The Road to Mecca : California Nevada Dec'14 Series #2

1/16/2015 11:16:00 PM



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The Beauty of the Road, You never know what you'd encounter next. The uncertainty that keeps the adrenalin pumping, mind on alert, eyes on a constant look-out. No matter how many images you see, motion pictures you watch, stories you read, there is always something unseen there, no matter if you've been there before, there'd always be something new waiting for you next time you visit, and as for the plans, well, how about keeping all the planning aside and just being there at the moment, because, well, ultimately they're all gonna fail anyway.

If I could pick one memorable sight of all, then this has to be it. The hue of this wild grass, that left me awestruck. I kept looking at for minutes. What are those little things? wild flowers, seasonal vegetation, does it changes color during seasons? how it'll look in the bright sunlight? I kept asking me. Then took some images in iPhone, then in the Samsung or HTC phone my friend carried, in my DSLR later, the color was different everywhere. I thought of running in to valley and probably just sit there and write poetry on it. But I held my horses, It was already late, may be an hour or left of day light, and there was no point going to Salton Sea in the dark, unless I wanted to say hello to the ghosts.



Pine Valley

I remember the road ahead in blur, must have been one more valley, the one after this, a little less green, but orangish rather, tall shrubs, or tiny trees, the kind you see in orchards only with less leaves, and two passes, each gaining about 1-2000ft elevation from the plains. At one time the highway was cut right in the middle of the hill almost at its peak, driving down a slope, and we were in desert. The mountains reminded me a bit of ladakh, only low elevation and little less colorful, Could have been the background music, the Tibetan chants I have stored in my iPhone earlier this year. All this while we were in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Technically, the area began from the pine valley in the image above, and not sure how many miles we had driven until this point, the landscape was anything unlike the above. We skipped Borrego Springs, and headed further towards route CA-86. I am not sure if there is another road out there, While flying out of San diego after this trip, I looked down at this area I drove 4 days back in, made me notice the sheer vastness of the desert. while driving I was too busy looking at the sun, and praying for it to not go down, I was in a hurry.

Salton Sea | Aerial View

Anza Borrego is another must visit in the spring season. its when the cactus bloom, and valley is filled with white, yellow and purple wildflowers. I have to say, after this trip, spring has, perhaps become my favorite time of the year to be on the road anywhere in united states. Moreover, I cant wait to go back to this place next spring when the sleeping valley is up and smiling again. But for now, White sand, pale yellow grass, and dark green bushes is all I can see.

The Road to Mecca

After crossing the last of the mountain, It's just one straight road ahead and  nothing but the pink-peach sand all around. even road has a hue of red. Occasional campsites, a few of them looked like abandoned RV grounds, the others had little movement, saw some vehicles going towards one of them, then the dunes far off were visible. I could see some ATVs there yes. but no place to stop over and have a coffee / water so far, let alone eating. until almost the end of the road, and a 2 structures combined 1 floor house with a garage,  on our right. Couple of Harleys that cross passed us when we stopped over to take few shots near Pacific crest trail, were parked here. I got down to shoot few images, climbed back on the seat,  and drove off. It was about time I would be hit by the dilemma.

Salton Sea Desert

Route CA-86 and its history is something I am yet to discover, the word historic is even associated with it, I figured on the road, the road from Anza Borrego i.e. SH 78 meets Route 86 right at the south eastern end of the Salton Sea. The city is towards West, i.e. the other corner of where I was at this point, and Not something on my agenda. What I was here for, was the beach with dead fish floating in the water, and the skeletons in the sand. Ok dont look at me like that now. thats was made me curious at the first place and of course there were whole entire abandoned city that I heard is frequented by none but flickr photographers. I really wanted to shoot some eerie images there, the chances however were dim now that, the sun was already set, and I was no way getting in to the place in the dark, but I thought lets just make a round of it to atleast know the surroundings and if we should come back again by sunrise. So we took a right towards East CA-86 and then left on W Bannister Road and another left on one of the road that looks like I was back in countryside of Arizona, somewhere near Coolidge, only extra scary because it was getting dark and these weren't really road but just tracks going toward field.

Interesting are such times on the road because, not only you but GPS as well doesn't know what to do with you and your plans. No signals, add to the frustration dripping down on your face like you were sweating for hours. I clearly remembered searching and marking the spot on google long ahead of the trip and it was definitely on the east side, along with the Salvation Mountain, may be little ahead of this but this area looking nothing like what I saw in images, instead we hit a canal and then a board, a watch tower and a dead-end. And if I forgot to mention, I am actually driving in the mud here.


Salton Sea Area | Near Wildlife Refuge

As much as I love the road in the day time, I hate to spend nights on the highways. Its not that I am scared or worried, partially true, little less after every trip, but honestly there is absolutely nothing to see, its dark all around, and if not the extra caution while driving, the high beam of the vehicles on opposite direction makes it pretty much impossible to drive. Right now, I  can totally see that coming, and that is kind of making me mad. This is no place to stop, and Joshua National Parkour next destination, is still miles away. So Yes, I am getting restless, rolling my eyes in exasperation, totally looking forward to hitting the vehicle in that muddy pathway that looks no where drive friendly, if not a sight of another human being out there, should have done that already. Ah, there is another vehicle out there, may be someone who works in the fields here, local we thought. Nanditha engages in a quick chat, The elderly gentleman is a traveler, of course, thats an RV out there, what were we thinking really? He says there is no road ahead, he was biking in the area in the daytime and now returning, I couldn't wait to turn back the vehicle either, I even forget to climb the watch tower and get the view. adrenalin, I told you. Only thing I stop for is to take few images of the fields, mostly to remember How wrong I was about this place, doesn't look like abandoned to us at all, nope.

Salton Sea Area | Near Wildlife Refuge

One of the reasons, I elaborated on this part, and posted as many as three images from here, was because what I previously read, and expected in this trip. may be the place I was looking for was on the opposite end of the lake, the west side, the recreational area, as tagged on the map, or it was just few miles ahead on northern tip, doesn't matter. On reading many articles and photogs trip logs, it feels like the entire area is just plain desert and uninhibited, thats the impression, but none of it is true, I could see the road sketched out towards north, a few lights, sure some people may be living there, or who's irrigating this land and cultivating these crops here? then of course there is other side, where I'll reach in few minutes, which is a proper city. so if what reports say is true, are these people waiting for the lake to dry before they too leave this place?


We are back on CA-86 and South now, slithering in between many many trucks, there was a road block or it was our stupidity, the diversion was just for the big vehicles leading them to the check point right where SH78 meets 86, the road that we came from. the officer saw us from far, clearly no sign or expression, I was ready with my sad smile - oh i was so stupid face already. he din't say a word, we got back on the road and drove off as fast as we could. Besides there was hardly any traffic out there, we left all the trucks behind, and no idiot like us was on the road driving to Joshua at 6 PM.

Salton City, did you say? Cant recall when we drove past that. Nothing close to highway, not even a gas station. about 3 weeks back I was watching "In to the wild" again. it was aftermath of the recently released "wild movie" which IMHO was the wild of another kind, and not what I thought. I had to erase its memories somehow. While on the road I didn't remember Salton city was featured in the movie "in to the wild" in fact, the area ahead in Mojave, Now I can recall, can perhaps even identify the locations it must have been shot in. but having said that, there is nothing interesting in the night, unless you are camping there and a galaxy of stars is twinkling up in the sky. For now we are just hungry,  so is our Chevy, and thanks to our stars, the next and only gas station before we took right, has the best pizza ever. how much, you must ask, $5.99 I say. yeah. go bite your tongue or seriously go to ampm and ask the very lovely Jessica to make a pizza for you.

[ Update 1/20/2015 - the ampm is supposedly with in Salton City the address says - AMPM, 2084 Marina Drive, Thermal, CA 92274 the city is on the right, on the shores of the Salton Sea, and we passed from outside of it. Perhaps the reason couldn't figure out the place. such is driving in the night, I tell you. ]


Two sandwiches to go for the late night or early morning may be, and we headed to wilderness again or atleast thats what we thought, with some civilization tucked in here and there in still miles long road. Super hilarious that just now, while writing, and I have the map open in another window, that I found out the distant city lights that I was seeing, and I chose not to chase and rather take right to a shortcut, towards Joshua Tree National Park, were coming from Indio. Coachella Valley Yeah you read it right, the very famous venue of annual music festival that hollywood is crazy about. Oh why on earth did I not drive right across it then? I am asking myself right now. we could have stayed there for the night, could've explored a bit in the morning and then drive to the National Park? instead we took a road to Mecca. the road named Boxed Canyon, or if it was another desert, or the beginning of it. Mecca, the riverside county, that may have been just like what we saw in the eastern shore of the Salton Sea, if seeing in the daylight, and Boxed Canyon, well, I wonder how many people really travel on that road, we crossed two vehicles, no one crossed us. Ah moon was with us through out, and the headlights of vehicles sliding on the Hwy 10 in last 2-3 miles stretch. A Sloowwww ride it was, in the dark, carefully avoiding the chances of hitting any wildlife, just gazing the moon, assessing the headlights of Chevrolet Equinox ( figured the headlights are really good, only here) and waiting for a board to show up.


to be continued...

More images from the trip : https://www.flickr.com/photos/poonamparihar
also on instagram @indigypsi and Twitter /Facebook.

Next up : JOshua Tree National Park & Mojave National Preserve

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