Mar 012015

An inexpensive place to camp along an unusual environment and take in a little birding at the Salton Sea turned into three days of changing light and colors.

Truck campers at Salton Sea California 1996 & 2015Note the matching mountain horizon

After chasing for wildflowers and hiking a slot canyon it was time to move on from Anza-Borrego.  I drove in a U from the west, around the north end of one of the worlds largest inland seas, to the eastern side where the Salton Sea State Recreation Area spans 14 miles of shoreline.  Stopped at the first and northern most camp but didn’t like the idea of paying $20 to dry camp in a parking lot or $30 in the same lot with hookups and a couple trees.  The visitor center wasn’t open so down the road I went and the next option wasn’t any better.  Almost 20 years ago I camped along the sea close to the shore and was thinking that area may have been developed so thought about bagging it completely but then continued south another couple miles on CA111 to the next option.

Train Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaCorvina Beach is $10/night, less if you’re a senior over 62 which I’m not quite, and it offers toilets, cold showers and parking along a strip of gravel road overlooking the sea with the Santa Maria Mountains across the way.  It was WINDY when I pulled in which I expected because the entire drive from Anza-Borrego had been a knuckler as gusts tried to push me off the road.  The down side of this camp is being within a couple hundred yards of the highway, which thank goodness doesn’t have too much night traffic, and a paralleling rail line with trains running pretty regularly.  Plus it’s a single track with a nearby siding where one train waits for the other then has to rev up the engine to get moving again.  But all worth it for the birds.

White pelican, brown pelicans, great blue heron & great egret Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaWhite pelican, Brown pelicans, Great blue heron, & Great egret with White pelican & Gull (don’t know which one)

As soon as I was level I jumped inside to get out of the wind and immediately began bird watching, through the window.  American White Pelicans displayed their breeding horns and Brown Pelicans their colors, white, blue and green herons, lots of Seagulls and even some Grebes.  The smaller of my cameras has 60x zoom which I can’t possibly hold still enough to use.  Eventually I broke down and got the tripod out but then discover it’s not easy to take bird photos from a stationary position.  Then add the bouncing and bobbing on rough wind blown waters.

Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaThe next morning the water was almost as smooth as glass.  I at first thought to stay only one night but became intrigued enough I stayed for three.  So I walked down the road to the Iron Ranger to pay and then came back on the beach.  If you can call this a beach.  It’s a blinding white color of exo and not so exoskeletons of whatever is living and dying in the sea.  It’s like walking on very course sand with a crunching sound as if stepping on broken fine china.

Broken bone beach Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaWave-cut shorelines along the hillsides indicate this basin has been occupied by both fresh and salt water lakes in the geologic past.  Yet the current sea was created by accident when the Colorado River breached a levee along an irrigation canal flooding into the dry lake bed, for two years before engineers stopped the flow in 1907 and washed out a portion of railroad line between Los Angels and Tucson.  The end result was a 45 by 20 mile body of water which became a recreational haven for boating and fishing during the 1950s when the sea was stocked with fish from the Gulf of California.  Yet with no natural outlet, or inlet except for agricultural chemical runoff, the sea soon exceeded ocean salinity causing the die-off of fresh water species.  Within 20 years boom towns became ghost towns.  The “beach”, made up the crushed bones of dead fish, become odorous and unpleasant in the high heat of summer.

Gulls, Brown pelicans & Great egret Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaHowever, the sea has been called a “crown jewel of avian biodiversity” located along a major flyway with over 400 documented resident and migratory bird species and supports a large population of American White Pelicans.  And I saw hundreds of them along with Brown Pelicans which the host told me are usually gone from the area by the end of November.

Brown & white pelicans & gulls Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaDuring mid-day lines of brown and white pelicans lounged at the water’s edge along with some seagulls.  Although the brown and white groups clustered together I found it interesting that they hung out next to each other.  In the gap between beached groups a couple of white pelicans would float along interspersed with gulls and obviously fishing.  In fact when a gull would dive into the water every bird within 20 feet descended for a hopeful piece of the catch.  Seagulls are such a competitive group flapping and yacking at each other like a democrat and republican locked in a closet together.

Gull Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaBird watching is kind of like people watching only better.  (If anyone knows what kind of gull this is please speak up.)

Brown pelican & gull Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaBrown pelican & Gull

The following day I again walked the beach but worked my way closer to the water while still allowing enough space so as not to disturb the birds.  As I get closer to the water  scattered fish carcasses, picked clean and breaking apart, create the crunchy beach, and it stinks.  Not pass-out-foul stink, but certainly an unpleasant odor.  I picked up my pace a little bit to get closer to the water but that didn’t help.  So I returned to the short bluff and found a picnic table to sit on.  Farther away was no smell and the small distance obscured the bone-yard beach.

Gulls & white pelican Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaThe camp host said the sea is dropping at an alarming rate of two feet per year.  What first appeared as a sea of deep blue became muddy green at closer inspection.  And though the water level is dropping the salinity is rising.  Agricultural drainage flowing into the sea contains selenium, salts, and pesticides that threaten all the life in the sea from worms in the bottom, to fish and birds with increased levels working up the food chain.  Selenium poisoning could have been the cause of 150,000 eared grebes to die at the sea in 1992.  I certainly wouldn’t eat any of the fish from here.

Double-crested Cormorants flying Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaDouble-crested Cormorants

The Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge is located at the southern end of the Salton Sea in California’s Imperial Valley.  I didn’t visit there but have heard it is notable for birding.  Currently the Salton Sea Ecosystem Restoration Program is working on a plan to “to provide a range of aquatic habitats that will support fish and wildlife species dependent on the Salton Sea.”  Several solutions have been suggested including the creation of an artificial outlet, diking off sections to keep the remaining less saline, and evaporation ponds to create solar energy.

Morning light Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaI hope the sea can be rescued and continue to provide habitat for all the birds which I thoroughly enjoyed watching.  Yet I equally enjoyed watching the changing pallet of light and colors throughout the day.  Pre-dawn looks like winter whites and the day starts off with soft pastels and a gentle glow on both sea and sky.  When the sun rises golden rays light up the Santa Maria Mountains followed by a soft wash over the entire scene.

Morning light & truckcamper shadow Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaThen the shore turns to pink, a soft peach, a pale grapefruit and as the sun rises higher the beach becomes a pale lemon yellow.

Birds in flght & bird cloud Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA California

Gulls in flight Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaAnd suddenly the shore bound birds take flight.

Birds in flight Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaAt high noon the light is squinty bright like a crisp Caribbean day.

Sunset Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA California

White pelicans on sunset water Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CaliforniaAnd sunset brings a blaze of color turning the sea into liquid gold.

17 DSCN2416lerw Gull butt & reflection Corvina Beach Salton Sea SRA CA g-2 (1024x768)-2

Foto Friday Fun 100

 Posted by on February 26, 2015  Foto Friday Fun
Feb 262015

Can you believe it, Foto Friday Fun made it to 100 posts.  Thank you to all who have participated.  This week features 8 images chosen by readers from my photo archives.  Our meme number for the week is 4234.  Please link in any day this week by digging into your archives and sharing a photo and story on your blog.  Plus check out the other posts linked to the Foto Friday Fun meme.

Palo Verde Ogilby Rd BLM CaliforniaShane chose #4234, a lovely Palo Verde tree which are seen scattered around the Sonoran desert.  This green skinned beauty I saw while recently camping along Ogilby Road with the Cargo Muchacha Mts as a background.

 Entering slot canyon S at jct Buckskin Gulch & Wire Pass trail Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument UtahSherry chose #775.  After hiking from the Wire Pass trailhead this shows the junction to enter Buckskin Gulch slot canyon to the south.  Very different colors than the last slot canyon shared in Anza-Borrego.

Road to Peurto Cito Baja MexicoSallie forgot to choose a number so I’m giving her #35 for how many words were in her comment.  This shot takes us back to a road trip in January 2005 when Darlene and I visited Puerto Cito in Baja Mexico.  How do like my ride?

Flowering yucca Toroweap Grand Canyon National Park ArizonaElaine chose #1212, flowering yucca seen last spring on an outing to Toroweap proving there’s more to see than just the iconic Colorado River view.

Mule team leaving Indian Gardens Grand Canyon National Park ArizonaBibi chose #222, “representing tomorrow’s date and just maybe when my daughter’s baby will be born.”  Turns out baby Nina was born the 23rd instead.  May she grow up to see Grand Canyon and maybe even ride a mule to the bottom.  This mule team is just leaving Indian Gardens located about half way along the Bright Angel Trail.

Sunrise Tsitsikamma National Park South AfricaDiane chose #6007 in keeping with her “007” theme and gets a sunrise shot over the Indian Ocean from Tsitsikamma National Park, South Africa taken a year ago on 2/26/14.

Rocky shoreline & Indian Ocean view Waterfall trail Tsitsikamma National Park South AfricaYogi chose #6666, “cause it is 9999 upside down.”  Also taken in Tsitsikamma, I sometimes felt upside down on the the waterfall trail.  Note the yellow footprints on the rocks to indicate where to go.

Gaelyn's first birthday March 26  1955 Spring Rd Hinsdale IllinoisJonker chose #1, “because yours are my favorite blog to follow.”  Thank you for this highest of compliments.  There were so many #1s, so I chose my 1 year birthday from 1955.  Sure wish I could remember what I was thinking at the time.  Got a caption for this one?

 American White Pelican Corvina Beach Salton Sea Recreation Area CaliforniaMy choice, an American White Pelican yawning under last light on the Salton Sea from February 24, this year.  New chair Yarnell AZAnd because so many have asked, and I forgot, the new chair.  It’s really quite comfy once I get into it but weighs 25 pounds so is a bit difficult to move around.

Please join in by:

1) Sharing a #4234 photo index number from your photo archives in a post on your blog with a story that goes with the photo.  Then add the URL from that post to Mr. Linky below along with your name (Gaelyn, AZ), and link back to Foto Friday Fun 100 in your post so others may read and join in.

2) You can also leave a number between 01 and 9999 in a comment for next week’s Foto Friday Fun.

3) One or both of the above.

First commenter will chose next week’s photo index number.

Do you have a favorite from this week?


Maybe I should get a cup holder like this for my chair.

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Feb 242015

I’ll bet there are thousands of Anza-Borrego slot canyons throughout the badlands, some easy to access and others impossible.  From my view at Fonts Point I saw endless possibilities but no clearly marked trails.  Yet a Ranger at the visitor center assured me I could get the truck out to “The Slot” marked on the map at the Butte Pass turn off.

Sunrise Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaSo I invited Nan and John to hike along and picked them up at 9am and we started with the Farmers Market in Borrego Springs.  Hey, that’s early for us retired folks.

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park California

John & Nan entering slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaAbout a 13 mile drive from Borrego Springs to the Butte Pass turn off from CA78 and another mile of doable sand/gravel road brought us to parking at the edge of the canyon.  There are a couple of options to get into the canyon.  One up hill to the right, or around as we discovered on the way out, then down a slope. The other an obvious scramble down about 50 feet which turned out to be the hardest part of the hike.

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaUnlike Utah slot canyons of smooth and colorful sandstone, these siltstone canyon walls made up of multiple layers of river deposits carved by time and water reveal textures of various sized stones interspersed with shale.  Red, green, orange, white, gray, speckled and solids, sharp and rounded protruding from the canyon walls defied us rockhounds being solidly cemented in.

Formations in slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaIn fact that “cement” was evident in some of the formations that reminded me of dripped sand castles.  Yet one more example of how we imitate nature.

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaWasn’t long before the canyon narrowed and the walls rose higher.  Yet the soft sandy trail was still wide enough for other hikers to pass us slow pokes with our noses almost against the wall looking at a layer of bean-sized calcite crystals.

John in slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaThen narrower yet requiring a few twists and bending on our part.  Felt like going through a combination maze and cave.  Encountered a few 12-18 inch drops which proves a bit more interesting when wedged between a rock and a hard spot.

Boulders wedged in slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaAnd then there’s boulders from above.  We moved under those a little quicker, just in case, and I reminded everybody not to sneeze.

Graffiti in slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaTwist and turns brought more spectacular carved shapes caused by water that pours from above.  Not a time to be in a slot canyon.  And then we saw where someone had defiled the canyon walls with a fresh lipstick drawing of a hangman that Nan rubbed out with a piece of rock.  How can anyone do this?

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaAt one point the slot almost seemed to close in upon us like an abrupt end.

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaBut then opened up to an easy walk.

End of slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaUntil finally the canyon floor was wide enough to drive in, and we saw the proof of that from tire tracks possibly from an ORV.  Also an increase in human litter.

Concretion at end of slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaHere we saw some very unusual concretions, rock made of sand and calcite that look like roundish or flattened balls.  Nan and I were so intrigued by these bulbous rock sculptures and secretly tried to figure out how to move a large watermelon-sized specimen back up through the slot.  Yet we knew it was all we could do to get ourselves through some of the squeezes.  And then what to do with a 100 pound rock when living in a RV.

Slot canyon Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaThe return route always goes faster for me even though the reverse views are different.  Well, maybe being hungry had something to do with that also.  Although only about 1.5 miles round trip we took several casual hours to explore this unusual environment.  Nice to find like-minded slow hikers.

Presunset Anza-Borrego Desert State Park CaliforniaAnd this amazing sky greeted our return to the top.