Visiting Salvation Mountain has been high on my list ever since I heard about it years ago. The mountain is the creation of Leonard Knight, a self taught artist who wanted to spread a message to the world – “God is Love”. He tried sewing a hot air balloon but he made it too big to fill, then he tried making a stationary one out of concrete but it collapsed. Next he tried plastering the side of a hill with concrete to make a good base for paint but he used too much sand in the mixture and after four years of work it all slid off into a pile of rubble. Finally he used adobe and straw covered with many layers of paint and built an amazing folk art mountain. This is such a cool place!
The mountain is huge with trails to the top. One section is built with trees and has paths winding around inside the structure.
The co-operative artistic community of East Jesus is about a mile away. Charlie Russell came to Slab City in 2007 and began building a complex where artists could live and create, free from normal restraints. Scrap material, much of it gathered from Slab City discards, is used to create both the buildings and artwork. A sculpture garden is opened to visitors. Free tours of the living quarters are given when a guide is available.
Both Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are part of Slab City, the site of a decommissioned World War II Marine barracks. The land belongs to the state of California and provides a free home to about 150 permanent residents and many more people during the winter months. Poverty and the lack of any public services such as trash collection, water and sewage lines has resulted in large amounts of discarded junk and some very creative housing. There’s also a church, free library, a desert golf course, an open air night club, an internet cafe and several private clubs. We were a bit hesitant about visiting based on wildly varying reports from friends and internet searches but we’re really glad that we did go. Our plan to check it out turned into a two day visit. Common sense is the best guide. The desert is big so chose a good spot and avoid infringing on anyone’s space.
Salvation Mountain is not wheelchair accessible due to loose sand but it can be viewed from the parking lot. The paths and living area of East Jesus are covered with carpet scraps which makes rolling around fairly easy.
The parking lots at both Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are small but we could fit our RV into both. Larger RVs may not fit.
Salvation Mountain East Jesus Slab City