Our Fall RV Trip – Cahuilla Lake to Senator’s Wash

Cahuilla Lake behind our camp
Day 19 

We had been at Cahuilla Lake for a week exactly, which was the plan and it just so happens our paid up week was over. As usual we try to depart by about 9 am on a travel day so everyone begins the packing up ritual the day prior. It is not usually a hurried event, and because we are continuing our adventure it is by no means a dreaded task. The anticipation and a little excitement of our next destination I am sure is in the back of everyone’s mind.

The following morning has little left to put away save, outside mats, chairs and the satellite dish which always remains intact until the last hour in case we want to check the news before departure. Of course there may be a chance to watch a favorite show the evening before.

Once packing is done, the next chore is to hook up the rigs and head to the RV dump and fresh water source. The fresh water is not normally located close to the sewer dump for obvious reasons (contamination).

RV dump

Dumping is always done before hitting the road, to shed as much weight as possible, the black and grey tanks can hold up to 1000 lbs of honey water and add that to the fresh water tank you’re talking about much unnecessary weight that can reduce fuel economy and cause more wear and tear on your rig and tow vehicle. In fact I usually even let the fresh water tank drop to ¼ even if we plan on traveling for several days.

I think it was 9:15 once we were all ready to leave. We were elected to lead as usual which was fine, however my navigator could not find our next destination Senator’s Wash on our GPS. Thankfully ‘A’ who has become our backup navigator, among other things, was able to bring it up on her GPS.

So my suggestion was that her and ’H’ lead, they reluctantly agreed and off we went, Lynda and I were in the middle with ’R’ & ’L’ wiping (bringing up) the rear. We had barely left the park when I noticed ‘R’ &’L’ had stopped about ¼ mile behind, I think their door, steps or handle was not stowed.

We continued north to highway 111 and then south. My idea was to pass by the Sultan Sea as we had done on a previous trip and besides it was on our route. Our fuel was good for now but we would need to refill before noon.

The Sun was shining again which has become expected and it has rarely let us down since we hit southern California. The traffic was light just like the wind, everything was in place for a pleasant drive.

The group stopped on the road beside at Bombay Beach

Our first scheduled stop was Bombay Beach on the Sultan Sea as we drove south on hwy 111. Lynda and I reminisced about our first trip to this area some 25 years ago.

The Sultan Sea in those days was a pristine salt lake 30 something miles square. We remembered camping for a couple of nights in a deserted state park and walking the shores layered in tiny sea shells instead of sand. Lynda and I have been back since about 4 years ago, the sea had changed.

Bombay Beach

The name brings back memories of movies my parents would see in the theater, a tropical paradise……….or not!

11-09-15 Bombay Beach on Salton Sea (2)
A typical Bombay Beach street.

This dilapidated desert town, the only way to describe it is an eye sore. We pulled off the hwy, parked our rigs and took a walk to the beach. As soon as the doors were closed on our pickups our nostrils filled with the unmistakable stench of rotting fish. This is the way I remembered it.

As we walked toward the beach the smell became more intense to the point where everyone was breathing though their mouths. We climbed the dike and descended onto the beach.

11-09-15 Bombay Beach on Salton Sea (6)
The Salton Sea, the group heading to the beach.

The water had receded revealing rows of dead and rotting eyeless corpses at each tide line, most between 6 and 10 inches long. The cause I had found out from the locals was the runoff water from irrigation carrying with it fertilizer that caused the lake algae to bloom several times a year, sucking life giving oxygen from the water causing the fish to suffocate and wash onto the shore line.

11-09-15 Bombay Beach on Salton Sea (1)
A terrible scene,

Needless to say our stop was short lived and we couldn’t wait to leave this depressing town of a hundred or so. As we were pulling away the Bombay Beach Express happened by and I could not resist the opportunity to take a picture of this rickety jalopy bouncing along the dilapidated pavement.

The Bombay Beach Express

My original plan was to take the group for a drive through the squatter town of Slab City. A shanty town built on foundation slabs left by the military. I retracted the plan when I realized there was 5 miles of unmaintained road to the settlement. Not good for large rigs.

We continued on hwy 101 to Niland where we fueled up. After a brief delay by a paving crew we headed south and then east on hwy 78 towards the Glamis Dunes. This slight detour was to satisfy ‘R’ & ‘L’s curiosity and probably the rest of us as well.

‘R’ & ‘L’ had enjoyed dune riding in the northwest with their now grown children. ‘R’ had mentioned that one of his goals was to ride the Glamis Dunes, but he had never had the opportunity. Maybe another trip?

The Glamis Dunes stretch from the Mexican border north covering a huge area 50 miles long by 5 miles wide. We had already planned to stop at the dunes for a quick lunch. As we ate our lunch a camp host happened by and talked in length about the dunes, interesting. He shared that on the Halloween weekend 80,000 riders visited the dunes, a few lost their lives from ATV accidents.

11-09-15 Imperial Sand Dunes (5)
The Imperial Dunes, taken by ‘A’ through the truck window

We continued on S-34 turned south to I-8 that took us farther east toward perfectly named Winterhaven Ca. next to Yuma Az., the sunniest place on earth, from here we took state road S-24 that wound through freshly planted perfect rows of produce. Now in Arizona, we followed the road through the fields and then Date Palm plantations in Bard that advertised delicious date shakes. Lynda and I had stopped to indulge several years before, maybe it was an off day, but we were not impressed. The shakes were good but not spectacular.

After leaving the plantations we followed the Colorado River north past Laguna Dam and then left onto Senator’s Wash road to our destination. Once we reached the Long Term Visitor’s Area I pulled off the road, the others followed for a quick group meeting.

A view of the LTVA area during sunrise, Buddy in the middle

Lynda and I were the only one’s in the group who had been here before. There were several different areas to camp, the open desert of the LTVA area where we had stopped, Squaw Lake on the Colorado River a mile to the east or Senator’s Wash reservoir just to the north of the LTVA.

From our vantage point we could see the reservoir and a portion of the LTVA, but not Squaw Lake. After a quick discussion we decided to continue the extra mile down to Squaw lake where we parked and took a walk to check out the camping possibilities.

We wandered around and after some bantering and laughing as usual, we decided this was the spot.

Another good day on the road, thank…… goodness.

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Gord B.


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