Last week my girlfriend Kimberly Kane and I went to the desert for a few days to celebrate her birthday. I am not sure why she wanted to go to the desert in August but who am I to argue? We stayed at this minimalist mid-century spa in Hot Desert Springs, CA and mostly just hung out in the hot spring pools, relaxed and spent a lot of my money on food. It was pretty awesome even though it was over 100 degrees pretty much the whole time we were there. It was definitely relaxing… except for our trip to the Imperial Valley.
Kimberly made the mistake of telling me that our spa was less than 100 miles from the Salton Sea and I pretty much demanded we take a trip out there. There were pretty much only three places in the US that I haven’t been to that I have a huge desire to visit and one of those places was the Salton Sea.
For those who don’t know, the Salton Sea was the result of the Colorado River changing course, breaking some dams and ultimately flooding the Salton Basin nearly 100 years ago. After 16 months the river was diverted and a 35 by 15 mile body of water remained. It would have evaporated except for agricultural run offs from the Colorado river keep it around. At some point a bunch of fish were added and thrived in the salty nutrient rich sea. It became one of the most popular fishing destinations in the country and yacht clubs and resorts were built all around the sea. Unfortunately the lake flooded several times in the 1970′s and destroyed many of the yacht clubs and boating docks. On top of that much of the land around the sea was undeveloped because it was sold off as real estate investments and after the floods suddenly the Salton Sea was not a very popular place to go.
But the biggest problem with the sea is not the flooding or the abandoned lots, it was the salt. The Colorado run offs are very salty and the lake evaporates 6 feet every year so with no out flow it just gets saltier and saltier every year. At some point the salt reached a no turning back point and every summer millions of fish die when the heat mixing with the salt makes it impossible for many of the fish to live. When the fish die up they wash up onto the shore and start to rot. The rotting fish cause miles and miles around the sea to smell unimaginably awful for months at a time. Maggots breed in the fish so their are flies everywhere and the sea becomes a breeding ground for botulism. In 1996 the botulism problem became so bad that hundreds of pelicans and other birds started dying and now die off every summer. So now barely 40 years after the Salton Sea was a thriving tourist destination it has become a rotting wasteland. It’s an absolutely beautiful place filled with rotted out mobile homes and meth labs and houses.
The day before we left for our trip we ran into Vincent Gallo of all people. We mentioned we were headed to the Salton Sea and he said we HAD to visit Bombay Beach. Bombay Beach actually still has people living there in a town with one store, two bars and the worst smell I have ever encountered. It is honestly the most amazing place I have ever been and when we got out the dead fish were like nothing I had ever seen. It was 106 degrees and sweat poured down our faces within seconds of getting out of the car. The smell was so powerful that we actually had to concentrate on not vomiting. The beaches were made up completely of fish bones. There were more flies than anywhere I have ever been and everything within 200 yards of the sea was abandoned and rotting in the salt and sun.
After five minutes Kimberly was ready to go, but I convinced her that we HAD to do a photo shoot. We found an abandoned building and managed to shoot for about 10 minutes in the shade before it was unbearable. We shot for another five minutes in a rotted out trailer and tried to shoot again in a third building but between the heat, the smell, the flies and the locals driving by on golf carts we had to call it a day. Luckily we got some great shots.
We continued our trip on to Niland, CA and we checked out Salvation Mountain and Slab City. I took a ton of 35mm photos of our whole trip so I will be doing another post later where I can go into more details about that stuff. The 35mm stuff should be pretty incredible so be on the look out for that. In the mean time you need to check out this amazing and completely NSFW set that contains both naked photos of my girlfriend and photos of rotting fish and abandoned homes. It has to be the weirdest nude girl gallery I have ever posted. I really think you are going to dig it.