On the last day of the Boondocking Rally we bid farewell to most of our friends, old and new, and made our way back to La Paz Valley Campground with Bill and Kelly. Bill is now doing solar installs for RV Solar Solutions and he had an install following the rally. We stayed for four days just chilling until he was finished, then we headed off for a Southern California adventure!
Since we had all signed up to attend the RV-Dreams Reunion Rally in Pahrump, Nevada, (I know, right? Two rallies in a row!) we had about ten days to wander around. For us it was an opportunity to introduce Bill and Kelly to one of our most favorite places - Borrego Springs, CA. They were game for whatever, so we planned a few epic day trips to show them just a bit of what there is to see and do in this area and then they would know why we love it so much. We were very excited!
As Bill finished up his install at La Paz, Steven and I set off for Rockhouse Trail, one of our favorite boondocking places in Borrego. We scouted spots for our stay and before long, Bill and Kelly arrived and joined us. We had a perfect campsite with views all around us. You cannot beat Rockhouse Trail for boondocking! In fact, this is the first place we actually spent significant time after we got our solar, so we really earned our boondocking chops in this very spot!
But it's special to us for so many more reasons, not the least of which is that there is so much to do in the area!
Our fabulous site along Rockhouse Trail.
Dramatic sunset as seen from our campsite in Borrego Springs.
On our first day we headed over the hills to Temecula to hit up the farmer's market and stroll through the cute Old Town area. We also met our daughter Tara, who drove from her home in San Diego, for a proper St. Paddy's Day lunch.
The Temecula Farmers Market is small but mighty. A couple of years ago I bought a pineapple plant - I named her Pinelope -- and I really loved her. Sadly, she didn't last long and I have been on the hunt for a new one ever since. Twice I've been back to the farmer's market in Temecula in hopes of a replacement. Alas, no such luck. The plant guy seems to have disappeared! In spite of that, we found plenty of other great stuff to buy, which we did before we settled in for a yummy lunch at E.A.T. in Old Town.
The next day we stayed close to home. The scenery around Rockhouse Trail is just spectacular and we wanted to make sure we took the time to just chill and enjoy our surroundings. We took a hike into the nearby hills to find the stone snake, (not to be confused with the metal serpent, which we also visited) There is no marked path to the snake, but visiting it on your first stay at here is a rite of passage. You can actually see the snake on Google Earth, so in case you never find your way to the Borrego Springs area, here are the coordinates: 3.300654, -116.293109.
After our hike we headed into town for lunch at Jillbertos. Also a must-do in Borrego, Jullberto's has fabulous Mexican dishes at very reasonable prices. We love eating there! We spent the rest of the day just tooling around town and then relaxing outside with happy hour and a little campfire in a can. :)
In anticipation of a longish day away from camp, we packed a lunch on Day 3 and headed out for a tour around the Salton Sea. The sea itself is fascinating, having had some success as a resort area in the 1950s. Today, most of the settlements have been abandoned, mostly due to the increasing salinity and pollution of the lake over the years from agricultural runoff.
Massive algae blooms deprived the fish of oxygen and they died by the tens of thousands. Algae blooms, rotting fish and pollutants cause a horrible stench and of course no trip to the Salton Sea is complete without experiencing the smell and the crunch of bones under your feet!
Our first stop of the day was in Westmoreland for a fabulous Medjool date shake! I didn't have one, but the others all agreed it was the best they ever had. Rich and creamy, loaded with dates for which the Palm Springs and surrounding areas are famous!
Our next stop was the Sonny Bono Salton Sea Wildlife Refuge. I am trying to find something positive to say about this place, but we managed to visit in the offseason when there was no wildlife needing refuge. So we walked a long way in the hot sun to see nothing. Well, we had a great view of the Salton Sea, so there's that. But we all quickly agreed to move on to our next destination, The Slabs.
"Slabs" refer to the remnants of an old military installation long abandoned located about four miles outside of Niland, CA. It has become, at least in the cooler months of the year, a community of snowbirds, squatters, artists and others looking to live off the grid. Maybe there are a few lost souls. And then there are folks like us, who come here to gawk. I personally wouldn't come here to spend any time camping, but it's a fabulous place for a day trip.
As you approach the Slabs, there on the right is Salvation Mountain. At 150 feet wide by 50 feet tall, it's really more of a painted mound. It's built from hay bales, adobe, window putty, and paint. Lots and lots of paint. Until recently, visitors were encouraged to donate paint and add a slap or two onto the mountain if they so desired, but lately that has become discouraged. I can say that from the time we first visited here in the fall of 2015 until now, the color of the mountain has changed significantly. So there's still some serious paintin' going on!
Kelly, Bill and I managed to crawl to the top and back down, via the painted yellow steps, which for non-climbers seemed kind of daring! Steven stayed at the bottom to take pictures, most of which he is not allowed to share. Behind every great photographer is a wife with veto powers. :)
From Salvation Mountain we wound our way further into the Slabs to a section called East Jesus. An artistic community run exclusively on solar power, residents here attempt to reuse and recycle all manner of trash and discarded detritus. Everything from old cars to doll parts are put to good use here.
In 2015 Steven was given a behind-the-scenes tour of the residential section of East Jesus and was shown the massive solar and battery array, which is substantial enough to run multiple air conditioners in the hot months. There was also a human skull, apparently. I didn't see all this, I stayed in the running car in case we needed to make a quick getaway. Actually, I just kept it running to I could stay cool. :)
The Slabs is not everyone's cup of tea, but I think it's worth visiting even if it makes you (me) slightly uncomfortable. It was just as interesting on our second trip here as it was the first time!
By this time we were starving so we made a beeline north along the shore to the Salton Sea Recreation Area to eat our picnic lunch. It was a perfect lunch spot to nosh as we gazed out on the seemingly beautiful blue waters of the Salton Sea. Oh, how deceiving!
A few more miles north and we turned into the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club. Sounds so inviting, right? The "beach" is covered in dead and decayed fish carcasses, bones bleached white and brittle by the unrelenting sun. And the smell!! Dead fish and polluted waters permeate the air to the point that it's impossible to linger. So back to the car we went, and finished off our day with happy hour back at camp!
As you can see, this was an all-day affair, and it's one of my favorite day trips. We did nearly 180 miles in seven hours and took in a good portion of all there is to see and experience around the Salton Sea. It's an amazing place!
On our last day in Borrego Springs we decided to keep it low key, so we traveled to the little mountain town of Julian. Surrounded by apple orchards, Julian is famous for its apple pies and is also a stop for those hardy folks hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. Apple pie is good trail magic, right? Signs in store windows made it clear hikers were welcome in Julian.
Since my birthday was spent in Quartzsite, an area not known for it's shopping options, Steven spied and surreptitiously purchased a cute little ceramic chicken for me in Julian. Until last year, we have always traveled with a chicken, but decided to leave it with my Mom last year. So now we have a new one! YAY!
These five days in Borrego Springs are some of my favorite since we've been traveling. It's great to return to places we love, but especially so when we can share it with others who also come to love it, too.
NEXT UP: Friends in Indio, Palm Springs and yet another 911 call.