14-Feb-2004 -- This would be the first of 3 confluence visits on this 3-day weekend (Presidents' Day). We would make a large (700 mile) counterclockwise loop around the Salton Sea with visits to 33n-116w, 33n-115w, and 34n-115w prior to returning home.
Planning consisted of a review of the first visit and National Geographic California topo maps. Initial topographic indications led me to plan a route going up the western drainage of the Fish Creek Mountains. This looked to be the easiest way to the point. We turned south at Ocotillo Wells on Split Mountain Road and then turned east on the road immediately north of the narrow gauge railroad tracks. We had gotten a late start and it had been dark for a while so we pulled off to the side and would attempt the confluence in the morning. This area is very popular with off road vehicles. There were hundreds of RV's with trailers loaded with 4wd all terrain vehicles and motorcycles. We knew that there were lots of vehicles camping but didn't realize how many until the morning. It was like we were in the middle of a Mad Max movie. They were all dressed in colorful helmets and matching shoulder pads, and various other types of "body armor" and there were all types of home-made vehicles kicking up large dust clouds. Early Saturday morning we started down the dirt road in our RV, we came upon a very sandy spot and nearly got stuck. We turned around and I decided to hike the extra 2.5 miles each way.
As I started my climb, I could see a wall of dust that the collected masses had turned into a haze by mid-morning (visible in the distance in Picture #1 against the mountain). I proceeded up the drainage from west of the confluence. It was easy hiking at first becoming moderate bouldering and finally, steep climbing on very loose, large rocks. Stay on the northern side of the ravine as you proceed to the point, eventually it will level out as you get near the confluence. I set up my GPS receivers and then gave a quick call back to my wife (full strength signal on my AT&T cell phone). I took the required pictures and then thought I might see how the path to the east looked as I could see what looked like a trail described by the first visitors. I also noticed old sea shells and coral remnants as described by Rhett Barnes and Greg Michalski all the way up to the confluence (1000' above the valley floor). Their narrative was both accurate and descriptive. My topographic map showed the slope there to be quite steep and after about 15 minutes I aborted that plan and proceeded back the same way I came.
The road along the tracks was very sandy in parts. In others, it was covered with very fine powdered mud – with the consistency of flour. As I walked, little dust clouds were forming with every step I took. My shoes sank a good half inch or more into this - now I understood the need for the specialized vehicles. At other places, the road was hard dry lakebed.
Picture #1 looks to the north. Picture #2 looks to the east. Picture #3 looks to the south and gives a good representation of the rocks you will be climbing over all the way up to the point. Picture #4 looks to the west; the lower right corner shows the ravine that you want to stay on the north side of all the way up. Picture #5 shows my GPS position. Picture #6 shows an eastbound train. Picture #7 is a close-up of the train.
Total distance from the closest spot along the railroad tracks you could park was 3.57 miles in 2:45 hours with just over 1000 feet of elevation gain. Since I had to park a lot farther away than I had planned, numbers to my vehicle were 8.83 miles in 4:33.
Off to 33-115!