Monday, 7 March 2011


ESCAPE TO THE HINTERLANDS----THE FRINGES OF SOCIETY---A NEAR UNIVERSAL HUNGER---Or fantasy. The Hero in many movies---runs to the wild lands for solice, healing, inspiration ---where he meets strange characters living interesting lives. (e.g. Blade Runner) The experience is transformative and he returns stronger and wiser for the experience. Yuma has more wild lands---wastelands--than most cities. I will take you there and let you meet some of its inhabitants. I begin here---In the parking lot of the Paradise Casino beside the Colorado River---pointed west with solar panels raised to collect more solar energy. All those folks are camping free--and each, to some degree, a maverick--- refusing to pay campground fees.
Sunset finds me in this historic spot---Yuma Crossing. The first bridge is the Railroad---the second is the famous "Ocean to Ocean" highway bridge completing the transcontinental roadway. The third bridge is Interstate Highway Eight.
Glancing left I see the watchtower of historic Yuma Territorial Prison. I will go there to photograph some wastelands.
I walk across the bridge next day--pay the $5 fee.
Tour the prison (again) ---and from that tower show the much -diminished Colorado River that is allowed to flow into Mexico. The vast majority--perhaps 80%---has been diverted 20 miles upstream into the All American Canal.
Now I turn to the North to show you some of the Wastelands I mean to explore---the floodplain of the river. People live out there in those bushes.
But first I will follow the course of the remaining 80% of the river---the All American Canal---flowing generally West into California . Here, it meanders under Interstate 8 in the distance.
I turn around 180 degrees to show more wastelands---with some outlanders camped there.
Further downstream---a crucial juncture that changed history---for this is the spot where---in 1905--an overfull--rainswollen--rampaging Colorado River--broke through all obstacles----carving a brand-new river---FLOWING NORTH---into a dry lake bed--thus creating the Salton Sea. That channel on the left--leading into Mexico-- is now blocked and all the water--channeled---ON THE AMERICAN SIDE---to the farmlands of the Imperial Valley---40 miles West.
Enormous effort and money were expended to assure American control of this water. The new canal had to be routed through those mountains--AND THEN--through 5 miles of gigantic sand dunes! I'll show you. But the relevance for this blog is that this project created miles and miles of wastelands where outlanders and solace-seekers may live---for a day---or a year. Look carefully and you will see campers like me on the edge and atop the spoil bank. I'll follow this road to it's abrupt end.
A tiny---but interesting--outlander rig---surely there's a story here---I'll come back and see who's living there.
The canal curves toward a niche in the mountains. That structure on the right is a watershed overpass--to prevent local drainage from entering the canal.
And there's where the canal builders blasted a route through the mountain--and where the road ends. I've been told that 10% of all the vegetables grown in the US are nurtured with this water.
Now---back to my story--I park and climb the spoil bank. Down there are the wild lands---the waste lands---Can you see "my people" camped here and there in the bushes. In the distance you can see a few hundred campers clustered at the Q casino. They park there for $5 a night to give them easy access to the nearby Mexican city of Algodones. (cheap dental work and medicines)---I'm going down into those bushes for a close look. Also---I know that a dear friend is buried down there in a sandy grave---I will go pay my respects----and continue my wastelands report tomorrow with the people I meet.
I leave you with this shot of the canal passing through the great Imperial dunes---They are awesome and I love them. Notice the concrete lining---to prevent seepage loss.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I'm drawn to the wastelands and I bet you are too. That is where order ends and surprise is likely----the demarcation line where the rich, the greedy and status seekers lose interest --- drop away. Here is no grist for their mill. Historically, wastelands are sanctuary for the persecuted---the weaker groups. The Paiute Indians were pushed by more powerful tribes to desert wastelands like Nevada. The Seminoles to the swamps of Florida. And (karmically?) they were in turn pushed to the wastelands by us. Almost all reservations are wastelands where defeated races sulk to this day. (Indian bitterness will begin to heal the day they admit they are as bad as we are) Incidentally, I'm waiting for an opportnity to ask a nature-loving Indian why their reservations are so universally littered with trash.
Everyone needs a place to BE! And the wastelands provide a last-ditch place for some and oddly--a first choice for some world weary souls.

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