Stink to Drink

We arrived at the Salton Sea just in time to see the sunset coat a pastel veil over the beige desert landscape.


Girlscout, a fellow PCT alumnus, gave us a lift and the low-down on the route. He’s hiked the route three times! 


The Salton Sea was formed accidentally in an attempt to bring water from the Colorado River to the Colorado Desert for farming. For a brief period during the 1950’s the Salton Sea showed promise of becoming a hip desert destination for folks looking to escape the hub-bub of Los Angeles. Neighborhoods were being developed in Salton City, plans for large resorts were underway, and significant populations of tilapia were brought in to attract fishing. Unfortunately, within a few years, the dream of this desert oasis began to decay. The water in the sea sat stagnant in the desert basin causing an increase in salinity and pollution from surrounding farms. The poor water conditions killed tilapia by the millions, and rotting carcasses soon washed up on the shore.

As you can imagine, the sight and smell of the Salton Sea deterred tourism. The population in the area shrank (although there still are folks who still live there) and development projects were abandoned, leaving roads that lead to nowhere. Today the area appears as an apocalyptic wasteland, left in anarchic isolation.


As soon as we got out of Girlscout’s car I noticed a unique smell of sulphur mixed with dead fish.

Girlscout informed us that, “Some folks refer to this route as the Stink to Drink Trail. The nickname goes with a tradition of finding a dead fish skeleton in the sea, placing it in a ziplock, and carrying it with you to the ocean.”

Neither Cosmo nor I followed through with the tradition.

We hiked six miles through a dry, sandy wash to get out of “town” and set up camp for the night.