Dave took off work today and Monday: wonderful, a 4 day weekend, we were all excited! We left Cactus Country and continued our drive west, in the direction of San Diego. It would’ve been too much to try and get all the way to San Diego in one day, so we scheduled a stop at Salvation Mountain near Niland, CA.
This is an incredible home-made mountain, created by Leonard Knight, who is now aged 78 and still living next to his mountain. He began the project in 1984 and after a couple of false starts, figured out what would work and uses hay, adobe, tires, dead tree branches, ladders, anything he can find really to add to his masterpiece. People bring him paint, among other things, to assist him in his quest. Leonard’s creation pays tribute to his faith in God and his desire to share God’s love with the world.
It is incredibly bright and beautiful, extremely hard to miss! Driving to it, through Niland, is rather depressing. It is certainly not a well-to-do town and clearly suffering in today’s economy (and most likely, previous economy dips!). As you cross the train tracks and drive through desert-land towards the mountain, the feel of the area changes. We passed the old concrete guard post, welcoming us to Slab City: “The Last Free Place” and stopped at Salvation Mountain.
We were lucky enough to receive a guided tour from Leonard, whose health is beginning to fail a little and has a bit of trouble hearing. He was keen to stress that his message is simple: God is Love – show love, give love, receive love and the world would be a better place. He lives very simply and just wants to share God’s love with people. He told us that after his mountain was on Google Earth, he started getting 300-400 visitors per day and spends a lot of his time giving tours. He clearly loves people, enjoys showing what he’s done and why he’s continuing to build. The kids were particularly fascinated by his 'truck and tractor tire trees’ – the whole area is so cool, Leonard’s enthusiasm for his project is contagious. He’s an amazing man, I loved chatting with him. The kiddums were thrilled when he gave them a little sample of his art: ‘an original Leonard’.
Dave chatted with one of Leonard’s friends and discovered the best places to camp in neighboring Slab City. This used to be an army-operated location, full of concrete buildings housing who knows what! The buildings are long gone, all that remains of them are numerous concrete slabs, mostly unusable and weedy. However lots of people call this ‘city’ home. There’s an entire community here, about 100-200 people actually live here year-round, even though temperatures in the summer exceed 110 degrees! They are well set-up though, many have solar panels on their roofs, have water delivered in enormous box-like containers and even enlist the services of a honey wagon (a truck that comes to dump tanks). The community area is fairly closed off so visitors cannot accidentally camp in their neighborhood.
We drove further around to more open areas and located a good spot. We spent quite some time chatting with the couple closest to us. They were from Canada and have been coming to stay in Slab City, every winter, for the last 14 years. They buy their water from the shop in town and are very conservative with its use; hook up their trailer and take it to the dump station 10 miles away when they need to dump; wash in the naturally occurring hot springs a little way past Salvation Mountain and meet up with the community of friends they've made here. It’s fascinating to imagine living here for months on end, certainly would not be the life for me but a good 'deal' indeed!
We enjoyed wandering around, seeing people’s rigs, the adaptations they’ve made, it was so interesting. After dinner, we sat outside for a couple of hours listening to the music from their Friday night jam-session and gazing at the stars – the privilege of being in an area, in the middle of nowhere, with no ambient light. It was lovely and warm as well, so one of the first evenings in a long time that we’ve been able to feel comfortable sitting outside – if there had been a couple more amenities (you know, like toilets and showers!), we might well have stayed longer!
States visited: 49!
visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800
Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)