Niland, Ca is the closest recognized town to Slab City. I stopped here to get gas and supplies for the next few days. At this point, I didn’t really have a plan of what was going to happen for the next few days. My only direction I had in mind was visiting Slab City. The first time I heard of this place was through a movie titled Into The Wild. It was about a guy named Christopher McCandless roaming throughout North America as somewhat of a vagabond. In the beginning of his trip, he gives up all of his worldly possessions including his money. I didn’t go as far as McCandless, but I had significantly less than the month before. With me was only a backpack filled with clothes and I was living out of my mom’s old SUV.
Salvation Mountain is a 30+ year project by a local resident by the name of Leonard Knight. It sits at the entrance to Slab City along the main pathway. Even with all the biblical advertance, I didn’t see it as a monument to Christianity. It conflicted too much with typical biblical imagery. Most churches held such an archaic decor while this thing looked like an acid trip manifested into reality. Leonard was a frail old man at this point and spent most of the time sitting in the shade by his camper located within feet of this mountain. A couple of people were sitting with him, listening intently to what this hysteric old man had to say. I’m sure back in his day, Leonard was a passionate man who wanted to spread his message to everyone. After 30 years in the hot Mohave sun, it seemed like he became a broken record of himself. While listening to the conversation he was having with the couple, he kept repeating himself while shooting the conversation into unrelated tangents. Always coming back to his first statement about love and happiness.
From the top of the mountain, I looked into Slab City and found it to be a depressing place. I remember feeling very uneasy about this location and decided to head somewhere else. In my head were visions of crazy hill people attempting to rape me in my sleep before they decide to butcher me for meat. Maybe it was due to all the confederate flags on trucks in Niland, but I got a generally uneasy vibe towards everything in the area.
Looking down, I was able to see Leonard Knight’s camper with a couple visitors who came to worship him. When I made my way down, they tried to introduce me and reel me into their circle of crazy, but I politely declined and said I had to get going.
There was a campground nearby on the beach of the Salton Sea. It is a lake that is fed by a couple rivers but mostly agricultural runoff. From the campsite, there was a fairly faint smell of fish. It intensified as I got closer to the water. Supposedly, it was normal around this time of year to have thousands of dead tilapia on the shore due to an increase of salinity during this time of year. The smell wasn’t so bad when sleeping inside the car.