When down in the doldrums of a Seattle winter and in dire need of a respite and some sunshine (Seattle winters can get rather gloomy) I hopped a quick two hour flight down to my friend Greg’s casa in Palm Springs.  It had been years since my last trip there so was definitely overdue.

Greg and I grabbed my Turo rental (a zippy and very capable Mini Cooper) and headed to the Saltan Sea, located about an hour and change southeast of Palm Springs in the Coachella Valley.  At one point the area was a popular resort destination back in the 50’s and 60’s.  Since then the lake has shrunk, and with a high level of saline and farm runoff poisoning the waters the lake has incurred massive die-offs of fish and avian wildlife (the foamy waters at the shore doesn’t make it very inviting as well).  Around the lake were a few communities remaining like the Bombay Estates, a once thriving coastal town that’s now a community to RV’s, abandoned homes and lots of cool graffiti and art installations. 

After the Sultan Sea we continued south along highway 111 where we turned onto a muddy track towards some geothermal power plants.  Next to one of the plants we came across some bubbling mud pots created by the evaporating Salton Sea and by underground water and gases.  Such a cool site seeing and hearing these little ‘burping’ pits which have built themselves up over time by depositing fine clay particles on the surface as the water dries. 

Another desolate, lonely stretch of the highway brought us to some well worn paved and dirt stretches leading to Slabtown, and end-of-the-road bohemian community created with RVs, man made structures and unique art installments (very much a Burningman vibe here).  Also in the area was Salvation Mountain, a tribute to God (yes, lot’s of Jesus love here) consisting of a painted hillside riddled with bible verses and colorful objects.      

The drive into the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park wrapped through the Box Canyon area where Greg and I parked along the towering basalt cliffs that dominated both sides of the highway (felt like a scene from the planet Tatooine).  I knew this would be a perfect spot for some droning and managed to get some great aerial shots of the spiny hillside stretching along the Saltan Sea. 

Although both of us forgot to bring our handy America The Beautiful park pass (gets you into every National Park in the country…bonkers!) the turnoff for the Mastodon trial was luckily just before the park entrance, and only a mile to the trailhead.  The sun was past setting and the area was getting dark quickly, but the point of this venture was to get some long exposures showing both the park and some star scapes.  It felt a bit eery being in the park so late but there was a bright moon to help light the way (as well as my headlamp), and the stars were so numerous and vivid.  Also saw some bats in the sky.    

On my final day of the trip Greg and I ventured west of Palm Springs toward the Indian Canyons area, an indigenous owned nature preserve with miles of trails, biking and horseback riding areas.  The sun was climbing and getting hot so we decided on a more shady trail through the Murray Canyon area.  Se passed by some horses on the first leg of the hike (so hot and dusty) and crossed through a number of watery areas shrouded by large shaggy palms (which also created some pleasant shade for us).  At the far end of the trail was a small waterfall over some large angled rocks.  after that we summited the hills which offered a beautiful view of the whole valley for the rest of the trail.