The plan for our Baja trip is to meet the rest of our group in Chula Vista, CA, which is south of San Diego near the border. The plan is to meet them at 6:30 am on Sunday to cross the border as a group. We decided to leave early for two reasons. One is so we can take our time and see the sights on the way to California. The other reason is to miss the storm that was forecasted to hit Utah.

We left on Wednesday morning, January 8, 2020 around 9:30 am. The storm was predicted to hit later in the day, so it was cold, but dry as we headed south on I15. It was an uneventful trip to St George. It was nice to stop in St. George to gas up, and to feel the warm sun. We gassed up at Costco and ate lunch at Cafe Rio. Eva has some credits at Cafe Rio that would expire before we came back, so we got our lunch, and then ate the leftovers for dinner. We also stopped at 4 different stores (2 Walmarts) looking for the large bags of Pretzel M&Ms. They are the snack that keeps me awake while driving. We finally found what we wanted in the Walmart in Bloomington.

We spent the first night just outside of Valley of Fire State Park, about 20 miles north of Las Vegas. There was a pretty nice spot in a small valley about 1/4 mile off the road. We were alone all night long and didn’t even hear any traffic on the road.

We considered going into the park, but by the time we got going in the morning, we decided not to spend time there. We will save that for a future trip.

We left camp at 10 am and continued to Las Vegas. We found another Costco and topped of the tank and then we headed to Walmart to pick up a few things. At this point in the trip we have spent more time in a Walmart, than in the outdoors. We needed to pick up a few more things before we enter into Mexico.

After the last Walmart, we headed out of LV and continued south on I15. Just inside the California border, we left I15 and drove through the Mohave National Preserve. The Preserve is not as developed as a National Park, but had a lot of pretty scenery. I think it would be a lot nicer in March as the wildflowers and cactus may be blooming. We stopped at the Kelso Depot in the middle of the preserve. This is a restored Union Pacific depot that now serves as a visitor center and museum. They had a lot of railroad displays in the museum that reminded me of my time working as a gandy dancer for Union Pacific in Nevada.

We ate lunch at the museum and then drove to the Kelso Sand Dunes. These are some of the largest sandy dunes in the country. We didn’t spend a lot of time as Eva didn’t feel like hiking up the dunes.

The rest of the drive through the Preserve was pretty, but again, I think it would be really nice in the spring. After exiting the Preserve we crossed under I40 and continued south across the desert to Amboy, CA. There is not much in Amboy so we continued south looking for a campsite. It is dark by 5 pm, so we only went about 20 miles south of Amboy to find a campsite in a small corner of the Sheep Hole Mountains. We could still see and hear the road, but there was not much traffic during the night. The elevation was 2300’, so it was warmer than the night before, but a bit more windy.

Friday we were on the road by 9:30 am and continued south along the backroads of the California desert. We stopped at the Joshua Tree National Park visitor center in 29 Palms and Eva had to buy her national parks patch. She started collecting the patches during our trip to Oregon last year. We drove through the park and stopped at a few viewpoints. We took the dirt road to Desert Queen Mine and did a short hike.

After the hike we continued south through the park until we left the park and came into the Salton Sea Valley. Our campsite that night was 243 feet below sea level on the west shores of the Salton Sea.

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Moonrise over Salton Sea
Sunrise over Salton Sea

The Salton Sea is a shallow, saline lake located in the California desert in the Salton Basin, a remnant of prehistoric Lake Cahuilla. The Salton Sea was created by accident in 1905, when water from the Colorado river spilled out of a poorly-constructed California Development Company irrigation system. The lake grew over the next two years, until workers were able to staunch the massive flow. By this time, a 400-square-mile body of water had formed on the Salton basin in southern California. They called it the Salton Sea.

There was an abandon RV park on shores of the sea that had several campers, but we drove through the RV park and out on to the sandy beach area. We were all alone on the beach for the night. It was probably our best camping spot so far. We watched the sun set and the moon rise over the sea.

The next morning we got an early 8 am start and continued towards San Diego. We stopped in Borrego Springs to look at the desert sculptures that are spread through the town. There are about 130 large welded steel sculptures that were created by an artist and are available for any one to enjoy. The largest is a sea serpent that is 350 feet long and passes underneath the road.

It was a windy road from Borrego Springs to the I8 freeway and then it was 40 minutes to Chula Vista. We stopped at Costco for gas and to exchange some dollars for pesos. We then drove to our niece’s house to take a shower, do some wash and spend the night.

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