Saturday, December 5, 2009

El Centro to Algodones Dunes

So this is what is looks like below sea level

An irrigation canal below sea level in the Imperial valley. Interesting to think that this water would have to run uphill to get to the ocean.

El Centro to North Algodones Dunes Wilderness Area
Day 50 40 miles

Today we left the hotel somewhat late. We always have these grandiose plans leaving early in the morning. With a roof over our heads, a warm shower, and a clean bed, it seems logical, but it usually does not pan out. This morning we slept in. Then we decided to eat some breakfast and write on the blog. By the time we checked out our bikes and got ready to go it was 11:30.

We filled up both of our one gallon bladder bags with water today. We are going through a 70 mile stretch of desert with no water or any services at all for that matter. We had a hard time figuring out the perfect way to anchor the bladders to the trailer, but we eventually figured out a suitable way. We rode out of El Centro toward the town of Brawley. We planned on stopping for groceries in Brawley, but when we got there, we were surprised we could only find was a little Mexican market in a town over 10,000. We found enough groceries, but the selection was meager.

We rode East out of Brawley and rode down below sea level through a valley full of agriculture. This is part of the Imperial valley, a valley that is supposedly the most bountiful agricultural area in North America. Riding through this area, however, it didn't look like much. The land is just valley bottom desert that is laced with irrigation canals. The soil looks like little more than sand as this is a real desert. this area only gets 2 inches of rain per year. The water in the canals is from wells all around the valley. The ground water has been drawn down so much that in some places the ground itself has actually subsided around 30 feet! Crazy. We reached the lowest point either of us have ever been, around 120 feet below sea level. Then we began to climb back up and suddenly the agriculture field disappeared and we came out into open desert and the beginnings of sand dunes. This higher land out of the valley isn't too desirable so it is owned by the BLM.

We rode into an area that is dominated by sand dunes, it is called Imperial Dunes. There is an off highway vehicle area here called Glamis that is famous for off-roading with ATVs, dirt bikes, and dune buggies. On peak days there are up to 130,000 people here with their OHVs. Luckily there were not nearly this many people around when we got to this area. We saw on our map that there is a campground here on the BLM land, so we stopped at the ranger station along the highway and asked about where we should camp. The reaction of the rangers was priceless. There we were, two bicyclists at the biggest off road motor sport place in the country asking for a campsite. The ranger said, "You want to camp here?" It was getting late so we said we were just looking for a safe place to put up our tent where we wouldn't get run over. Paradoxically, the North side of the highway is a wilderness area, so the ranger said we should just set up our camp on the other side of the highway.

We took his advice, but what a weird place. We could hear the scream of engines all around on the South side of the highway until a bit after dark. We saw everything from tiny kid sized dirt bikes to dune buggies with four seats and huge V8 motors. No one was in a tent but us. Everyone else either pulled big fancy camper trailers or drove bus sized RVs to the dunes. We couldn't imagine what all of the other people must have thought when they saw us. Never the less, we set up our tent on just the other side of the wilderness boundary, and locked our bikes on the just the outside of the wilderness boundary (bike are not allowed in wilderness). We flipped the BOB trailer upside down and used the bottom of it as a little table to cook our supper of burritos. A few people partied until about 10:30pm, but the whole place quieted down after that and we actually slept pretty well.


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