As I mentioned last week, RV snowbirding in the Southwest is an inexpensive and fun place to escape winter’s wrath. Whether you’re set up for off-grid camping or just want a leisurely season at a full-service RV park, you’ll find that the Southwest has a variety of options to fit within your budget and lifestyle.
Each winter Jim and I head out to the Southern California region to spend Christmas with relatives. After holiday festivities we’ll casually meander around some of the best public desert lands this nation has to offer, because that’s our preferred way to wait out winter. One of our favorite destinations is the Salton Sea region. Located just an hour south of Palm Springs and about three hours west of San Diego, this vast desert region allows us to:
1) enjoy beautiful sunsets and dark, starry night skies;
2) soak in the nation’s warmest winter weather;
3) stay for free or almost-nothing on public lands;
4) savor regional culinary delights at a local farmer’s market; and
5) camp in solitude or among friends .
The Salton Sea is appropriately named: it’s a high-alkali, inland body of water that looks beautiful from miles away but up close will knock you over with the stench of rotting fish killed off by water polluted by agricultural runoff. We never go near this ecological catastrophe, but rather admire it’s beauty from afar on our way to the nearby town of Borrego Springs.
This tiny getaway is about a half hour west of the Salton Sea at a higher elevation that keeps it relatively cool during warmer months but also subjects it to occasional high winds and cold temperatures during winter. A quirky ambiance and retro buildings with original signage emit a 1970s feel to the main drag which culminates in a grassy gathering spot called “Christmas Circle.” This is where hundreds of temporary residents and hearty year-round locals gather each Friday morning for a wintertime farmer’s market featuring the best home-grown culinary delights of the region.
Borrego Springs is like the poor man’s Palm Springs. Resorts cater to winter snowbirds and the town has a few RV parks for every budget, a state park campground in town and free dry camping spots just outside of city limits. We use our handy Shunpiker Camping Guide to help us choose our temporary home and locate nearby attractions and amenities like hiking trails, RV dumps and laundromats. Since cell phone service can be spotty or non-existent in some parts, we select carefully to ensure we can work from our RV.
If you go there, be prepared for drastic fluctuations in weather events. On more than one occasion, bad weather forced us to leave earlier than we anticipated. During one two-day windstorm, we rarely got outside the rig and finally left when cabin fever took over. Thankfully, our next destination was just an hour away on the other side of the Salton Sea, where a massive handmade clay monument called Salvation Mountain lies at the foot of the country’s most offbeat snowbird destination: Slab City.
Stay tune for next week’s lowdown on the ins and outs of this crazy boondocking spot that certainly isn’t for everyone, but made for the curious RVer willing to take a chance on adventure.