A Little Nightime Excitement and a Trip to the Picacho State Recreation Area
A slight smell of smoke woke me from a dead sleep the other night and I glanced out the bedroom window to the scene above. The wildfire was about 3/4 mile away at that time and the wind, fortunately was driving it towards the Imperial Dam, not towards the area I was camping. The fire smoldered for three days and the burn covered a distance of a couple miles all the way up to the road going through the Yuma proving grounds.
Just another desert sunrise from the campsite.
Picacho State Recreation Area
I was waiting for a day with blue skies and cumulous clouds to venture out the very washboarded 18 mile gravel road to the Colorado River and the Picacho State Recreation Area. I had those conditions when I left camp but the clouds were blown away by the time I reached the river.
The gravel road is dusty and washboarded, but there are no serious grades along the route and the road can pretty much be traveled by any type of rig. There is a nice primitive campground near the river, probably close to 50 level campsites with water and a dump station and when I was there only about five small camping units were present. Certainly a place to get away from it all, but I probably would not subject my motorhome to the washboarded road in.
There are a couple of nice picnic areas and boat launch ramps along the river.
I had gone 26 days here in the desert without needing to take out my little 2000 watt generator to recharge my batteries. I almost never use my larger onboard generator unless I need to bake something in my large electric toaster oven, so that hasn’t been used either. This has probably been the longest streak of 100% solar power electricc I have ever gotten where I have never even dropped the batteries below 70 %, much less the 50%.
But finally that streak came to an end this week as we had three straight days of pretty much solid cloud cover with the last two days actually producing rain, the last day several hours of real rain, as in steady showers, not just a sprinkle here and there.
With some more dramatic skies I did venture out and drive over to the north shore of Senator Wash Reservoir here at the LTVA and shot a few desert shots looking north over the wilderness area adjacent to the LTVA.
This reservoir is used to store water for irrigation in the valley. The power station pumps water from the river to the reservoir during times of high flow and releases it to the irrigation canals when river flow is low, same principle as the pumped storage projects for hydro electric power back east (I worked on two such facilities construction way back in my youth).
Pearl, the intrepid Desert Explorer.
After more than 40 years of owning this breed of dog, I still get a kick out of how they act like, and obviously truly believe, they are real dogs. Let her off leash and she bounds off, nose to the ground, fearlessly tracking scents, for exactly what purpose I’ll never know.
Imperial Valley of California (and a bit of Arizona)
A little change of pace for this blog entry, a little local info. The map below, from Google Earth, shows the boundaries of the Imperial Valley, from the source of it’s life giving water, the Colorado River on the far right of the map, to the final downstream end of the water flow in the Salton Sea, where all the salt laden drainage from the agricultural fields ends up.
The map below shows the detail of the Map Inset from the top map and depicts the area where I am staying, and exploring, this winter, truly just a tiny portion of the Imperial Valley.
The map below, shows detail from the Map Insert of the map above, and depicts the dam complex where the mighty Colorado River is diverted to the All -American Canal and the two other canals that distribute water to the agricultural fields of the valley.
This shot was taken just a half mile from where I am camped and shows the volume of water diverted towards the fields in California.
The canal is the only place I have found large numbers of ducks in the area. These are Ringnecks, but I have also found Mallards, Buffleheads, Northern Shovelers, and Canvasbacks.
Windblown spray from the irrigation system tints the greens of a field of salad greens.
The text below was gathered from various websites. The Bloomberg article I found quite enlightening.
Although this region is in the Colorado Desert section of the Sonoran Desert, with high temperatures and low average rainfall of 3 inches (76 mm) per year, the economy is heavily based on agriculture due to irrigation, which is supplied wholly from the Colorado River via the All-American Canal. Thousands of acres of prime farmland have transformed the desert into one of the most productive farming regions in California with an annual crop production of over $1 billion. Agriculture is the largest industry in the Imperial Valley and accounts for 48% of all employment. An environmental cost is that, south of the canal, the Colorado River no longer flows above ground at all for much of the year into Mexico.
A vast system of canals, check dams, and pipelines carry the water all over the valley, a system which forms the Imperial Irrigation District, or IID. The water distribution system includes over 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canal and with 1,100 miles (1,800 km) of pipeline. The number of canal and pipeline branches number roughly over a hundred. Imported water and a long growing season allow two crop cycles each year, and the Imperial Valley is a major source of winter fruits and vegetables, cotton, and grain for U.S. and international markets. Alfalfa is another major crop produced in the Imperial Valley. The agricultural lands are served by a constructed agricultural drain system, which conveys surface runoff and subsurface drainage from fields to the Salton Sea, which is a designated repository for agricultural runoff, with environmental considerations not yet solved.
A very interesting story on the history of water rights and fights in the Imperial Valley from Bloomberg can be read here.
It is estimated that more than 2/3 of the vegetables consumed in the United States during the winter months are grown here in the Imperial Valley.
Imperial County produced enough lettuce (including head lettuce, leaf lettuce and salad mix) to serve dinner salads to 2,352,000,000 people!
An acre of carrots can provide 320,000 people with a nutritious side dish. Enough carrots were grown in Imperial Valley to serve a 1/4-pound helping to 75% of the Earth’s population!
Imperial Valley has a well-known reputation for midwinter salad vegetables. Shipments of crisphead lettuce, leaf lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage start in December and continue until March. Asparagus is in-season January, February and March. Carrots are harvested January to June.
Spring production of warm-season vegetables starts in late April with the harvest of Sweet Imperial onions, sweet corn, bell pepper, chili peppers, cantaloupes, mixed melons and watermelons.
This is a shot of a field of lettuce in in the tiny Arizona section of the Imperial Valley. The scale of the leafy vegetable growing operation of the valley is hard to imagine if one has never been here to see it.
I don’t know the reason for this type of planting, but it does make for an interesting change of pace from the solid green fields that surround it..
I had no idea what this was that this crew was harvesting, but then a timely article on the front page of the Yuma Sun on Sunday had an article called “Reap the Harvest” and had an image and text describing what the crew was harvesting.
It is almost incomprehensible, when one sees the scale of these operations and the miles of fields, that each head of lettuce, each cabbage, each broccoli or cauliflower, is harvested by hand. The vehicle behind the pickers is where the plant is washed and packaged for the grocery store shelf, then boxed for transport, a moving assembly line platform. The white school buses on the right, usually towing one or two Porta-potties, are used to transport workers about the fields.
After four months of confinement in Bend, Oregon, I finally received permission to head south for warmer temperatures. My oncologist told me I was ” in a good place right now ” as far as my bloodwork was concerned and he gave me permission to head south to Yuma where arrangements have been made for me to continue weekly chemo treatments. After surviving several nights of temperatures in the very low teens here in Bend without the motorhome freezing up, I had been granted a little weather relief recently as temps warmed up considerably and the danger of freezing up decreased significantly. But the cold would definitely be reoccurring this far north and I had been anxiously awaiting a chance to escape Bend and head south.
So after my 9 AM doctor’s visit and chemo treatment, I packed up and was on my way south by 11 AM Thursday for the trip to the LTVA ( BLM’s Long Term Visitor’s Area ) at Imperial Dam in Winterhaven, California.
Wanting to avoid the traffic and high gasoline prices going through California, I was pleased to get a good weather window to take the more easterly route to Yuma through the state of Nevada. Route 20 east out of Bend took me to Route 78 east and south into Nevada where I picked up Route 95 south. This route was all 2 lane highway, with a short section of I-80 thrown in, and the road was in very good shape, with no severe inclines or mountain descents, and not a whole lot of traffic. my only concern along the way was along a section of highway that ran around 6000′ elevation and where signs of snow started to appear along the highway.
Fortunately, the only snow I saw was on the distant hillsides and I was able to make great time and covered the 1050 mile trip to Quartzite, Arizona in just two days of driving. After filling up with gas and propane, I spent the night at one of the 14 day stay BLM camping areas in Quartzsite before driving the remaining 60 miles to the LTVA at Imperial Dam, arriving Saturday morning.
Incredibly, I was able to snag my favorite spot here, the exact same campsite I had here last winter. Perfectly isolated with a great view of the surrounding area, uninterrupted by other campers.
As an added bonus, I know from last year that I should be able to entice birds to my site, so I will have something to do here other than just painting and doctor’s appointments.
All the surrounding vegetation provides a lot of cover for the quail and other birdlife here. Unfortunately for little Pearl, it also provides a lot of cover for coyotes. Our first night here, I went to bed around 9 PM, tired from the 2 day long drive, and not 5 minutes after hitting the bed, I was startled awake by a coyote wailing directly under my bedroom window … I could have reached out and touched him/her?, it was that close. Don’t know if it was upset that I settled in on it’s territory or if it was warning me of it’s presence , or maybe it was just the full moon, who knows. But I do know I won’t dare let Pearl out unescorted.
She seems totally unaware of the potential dangers here and wants to get out and investigate all the new smells.
Nice to see the colorful sunrises and sunsets again here in the desert, hope to capture many more before I leave.