|Click any picture
to zoom in
Isolation in style
Moon burst over Salton
In the jumbled recesses of my mind, I had
always filed California's Salton Sea under the dead category. Only upon
arriving did I learn that this immense body of water is stuffed with 400
million fish, mostly yummy tilapia. And for you fishermen types, the limit is,
well with more than one fish for every American, there is no limit.
My other discovery was a by-product of
being lost (yet again) on a dirt road along the southern edge of the lake,
looking for a field of bubbling mud pots. The area is home to a half dozen
rusty thermal energy plants, but nothing in the way of signs to the unnamed mud
Moonset over the
At a turn into a particularly bad stretch
of ruts and sand, I noticed a dilapidated motorhome nestled among some reeds. A
recent campfire of blackened cans spoke of human habitation, so I went looking
for the proprietor, hoping not to come across his dog instead.
Rummaging among the reeds with a rowboat
fitted with a tiny motor, I found Captain Ron. White hair sprang out from under
an Inca hat, eyes slitted tight against many years of sun, and black rubber
boots almost to the knees.
Without so much as a hello, he glanced
over his shoulder, went back to tieing down his boat, and grumbled, "You'll
never make it to the mud pots in that thing."
Unnamed geothermal mud
After a bit of my sniveling, he pointed
out which track went to the mud pots but added, "The 4-wheel drive tow truck
will set you back $400, plus whatever you rip off the bottom of your
That put the fear of the Lord back into
my position, and I became more penitent. I settled into a civilized
conversation where I listened more than spoke.
Cinderella looks out
from her pumpkin
Turned out Captain Ron was a commercial
fisherman in Alaska, but said he'd grown soft and only did that now in the
summers. The rest of the time, he hid alone along the shores of the Salton Sea
where there was no camping fee. When he got hungry, he would shoot a duck or
catch some tilapia.
Turning my attention to a muddy quad
(4-wheel motorcycle) next to his RV, I asked, "Since the wind is too fierce to
hunt or fish today, can I pay you to give me a ride to the mud
I threw in some gas and $20 later, I had
a dust hairdo behind Captain Ron as we bounded over saltbrush and swung around
Captain Ron yelled stories over his
shoulder about Alaska and the love of his life, his wife of over 30 years who
had died not that long ago from lupus. They fell in love after she was badly
injured in an airplane crash and grew addicted to pain pills. Captain Ron
stayed by her side because of their shared love of the outdoors and because
"that woman loved to kill fish."
At the mud pots, Captain Ron cautioned me
to follow his footsteps. Three-foot high volcanoes gurgled, belched, and hissed
next to us. At one point, Captain Ron started sinking in soft bubbling sand,
and I saw the need for the rubber boots. We backpedaled in a hurry.
Peter listens to Captain
Ron describe his domain
After the mud pots, Captain Ron asked if
I wanted to ride the quad to a rock promontory, the only one next to the lake.
Of course I grinned and nodded.
Only a couple hundred feet high, it
nonetheless offered a magnificent bird's eye view of the bird sanctuary's
marshes. To the left of a white carpet of sea gulls in the distance, Captain
Ron said were hundreds of tasty ducks. I saw nothing. He handed me his
binoculars. Indeed I saw the brown dots, and wondered how such an old guy's
eyes were so sharp.
The promontory was also home to over a
thousand straw-and-stick cormorant nests, packed tightly next to each other.
Bird shit and straw were packed into a ball pasted to vertical cliffs just to
form the base for yet another nest.
Back at Captain Ron's camp, we spoke
about whether he was ever afraid, living like a hermit so far from people. He
spoke of how he didn't get along all that well with people, and then asked,
"You've heard of alien abductions?"
"Yes", I said, expecting a hair-brained
"That's why I made camp next to this flat
open spot," he gestured with a bumpy old hand, "so they'd have no trouble
"And if they're just grabbing
"As a hunter, I would understand. After
being on this planet for 86 years, I'm ready to take my chances."
Rock head looking out to
To get email about more such
Spam Note: We never have and never will
provide your email address to anyone else for any purpose. All blog post email
will include a one-click unsubscribe link.