I needed a little mental health break yesterday. Ken and I had been talking about checking out the Salton Sea and the Imperial Valley for a while and it turned out that yesterday was the appointed day. Soon I will be back to the grind and I wanted to clear my head while I had a chance.
My friend had rented the Nikkor 200-500mm zoom telephoto lens at George's Camera the other day and wanted to put it through its paces with his Nikon D500. I wanted to capture some bird shots and see what was what. I used the Nikon D810 with the Nikkor 24-70mm 2.8 as well as the Nikon D7200 paired with the Sigma 150-600mm c for my bird shots. We talked about trading lenses but never did.
Although we had both meandered through the Imperial Valley, neither of us had ever checked out the Salton Sea in our entire lives and it was time to scratch it off the bucket list.
I met my traveling companion at the coffee shop and after getting our internal caffeine levels adjusted, got a fairly early start. I loaded up more gear than I would ever need into the back of Ken's Rav 4 and we got a move on. We took off through Julian and Pine Hills, a flock of wild turkeys ran by my side window.
We took Highway 78 down the mountain through the Banner grade. A Harlan's Hawk flew high overhead, a buteo morph I seldom encounter.
Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge, passing through an area seemingly devoid of human habitation but covered with plenty of corporate mega farms and power plants.
They gave us the lay of the land at the headquarters, the docent speaking in a deep Boston brogue and giving us our bearings.
A couple in the parking lot told us to forget the nearby observation deck and area and gave him loose directions to a better spot in the vicinity.
Your humble photographers drove hither and yon on the squarely gridded road network, sometimes on legal roads even, finally arriving at Observation deck 1 after a few turn arounds and course corrections, owing to, amongst other things, a bridge being out.
Not sure what rights I have to it but I think my lawyers can figure that part out later. Adverse possession maybe. And "the man" hasn't been real good to me lately. That's it. It's mine.
The truth was there was pretty much nobody around all day so I could have screamed and hollered all I wanted for everybody to get off my land and it honestly wouldn't have done much good. Maybe I should share?
You drive to the Salton Sea and the one thing difficult to find is the sea itself. For hours I wasn't sure it really existed. Mostly you see a bunch of ditches, marshes and sumps.
|Ross and Snow Geese|
I have literally thousands of pictures to process and you ain't getting it today. A cursory examination this morning leaves me pretty happy with my visual quarry.
|white faced ibis|
|American avocet in winter plumage|
Not to mention scads of my fellow blue herons. We took turns playing beater, trying to devise new ways to flush our birds out so we could take their picture.
Finally got a look at the Salton Sea. Meh.
Laundry, equipment, all manner of refuse lay in a loose sprawl. Sanford and Sons squared.
Ken wasn't sure if we should engage but I decided what the hell. How dangerous could it be?
Turned out to be a very affable 88 year old gent from Sitka named Captain Ron, who wintered with the other flocks in these parts.
Ron had a 100 ton merchant sea captain's license and had been flying planes of all manner since he was 16. Hardy stock, those Alaskans.
Captain Ron gave us the lay of the land. We asked about Slab City and he said to be careful, the place was so ramshackle it depressed him. We laughed to ourselves. Looking at Ron's digs that was really saying something. We drove over anyway.
Sort of like an outsider Christian playdough version of Yellow Submarine. With lots of flat tires.
It was getting gray out and a bit depressing. Old testament sort of day. Not optimal light for shooting pictures.
The artist doled out pearls of biblical wisdom to the curious tourists. I didn't stick around for my dose. Not my cup of meat.
Slab City bills itself as the last free place on earth, a big squatters encampment on the remains of an old Army camp. Burning Man without the money or the internet connections.
Acres and acres of psychedelic junk and encampments, a BNB, hostel restaurant, all donation, not sure but I don't think the last free place on earth has a currency.
Laughed when I saw a nice BMW convertible parked in front of one of the Mad Max style dwellings. A curious mix of kook and snowbird.
|Shoe Tree, Slab City|
We drove back home, stopping for a bite in Borrego Springs at Carmelitas. Great mole enchiladas. Washed an inch of dust off when I got home and into the shower.