I belong to an exclusive group of gentlemen, “The Southern California Regional Organisation of Tough Individuals”. Every year we have our sabbatical at a secret location on the Colorado River. While “Lake Mudge” is not a real name, it is a real place. A place of fragile beauty and historic significance. For more of the back story check out our newsletter, “The Lake Mudge Chronicle”, found on this site.
“Suicide Trip” is so called because we attempt to schedule our arrival on the hottest day of the year. Sometime in late July or early August, and if the temperature doesn’t reach at least 1oo° the trip is considered to be a failure. 11o° is good… and 115° is even better! What most city folks don’t realize is that out in the desert with zero humidity, a 1oo° in the shade feels like 8o° would back home in San Diego. It’s critical to have a little breeze blowing both day and night to make it survivable. No wind at night can make it difficult to sleep and then the bugs have a better chance of finding you. Bug repellent usually takes care of that. Once the wind stops you start to fry and are pretty much driven into the water. The water in the lake is cool, even cold down deep. It’s a refreshing transition to get out of the lake and shiver in the wind only to jump in again ten minutes later because you are hot and dry. It’s really important to stay hydrated. We drink water constantly, usually rotated with some other beverage like beer and soda… or whiskey and soda. Also we stay in the shade of the palm trees. Everyone wears a big hat to protect the old bean from critical meltdown. You’ve got to put on plenty of sunscreen and wear a big t-shirt to prevent sunburn.
We usually head out of San Diego early on Friday morning and stop for brunch in El Centro on the way to the river. I highly recommend you stop and eat at Camacho’s Place, 796 West Wahl Road. Don’t be suprised if you are encouraged to adpopt one of the many feral cats running about the place. Fantastic traditional Mexican cuisine! You must try the Special “Puffy” Quesadillas. They are out of this world and can only be found in this area of the valley.
Our days are spent in the lake up to our necks or splashing about on our regulation flotation devices (inner tubes). It’s too hot to cook meals. Besides, open fires are against the law at the lake ($700 fine). Last year a carelessly tossed cigarette caused a 200 acre brush fire. So all our food is pre-made, like deli-style fried chicken, pasta salad, chips, cookies…only the good stuff that won’t spoil overnight.
As evening approaches it’s time for some exploring. An old quarry about a mile away is were endangered big horn sheep are often spotted. This area is also a major destination for migrating birds of all types and descriptions. Many species that have been spotted stopping at the lake as they travel thru from all directions. The volcanic hills offer some amazing geode formations for the intrepid rock-hound. Gold was found in the dry wash by U.S. Army soldiers in the 1860′s before the present lake buried it under 10 feet of water.
At night strange lights fill the sky, perhaps due to the military base found nearby. UFO sightings are common. Even Jamie Farr, Klinger of subsequent “M.A.S.H.” fame, reported spotting one while driving by the lake in the early 1960′s. At evening-tide we conduct our most secret rituals, consisting mostly of telling lies, tall tales, and bad jokes. We also raise a few toasts in honor of those who have gone on before us. We sleep right out on the asphalt jetty under the amazing stars, sheltered by the cattails and palm trees. If the breeze keeps up, we sleep all night till sunrise, when that fat old sun chases us back into the water.