Slab City

If you saw the movie, “Into the Wild” a few years ago about Christopher McCandless who ventures out on the road alone, you saw one depiction of Slab City. In the movie, the habitants are friendly and their sense of community is strong.

Bob had read about Slab City long before we saw it depicted in the movie, and we were both curious to visit there. We followed the GPS through the town of Niland along the eastern side of the Salton Sea, then down some dirt roads where signs pointed the way.

When you see Salvation Mountain, you know you’re at the right place.

Before spending time there, we drove through the “town,” catching glimpses of what we’d heard this odd-ball RV settlement was all about:

With a radio station, a stage, a community message board, the place did have a hippie-commune feel about it. Evidence of creativity was everywhere, from this truck….

… to this dwelling, with all of its attached trailers, making the idea of a “double-wide” seem pitiful by comparison:

And while we expected to see long-term residents…

… and those passing through…

… we didn’t expect to see this…

… or this:

Trash was everywhere, and it was clear that — for some residents  — even in a “share and share alike” atmosphere some boundaries might be necessary:

We decided that it wasn’t a place we’d stay unless we found ourselves needing somewhere to park in a pinch. And we’ve since learned from fellow RVers that Slab City isn’t the place it used to be, and most said they wouldn’t stay there unless they were in a group.

Even so, it was fun poking around Salvation Mountain, with its bright colors and retro-70s look:

Salvation Mountain is built on painted hay bales and found materials, growing as people add to it:

It’s amazingly big…

…with cavernous rooms…

… that everyone is invited to paint, with everything sitting out and ready!

Among all the colorful flowers and decorations were plenty of reminders that life is short and we’ll all have the chance to meet our Maker:

In the desert, even a tractor can become a placard:

Think it’s all just too many people smoking whacky-tobacky? Think again! Salvation Mountain is a designated Folk Art Site:

Truly a site to see!

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About Ellen

Fiction writer and photographer, I travel the country with my sweetheart of a husband as a "full-time RVer."
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2 Responses to Slab City

  1. We started our 1-year RV trip out west 5 months ago, and became excited about visiting Slab City. However, we never went b/c it was out of the way and we heard they don’t like dogs…

    Either way, i’m glad to hear i missed nothing special, but i think i’d still be open to checking it out..

    that’s the cool thing about RVing… if it sux, just get up and leave when you want. Love that! 🙂

    • Ellen says:

      Taylor — Thanks for checking out the blog and posting your comment! It’s definitely worth seeing, but it wasn’t someplace we decided to stay. Others do… so to each his own! Didn’t hear that about dogs, so don’t know if it’s true; now that I think about it, though, I don’t remember seeing any dogs around. Maybe they’re just worried about it getting overrun with strays (you’ll know why I say that when you see the place).

      And you’re right about being able to leave — the freedom of RVing can’t be beat! We were planning to head south from where we are now (I’ll eventually catch the blog up to where we are), but with these incredibly hot temps and heat indexes (indices?), we’re heading north instead!

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