Wednesday: (03/23) After leaving Hot Springs LTVA in Holtville we headed up highway 111 stopping in Calipatria for some LPG and gas for the jeep. Oddly, in this small town the LPG was 20-30 cents cheaper than in Holtville or El Centro? We continued on to Niland and visited the area known as "Slab City", an abandoned military base that is now a free camping site. While the old base is abandoned, there is still military activity there further down the road the Navy evidently is still doing training for special forces? We saw lots of trucks driving through the Slabs and heard lots of explosions.
We looked around, saw the Salvation Mountain and the "RVers" camping there and decided to move on. We weren't confident enough to even spend one night there. It's not what it once was or the reports of the place were exaggerated.
We continued North almost to mecca to the Headquarters Campground of the Salton Sea State Recreation Area. We had a late lunch of leftovers. Cottage cheese and asparagus and some of Lou's maple syrup cake. We decided to look at our guides. Lou had left them in the toad. We intended to drive the Bradshaw Trail, a jeep road from here to Blythe. After looking at the guide we determined this end was just across the street so we decided to camp here. Fortunately, there was a vacancy here. There are only full hookup sites here, our first hookups since leaving home. Unfortunately, our city water connect was discovered to be broken and the sewer inlet is too far away so we are just using electrical. We'll fill up with water and dump before we leave. We enjoyed some really heavy winds after sunset. Fortunately they only lasted a couple of hours.
Thursday: (03/24) We shared a blueberry fritter and leftover chorizo, eggs and potatoes for breakfast. We waited around for the visitor center to open but it hadn't opened by 9am. We learned it opens at 10am. No signs posted. We stopped by the entrance station and talked to a ranger but they couldn't find any of the Bradshaw Trail information sheets so we just headed out with the information from our guide book. We headed East on Parkside Road and Desertview Road to the Cochella Canal. Our guide said to take the canal road East for 10 miles but we found a locked gate at the canal road. We were considering following a road that paralleled it but it had piles of dirt across it that other vehicles had knocked down some. The first hump was no problem but I didn't feel we had enough clearance for the second. As we were looking at it a canal company service truck came by. I spoke to the driver and he said that the canal road was closed but he would open the gate for us and he also told us where to exit it. We headed on down the road passing many no trespassing signs followed by the service truck. We finally made it to Drop 24 our exit onto Bradshaw Trail. There must be another way to get there, maybe next time we'll find it. (note: There is a better way, start from the East end off Wiley Wells Rd.)
At the start of the Bradshaw trail we spotted another unusual desert mushroom. The first couple of miles of the trial, after leaving Drop 24, were quite rough. We had to poke along at a couple of mph. Eventually it smoothed out enough to get up to 15mph, quite nice. The road continued to improve and we were up to 45mph on parts of it with the occasional slow section for heavy sand or ruts. The railroad that snakes across the road at the beginning looked in very good shape but after a while we came upon this washed out section, still in good shape.
The trail followed along the boundary of the Navy bombing range. Lots of signs warning of unexploded ordinance. We didn't wander off the road both for that on one side and wilderness on the other. There were several side roads we passed that may be of future interest.
The bomb carcass seems to be part of a scare tactic along with the signs. of course one wouldn't want to be part of the tests. We stopped about 50 miles out for lunch about 12:30, jalapeno loaf sandwiches. We then continued on to Wiley Road and looked around the Mule Mountain LTVA campgrounds. They have a dry sanitary dump and non potable water. So extended stays there are possible and the campgrounds are quite nice. I had heard it was difficult to get in and we did not head out via the way that you would take in on Wiley Road but the road looks like it is in excellent shape and there were lots of motorhomes there. We continued East on Bradshaw Trail to Highway 78 and up to I10. We headed back toward home stopping for a look around Desert Center. We turned on Box Canyon Road and headed Southwest toward Mecca through the Northwest edge of the Orocopia Mountains. We stopped in Mecca for gas and picked up some burritos for dinner. Total distance today was about 210 miles, 88 of which were on gravel roads. A nice trip into areas we haven't seen before.