Glamis Hot Springs and Bombay Beach

Jamie and I aren’t the most outdoorsy people we know.  Neither of us have spent a night camping in our lives. Lately though, we’ve been feeling a lot more adventurous. Hungry for something different than the norm, I’ve set my sights on getting our WRX off the floor and more capable of getting us places we wouldn’t normally visit.  The first steps were getting the car tuned and running at a decent level. The guys over at Metro Performance, a new shop in Murrieta, did a great job of fixing up the car and tuning it to squeeze out some extra power while keeping it reliable.  I raised up the stiff Powertrix coilovers to a height close to stock and that was about as much as I could afford before saying “I guess this will have to do”.


My uncles on my dad’s side go out to the desert every few months and I’d been asking about joining them on their next trip once my car was ready.  Of course, my car wasn’t ready for any real action off road, but it could sure handle any hard packed dirt trails and AWD was a plus.

The San Jacinto Mountains. From a lookout on the way up.

We really didn’t know what to expect.  I had been out to Calipatria and Niland near the Salton Sea for work at one point, but never out to the areas where people go riding. Fortunately, my uncle OC had rented a cabin in Glamis Hot Springs North and was letting us stay there. We brought some jugs of purified water, a few snacks, folding chairs, an inflatable bed, and I bought a gas can just in case (this ended up being both a blessing and an annoyance).

I filled up the gas can and put it in the trunk. The car smelled like gas the whole way there. We brought our dog Jetson too, so he started sneezing after a while even while we had the windows down. We would later use the gas to fill up before going home, never having to stop by a gas station the whole trip.

We pulled up and met with everyone and my uncle Jason let us know they were about to go out for a ride and he had made room for us to ride in his RZR. My uncle Jason’s got this big group of friends and family that all go out on desert trips together and even have a facebook group, so when we heard he was waiting for us to get there so they could go we tried to get moving quickly, but not before eating some breakfast.

Jamie all excited to go!

After getting a pretty healthy fill of food, we put on some loaner gear that my family had and hopped in.IMG_1223

My cousin Johnny JR with my uncle Johnny’s Honda powered VW Thing.


We stopped by the famous Underwear Tree and Shoe Tree for a break and some group pictures.

There’s something still in this one….


A really great group of people, I’d have to say.  A big thanks to all of them for welcoming us and having us around, especially for putting up with my shutter going off all the time. An awesome time catching up with my family as well.

After that we headed back to camp to chill out and have some snacks.  A little while later my uncle Jason asked if we wanted to go for another run.  The first ride was what they called just a putt-putt as they were just going pretty mild speeds.  He was talking about going a little faster this time. It was unquestionably loads of fun.  Here’s a quick video of that ride.  I’m a little upset I missed out on capturing some of the speedier and bumpier segments, but I guess there’s always next time. Excuse my chrome dome!

Before we left on this ride, one of the guys from the group came back after a short run on his own and said he’d gone out looking for a supposed oasis and never got a glimpse of it.  I’m sure he was glad he tagged along on this ride…
We actually found this place on accident when my uncle made a wrong turn in the trail.  I don’t think anyone could complain.
Inside the oasis

The water actually came from what was probably a small hot spring out of the ground. There was a small collection of little minnow-like fish in the larger bod of water.  Here’s a video of what that was like:

The oasis group

By the time we got back to camp it was almost sunset so I took the opportunity to take some pictures of the RZR.  To my surprise my uncle went ahead and let us take it out ourselves, leading to the pictures below…

Jamie’s never been a stranger to the love of all things that go fast, but the dirt made it a lot more interesting.


Was feeling very Mad Max / Fallout with this picture

After a few rounds with the camera we decided to head back to camp.  We could hear a pack of coyotes howling in the distance as the sun began to set.  Coyotes aren’t so unfamiliar to us in Temecula, but hearing that many of them coupled with that feeling of isolation as we stood there seemingly by ourselves for those few minutes was surely an interesting feeling.IMG_1425
When we got back Minerva and her husband had cooked some legit tacos.  We came back just in time.IMG_1437IMG_1449IMG_1466IMG_1473
I really liked this shot of my uncle Johnny’s VW Thing.  I was pretty impressed to find out that sitting in the back was a Honda J-series engine.  I had been looking into swapping one into the Prelude and seeing one in this thing, pun intended, was a real treat.  Wish I had a good shot of the engine and all the custom fabrication, but I guess that’s just another addition to my list for next time.  That was the last picture I took that night.  We were pretty exhausted from the whole day and knocked out 10pm.  We got up in the morning feeling very well rested, had breakfast and said our goodbyes. Our first stop on the way home was the small town of Bombay Beach that I had had on my mind for the past month or so and was itching to visit. IMG_1474

A little backstory on Bombay Beach and the Salton Sea in general: In 1905 massive rainfall caused the Colorado river to overflow into what was then the desert valley of the Salton Sink creating the largest body of water in California, the Salton Sea.  The town of Bombay Beach became a thriving resort in the late 50’s, attracting visitors with water sports and golf. Developers deemed the area a “Palm Springs on the Beach” and things seemed to be going just swell.  Unfortunately by the 1970’s, due to irrigation runoff from the local farmlands constantly pouring in pesticide with no drainage outlet and saltiness, the Sea eventually became depleted of oxygen and the dead fish constantly wash up on shore to this day.  Of course, putrid scents and decomposing wildlife wasn’t very welcoming, so the promising resort town rapidly declined to the small town it is today.IMG_1485
There I stood in the middle of hundreds of dead fish, the smell was just as you might imagine it to be if so many fish were sitting, rotting in the sun combined with the salty smell of the water, which made my every step feel sticky in the mud like sand.  So why would I even want to go to a place like this?  Honestly, it all just really intrigued me.  The town itself is a lot like the fish, once thriving but now barely skeletal in appearance. But what was special to me was the fact that fish are still turning up, they’re still some living in there, just like the people of the town are still living their lives.  In fact, I was hoping to capture some photos of the old abandoned buildings, trailers, and cars that were half buried in mud that I had seen in so many pictures online, but they’ve cleaned up most of it.
As I walked back up to my car I heard a woman in the distance calling out to me.  I thought she was telling me to stay away from the water, then I noticed her husband trying to dig sand from under their tires. With the help of a local man on a walk with his dog and myself, we were able to push the car out of the sand and back on a decent surface.  He thanked me and told me they were from Canada and said “I only hope that if you were in that situation, someone like you would come along and do the same”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *