Day Trip to
Salvation Mountain

Day Trip to
Salvation Mountain

Day Trip to
Salvation Mountain

Destinations  »  North America  »  USA  »  California

Destination: Slab City, CA

Length of Stay: 1 Day (August 2018)

Admission Cost: An open mind (Donations welcome)

Leaving San Diego, we decided to make a day trip to Salvation Mountain in Slab City on our way to Joshua Tree National Park. I had seen the iconic shot of the mountain that with 'God Is Love' written on top, but I am so grateful that we visited and took a few hours to walk around in person because there was so much I didn’t know about Salvation Mountain; the love that was poured into the art form by it’s creator, and what lies less than a mile away.

Destination: Slab City, CA

Length of Stay: 1 Day (August 2018)

Admission Cost: An open mind (Donations welcome)

Leaving San Diego, we decided to make a day trip to Salvation Mountain in Slab City on our way to Joshua Tree National Park. I had seen the iconic shot of the mountain that with 'God Is Love' written on top, but I am so grateful that we visited and took a few hours to walk around in person because there was so much I didn’t know about Salvation Mountain; the love that was poured into the art form by it’s creator, and what lies less than a mile away.

The Artist Behind It

Leonard Knight, a Vermont native, had a religious epiphany in 1967 while visiting his sister in San Diego, California. After spending nearly two decades trying to find a way to express his new found love, Leonard nevertheless found his way back to Niland, California in 1984 at the age of 53. His message was simple: God Is Love. For nearly 30 years he laboriously painted and sculpted his work: Salvation Mountain. All while living out of his van without the comforts of running water and electricity. Although Leonard left us in 2014 to meet his mentor, his vision and passion are still growing through volunteers that maintain his monument to this day.

Slab City had been ‘established’ as an old WWII training ground prior to Leonard’s arrival, however the government attempted to close it down during his tenure. Local residents (a.k.a. “Slabbers”) petitioned to keep the site open and Leonard was able to continue building the monument at the entrance of Slab City.[1]

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The Artist Behind It

Leonard Knight, a Vermont native, had a religious epiphany in 1967 while visiting his sister in San Diego, California. After spending nearly two decades trying to find a way to express his new found love, Leonard nevertheless found his way back to Niland, California in 1984 at the age of 53. His message was simple: God Is Love. For nearly 30 years he laboriously painted and sculpted his work: Salvation Mountain. All while living out of his van without the comforts of running water and electricity. Although Leonard left us in 2014 to meet his mentor, his vision and passion are still growing through volunteers that maintain his monument to this day.

Slab City had been ‘established’ as an old WWII training ground prior to Leonard’s arrival, however the government attempted to close it down during his tenure. Local residents (a.k.a. “Slabbers”) petitioned to keep the site open and Leonard was able to continue building the monument at the entrance of Slab City.[1]

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How It's Made

Interestingly enough, when we arrived at our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park, we met a retired couple who worked at the campground and told us of their friendship with dear Leonard (who has since passed). They told us stories of the long days they spent in the heat with him, pouring concrete over the mountain side and assisting him while he painted.

If you care to donate at the Mountain, some Slabbers that dwell in the RV’s, trailers, and motorhomes just beyond the hill of Salvation Mountain will offer you free (cold!) bottled water and/or postcards and pamphlets. "Everything is always free", they declared with confidence. We were told nothing for sale at Salvation Mountain. Everything that you see Leonard either scrounged for at the dump or were brought to the mountain as a donation of recycled materials. Tory, the slabber that was regulating parking during our visit, told me, “there’s enough stuff out there in the world… why not create anew with what we already have?”

More than a Mountain...

I didn’t fathom the size of Salvation Mountain before I got there. I’d imagined it being a mountain on a hillside, but I was pleasantly surprised to find shade as a short escape from the sun. I curiously wandered through the mountain curving and winding under trees that had been painted and morphed into tunnels like something out of a doctor Suess novel. All along the same theme remained: Love. Perhaps my favorite section of the art would be large letters, just beyond a teal archway as you enter the tunnels stating, “Love Is Universal.” I still get chills just thinking about it.

How It's Made

Interestingly enough, when we arrived at our campsite in Joshua Tree National Park, we met a retired couple who worked at the campground and told us of their friendship with dear Leonard (who has since passed). They told us stories of the long days they spent in the heat with him, pouring concrete over the mountain side and assisting him while he painted.

If you care to donate at the Mountain, some Slabbers that dwell in the RV’s, trailers, and motorhomes just beyond the hill of Salvation Mountain will offer you free (cold!) bottled water and/or postcards and pamphlets. "Everything is always free", they declared with confidence. We were told nothing for sale at Salvation Mountain. Everything that you see Leonard either scrounged for at the dump or were brought to the mountain as a donation of recycled materials. Tory, the slabber that was regulating parking during our visit, told me, “there’s enough stuff out there in the world… why not create anew with what we already have?”

gopr0966___720_4x5
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More than a Mountain...

I didn’t fathom the size of Salvation Mountain before I got there. I’d imagined it being a mountain on a hillside, but I was pleasantly surprised to find shade as a short escape from the sun. I curiously wandered through the mountain curving and winding under trees that had been painted and morphed into tunnels like something out of a doctor Suess novel. All along the same theme remained: Love. Perhaps my favorite section of the art would be large letters, just beyond a teal archway as you enter the tunnels stating, “Love Is Universal.” I still get chills just thinking about it.

GOPR0929 - 540 4x5
GOPR0902 - 540 4x5
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East Jesus || West Satan

If you stay and talk to the slabbers, just for a little bit, they will let you in on a little secret: East Jesus and West Satan are less than a mile (0.7 mi) down the road from Salvation Mountain. We couldn’t go to Slab City and not visit, and I’m glad we did. East Jesus and West Satan encompass 30,000 square feet of recycled artwork. It’s how I’d imagine burning man would be - and in the same elements - it was 115 degrees outside the day we went. The air was hot and dry. There are some East Jesus and West Satan residents, so  be mindful if you go that you are in someone’s home and pay respect to the signs that direct you toward the art exhibits and away from the RV’s and trailers that they reside in.

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East Jesus || West Satan

If you stay and talk to the slabbers, just for a little bit, they will let you in on a little secret: East Jesus and West Satan are less than a mile (0.7 mi) down the road from Salvation Mountain. We couldn’t go to Slab City and not visit, and I’m glad we did. East Jesus and West Satan encompass 30,000 square feet of recycled artwork. It’s how I’d imagine burning man would be - and in the same elements - it was 115 degrees outside the day we went. The air was hot and dry. There are some East Jesus and West Satan residents, so be mindful if you go that you are in someone’s home and pay respect to the signs that direct you toward the art exhibits and away from the RV’s and trailers that they reside in.

IMG_1639 - 540 4x5__2
IMG_1647 - 540 4x5__2
img_1686___540_origi_dS1k7
IMG_1664 - 540 4x5__2

What is a Slabber?

To be considered a slabber, or an official resident of Slab City: 'The Last Free Place On Earth', you have to put in two summers there. Tory laughed as she told me, “You’ve got to withstand the heat your first summer and be crazy enough to do it again.” Her friend, Louis, who had walked a mile across the desert in the blazing heat just to hangout with her told me “I made summer my first season living here, just to get it over with.”

The residents of Slab City are self sufficient beings using solar panels for electricity and filtering their own water. Tory told me if you wish you can opt to get water delivered from the nearest town, which is 2 miles out and back. Some of them walk it, she said, for groceries or other necessitates alike. Salvation Mountain is a work of art that you’re silly to miss if you’re anywhere near Palm Springs or Joshua Tree National Park. I don’t even consider myself much of a religious person but for Leonard to love the Lord (or something higher) that much… there are no words. You truly have to see it in person to understand and fathom the sheer magnificence, which is an understatement, of his work.

img_1680___720_16x9
img_1665___720_16x9

What is a Slabber?

To be considered a slabber, or an official resident of Slab City: 'The Last Free Place On Earth', you have to put in two summers there. Tory laughed as she told me, “You’ve got to withstand the heat your first summer and be crazy enough to do it again.” Her friend, Louis, who had walked a mile across the desert in the blazing heat just to hangout with her told me “I made summer my first season living here, just to get it over with.”

The residents of Slab City are self sufficient beings using solar panels for electricity and filtering their own water. Tory told me if you wish you can opt to get water delivered from the nearest town, which is 2 miles out and back. Some of them walk it, she said, for groceries or other necessitates alike. Salvation Mountain is a work of art that you’re silly to miss if you’re anywhere near Palm Springs or Joshua Tree National Park. I don’t even consider myself much of a religious person but for Leonard to love the Lord (or something higher) that much… there are no words. You truly have to see it in person to understand and fathom the sheer magnificence, which is an understatement, of his work.

img_1680___720_16x9
img_1665___720_16x9
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By |2019-10-14T20:16:54-04:00August 29th, 2018|California, Destinations|0 Comments

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