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May 21, 2021

Salvation Mountain - Paint recycling

The heavy May Gray morning was thick with mist.  

It was time to find some sunshine, lest I melt!  With the windshield wipers on I went east leaving the coast behind.  

Salvation Mountain will be my day-trip destination.

I left San Diego on I-8 east, my first stop as usual is the Golden Acorn Casino.  Not to gamble, but to take advantage of their clean restrooms and free coffee/soda.

Note to boondockers: overnight parking on the far side of the lot is permitted for self-contained RVs.  Fran and I have taken advantage of their hospitality on several occasions.

Salvation Mountain and The Slabs are located just east of Niland CA along Beal Road.

Leonard Knight began construction of Salvation Mountain in 1984, as he put into art his beliefs.  During the early days he would repeat his version of the Sinners Prayer, “Jesus, I am a sinner, please come into my body and upon my heart”, as he toiled every day in the desert sun.

With the state wide Stay-At-Home-Order in 2020, for a year, all maintenance on the mountain was suspended.

During that time, the harsh desert has taken a toll on the monument.

The Sea of Galilee has cracks and is filling with sand.  It will take a lot of volunteers and many gallons of paint to restore.

In 2000 Salvation Mountain was declared a National Folk Art Site. 
In 2002 it was entered into the Congressional Record as a National Treasure.

I have never been a volunteer there, but do bring out USABLE LATEX paint when I collect a few gallons.

Meet Ron, the only full time resident and caretaker.  He brought out his skip loader to collect my donation.  If he was disappointed in the small haul he didn’t express it, in fact was quite exuberant of having a little more paint to work with.

“We’ve got to start loving God more”. ~Leonard Knight

Most desert boondockers have been past Salvation Mountain to Slab City, “The Slabs”.  The old WWII Camp Dunlap was a training facility, when it was dismantled only the concrete slabs remained.  Hence the name Slab City, with its slogan “Last Free Place on Earth”, which refers to the lack of structure and infrastructure among the residents.  The land is now owned by the State of California. 

Slab City has several ‘Neighborhoods’, such as The California Ponderosa or Mojo's.  These areas have there own personalities, and rent spaces within their claimed territory.  The rent includes amenities such as composting toilets, showers, food service and even WiFi.

The California Ponderosa might be better known as it is on the main street and has been around longer, and has listings on Air B&BBut Mojo's also has an Air B&B presence, their sign caught my eye as it offers a family environment and WiFi.  Guess out there Alcohol and Marijuana are considered family friendly ;P

One of the better known neighborhoods is East Jesus.  

An artsy community.  Unlike most residents Slab City the folks at East Jesus have combined their resources to provide electricity and sanitation.  Although there are music festivals, the area is best known for its sculpture garden.  But the Day Care Center caught my attention ...


Most of the sculptures are left to decay and be reclaimed by the desert.  New to me is the Pirate Ship 

With its Dusty Junk booty

Helios, the Greek Sun God, continues to overlook East Jesus.

When you next visit Niland bring along any usable latex paint laying around and an old pair of shoes.

There are now ~200 Full Time residents at The Slabs.  The nearby town Niland provides services, water and pump outs, even school busses.

Slab City has attracted a variety of residents – artists, addicts, outcasts and impoverished that make up much of its population.  They are camped next to mega-buck RVs and permanent structures.

The future of Slab City is in doubt, last year the state of California received a proposal to install a solar array on the property.  This might be a good fit as the Niland Substation is already nearby on Beal Road.  However this is not the first offer to purchase the property, a land developer previously placed a bid.

The state is currently assessing the land value and the cost of cleanup of not just the surface trash, but ground pollution left from the military and the residents.  Neither offer has yet received any action.

I should have taken the RV and spent a night or two.  It was a pleasant 80 degrees there and I awoke at home to a chilly morning with heavy clouds and showers.  UGH!

I'll close this post with a few hieroglyphics for you to ponder.


  1. We didn't have any paint but left a donation when we visited Salvation Mountain. It would be sad to see it disappear by either Natural or Progressive changes.
    We toured the Slabs but headed back to the Hot Springs.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time

    1. I agree it would indeed be disappointing to have the entire developed, displacing the thousands of snowbirds that make their winter home at The Slabs.
      I'm sure Salvation Mountain appreciated your donation.

  2. Made our way out there many years ago... no doubt an interesting place!

    1. "Interesting" is a good word for the lifestyle that gets attracted. It's close enough I may go every few years, even that is more than needed. But must say this was the cleanest I've seen it. Maybe Covid kept the population down or the locals are taking better care of the place. There is still a lot of trash, but noticeably less of it.

  3. There aren't many places like The Slabs and Salvation Mountain. My head was on swivel the first time we visited!

    1. The area certainly makes for a unique place to visit.

  4. Strange and interesting at the same time. It reminds me of the Amish settlements which are self-contained communities only separated by a narrow buffer from the rest of society.

    1. It does have that commune feeling, but the Amish communities I've seen are have a lot less trash and outcasts from the mainstream society. Still a fun place to visit, and recycle paint.


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