Today’s hike was 6 miles with 1050′ of climbing, basically all before the turn around point. We drove over to Painted Canyon at Mecca Hills Wilderness area by the Salton Sea. It’s down a sandy bumpy road that winds deeper and deeper into the steep walled canyon. The San Andreas Fault runs in this area and over the ages has created this unique jumble of rising folded mountains and rocky canyons. Just the drive was amazing!
We hiked up Big Canyon and took an offshoot into a side slot canyon to explore. The main canyon was sandy and the going slow which was fine, because we spent so much time looking up at all the cool rock formations and cliff walls. The slot canyon was a bonus with all the mineral deposits creating the “painted” walls. We pushed on and hiked up a pretty steep, loose, rocky hill to join up with the Ridge Trail. After hiking a ways out to a view point, we ate our sandwiches and turned around. For the three hours we were out there we didn’t encounter another person. True solitude.
After our hike we drove the short distance further to check out the Salton Sea. The Salton Sea is a sad story. In 1901, the California Development Company, seeking to realize the Imperial Valley’s potential for unlimited agricultural productivity, dug irrigation canals from the Colorado River. However, heavy silt loads inhibited the flow prompting engineers to create a cut in the western bank of the Colorado to allow more water to reach the valley. Unfortunately, heavy flood waters broke through the engineered canal and nearly all the river’s flow rushed into the valley and created the sea. The levels rise and fall with evaporation and really, the sea is only replenished with agricultural runoff now (gross!). It’s called the Salton Sink for a reason. Back in the heyday when it was still relatively fresh water, there was a huge influx of celebrities, resorts, a yacht club, and all kinds of sea related activities. Now though, as the water dries up, the disgustingly polluted sands are wreaking havoc on the health of anything around.
We drove down past the “Yacht Club” to snap a picture of the sea and then headed back to camp. Driving back we passed through Mecca, CA which is the growing capital in US for dates. Not just dates though, we passed field after field of produce and farm after farm of giant palm tree nurseries. The growing climate is good here, except there isn’t really any natural water.