Tag Archives: California

The Great Attack Birds of San Clemente

Last week a traveled to San Clemente, CA for a wedding. San Clemente is a mid-sized town between Los Angeles and San Diego. Its know for its coastal views, surfing and as the headquarters for Rainbow Sandals. Essentially, its a surf town.

Sunset in San Clemente

Sunset in San Clemente

Being that I was still on East Coast time, I woke up way too early on Friday and went in search of good coffee and breakfast. The first place we stopped was supposed to have already opened, but clearly they were on surf time and were still prepping for the day. So, I landed at a busy donut shop called Surfin’ Donuts, of course.

mmm, donuts

mmm, donuts

Afterwards, we thought I’d take a drive to the waterfront to check out the scenery and get some fresh air. After a quick left turn I found myself on a hilly windy road, which gave way to a view of the San Clemente  pier.

San Clemente Pier

San Clemente Pier

Though the pier provided beautiful views, it was also totally infested with birds. Now, I don’t mind a few seagulls or pelicans. But this was different. There where hundreds upon hundreds of pigeons. As we started to walk down the pier, they were take flight and a few would make like they were going to dive bomb us.  This happened every few steps. Fear got the best of us before we could make it to the end, but it was a very long pier…

Attack Birds

Attack Birds

… but it was worth it for the sunrise views.

Sunrise in San Clemente

Sunrise in San Clemente

California Dreaming

Tomorrow, I head to California to celebrate the wedding of a close friend. In honor of my California trip, I thought I would take a look back on a previous wander in Southern California.

Gratuitous pelican photo

Gratuitous pelican photo

Almost a year ago to the day after a delicious brunch, we took a  saunter down to the Hermosa Beach pier. Having lived in California I usually am not terribly impressed by the beach views. However, that day was different. It was windy so there was clear skies, no smog and a decent break in the surf. There were loads of surfers out and we took some time to enjoy watching the action.

Clear skies in Hermosa Beach

Clear skies in Hermosa Beach

One surfer in particular intrigued me because I noticed that he was paddling out wearing a trucker hat. Who does that? Even great surfers bail out of waves and I was sure that he was going to lose his hat. I managed to capture a great picture of him as he cut under the pier to catch the break.

Tracker hat surfer

Trucker hat surfer

We watched him for a while, but he never did lose his hat.

Saving the Salton Sea

About 11 months ago I visited California to see friends, do some hiking/wandering and ending with a business trip. I spent three years in California while in law school so on this trip, I wanted to do some off the beaten track tourism and see some new things. At the top of my list was to pay a visit to the Salton Sea Recreation area. I had been hearing about the Salton Sea for years but an article in Vice had really piqued my interests.

The Salton Sea, past its prime

The Salton Sea Recreation Area sign has seen better days

So, what is the Salton Sea? It’s an inland lake in the Coachella Valley area inland in Southern California near Joshua Tree National Park. The lake was accidentally created in 1905. In an effort to increase water flow into the area for farming, irrigation canals were being dug from the Colorado River into the valley. However, there was an engineering error caused by a heavy rain and millions of gallons of water flowed into the previously dried out lake bed.

In the 50s and 60s, it was a booming tourist attraction that attracted families and celebrities like Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono. It was “marketed as a ‘miracle in the desert’” it would regularly attract over half a million visitors annually. It was a full service resort town complete with shops, hotels, yacht clubs, fishing and water-skiing.

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea in its Prime

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

Salton Sea post card from the 1950s

However, the success of the area was short-lived. The Salton Sea lacks an outflow, which means that runoff and contaminants that enter the lake, have no exit or means of dilution. The Salton Sea is surrounded by nearly half a million acres of agricultural land and its runoff, includes salt, fertilizers and pesticides. By the 1970s, the salinity of the sea was so drastically increased that the water was becoming too hostile to support the life of most freshwater fish. Currently, the salinity is increasing at about a rate of 1% annually and it is more salty than the Pacific Ocean. This caused a die out of fish, elevated bacterial levels and algal blooms that began to rot giving off foul odors.

The Salton Sea Today

The Salton Sea Today

Today, only a few species can survive in the lake. The shores are littered with dead and dedicated fish and the beach is covered with barnacles and fish bones.

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Dead fish on the shores of the Salton Sea

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

Beaches covered with the bones of dead fish and barnacles

It wasn’t only the wildlife that suffered. Tourists stopped coming and revenue for resort areas dried up. Most people have left the area but a few still eek out a living. Many areas suffer from blight and vandalism with many vacant homes. I visited the community of Bombay Beach which is a prime example of such abandonment. There are still a few residents, but it is a desperate and desolate place.

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Vacant home in Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

Graffiti in an Abandoned home, Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

A kitchen of an abandoned home in Bombay Beach

But, good news may be coming soon to the residents of the Salton Sea area. Assemblyman Brian Nestande of California announced this week, an initiative to institute a quarter-cent sales tax in the Coachella Valley. The money raised would pay for an earth dike to be constructed across the northern portion of the Salton Sea. The purpose of the Dike would be to create a new body of water the size of Lake Arrowhead that would be fed by runoff and preserve the northern shoreline. The cost of this restoration project could range from $225 million to $510 million.

For more information about the Salton Sea you can check out the following links:

http://www.cnn.com/video/data/2.0/video/us/2014/10/20/orig-sinatra-hangout-becoming-toxic-threat.cnn.html

http://www.outsideonline.com/news-from-the-field/Restoration-Project-Proposed-for-Salton-Sea.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140218-salton-sea-imperial-valley-qsa-water-conservation/

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=639