The Fountain of Youth

Niland, CA – December, 2015 We searched for the Fountain of Youth and finally found it! A couple we visited with at a rest area in Colorado in May told us about an awesome campground in Southern California called The Fountain of Youth that we simply must visit when we got to the area. I tried to look it up but you can imagine the kind of results I got when I googled any variation of “fountain of youth.” Finally, while perusing campground options near the Salton Sea I stumbled upon it.

It is called The Fountain of Youth Spa RV Resort. It has a hot spring that supplies mineral water to one hot tub they call the Lobster Pot. They also have two large heated pools and three more hot tubs. It’s located in the middle of nowhere between The Salton Sea and The Chocolate Mountains. I know it sounds like as big a fairy tale as the famous but elusive fountain of youth.

They have sites with no hookups for $20/night so we planned to boondock a couple nights as the weather was perfect for it. I checked their website one last time to see if they offered any other discounts. I was ecstatic when I saw they were offering full hookup sites (normally $40) for only $10 per night to all first time guests through the end of December. We booked 7 nights.

We had an absolutely awesome time. I loved that their pools opened at 6am. There’s nothing better than enjoying your morning coffee in a warm pool or hot tub. We started most of our days there. We took on the task of hand polishing the RV’s exterior that week so we worked on that until lunch each day. It was good exercise.

After lunch we would take a walk around the resort or into the desert. The resort had just about every activity you could want; tennis/pickle ball courts, a dozen pool tables, bocce ball. We practiced our rusty horseshoe skills, clowned around in the ping pong room, and enjoyed the shuffleboard tables while we were there.

We only left the resort once to take a drive and see the sights. The nearby Salton Sea has a very interesting history. It was created by accident when the Colorado River overflowed an irrigation canal’s banks in 1905. The water flowed into the Salton Sink, a desert basin 278 feet below sea level, for 2 years before they finally got it contained. It created this shallow lake 35 miles across.

At first, it was a boon to the area. They stocked it with fish and communities and resorts grew up around it. But as the years went by with no fresh water flowing into the sea it became an environmental nightmare with massive fish die offs each summer.

We had read plenty of great camping reviews extolling the beautiful views and lack of crowds. We had also read some complaining of flies and stench. We were interested to see it for ourselves.

We stopped at a deserted beach and it looked pleasant enough. So we walked down to the beach and took the above picture. When we got about 30 feet from the water it started to smell. We finally noticed that the beach was scattered with fish skeletons.

We stopped at a couple other places to check out future boondocking options and experienced the same thing. The views were nice, we didn’t notice any flies in December, but the nearer you got to the water the more you noticed the smell. We decided we liked our camp several miles from the shore and didn’t care to kayak or fish in the Salton Sea.

Slab City was also nearby. We were looking forward to visiting “the last free place on earth” as they like to call it. It is a squatter’s paradise located on the remains of an abandoned marine base. It has been embraced by artists and individualists who have created a community of sorts which boasts a library, a skate park, and a nightclub among other things. Most inhabitants are transients or snowbirds but apparently there are about 150 year round residents that brave the summer heat that can reach 120 degrees.

My first impression was that for a group of people that extol personal freedom they sure build a lot of fences. I guess fences make good neighbors and you would have a lot of them if you chose to stay here. I was impressed with some of the ingenious shelters, especially those made of pallets. Mostly we were disgusted by how much trash was laying around. We decided we would pass on camping there.

We did enjoy visiting Salvation Mountain, a monument built at the entrance to slab city.

Artist Leonard Knight lived there and built it over the course of many years. He covered a hill in a mixture of adobe and straw and then painted murals and religious sayings on it. He kept adding on until 2011 when it was necessary for him to go to a long term care facility at the age of 80 where he later died. Thankfully a group of people have started a nonprofit and are working to preserve his work.

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