarded up windows and graffiti decorated many of the lots. The area also smelled. For reals, it is a bit stinky. I drove to a few spots along the beach, jumped out of the car long enough to snap a few photographs, and hopped right back in.
I’m not saying any of these stops weren’t worth seeing…but I didn’t feel the need to dedicate anywhere near the amount of time I had set aside for each location. Oh well. Live and learn. There were thunderstorms on the horizon all morning, so I was pretty eager to head to our resting place for the night: Joshua Tree National Park!
After driving through scattered showers, I arrived at Black Rock Canyon Campground and was greeted by views of storm clouds and a rainbow. That’ll do. 🙂 I checked in with the park staff and gave myself a tour of the available campsites. Once I decided on the perfect spot (site #82, if you’re wondering), I went to work setting up my tent. Apparently it is a good idea to test out your gear before you hit the road/trail. I’m one that likes to carve out my own path and do things my own way, so I didn’t do that. Plus, I knew from my shopping trips that my tent is super easy to set up. What I didn’t know (because I didn’t practice and no one told me) was that the stakes that come with the tent are less than ideal (read: little pieces of crap) and that I should have packed a hammer or mallet. I had this idea that I would be able to use a boot and effortlessly anchor the tiny stakes in the ground. I was wrong.
The staff had told me to come back if I had any trouble getting my stakes into the ground. It was like I had ‘newbie’ written all over me and they knew I’d be ‘up a creek’ on my own. Charlie and I walked back down to the visitor center to request assistance. Back at my campsite, I was met by Bill and Jan, the camp hosts. Bill took one look at my piddly stakes and went to get sturdy ones of his own for me to use for the night. He then proceeded to anchor all the stakes for me, ensuring my rainfly was snugly fastened and that Kokomo (my tent) wouldn’t float away in the impending storm. Bill and Jan let me know they’d be by in the morning to help get the stakes back out of the ground (that’s how securely I was anchored!) and that I should knock on their RV door if I was ready to leave before they’d made their rounds. Shortly after they departed, the rain began to fall again. Hard. Hurriedly, I climbed into the tent and gave a gentle tug on Charlie’s leash for him to join me and take shelter from the storm.
Camping in a thunderstorm isn’t exactly how I envisioned my first night to go. On the upside, I have decided that if I can make it through tonight, I’ll be good to go for the remainder of the trip. 🙂 Fingers crossed and floaties on!