Travel Diary: Salvation Mountain


Miles and miles out in the Southern California Desert, past the Salton Sea, is a truly unique place. A constant work in progress, Salvation Mountain is a colorful, man-made three-story confection in the middle of a flat, barren landscape. It also marks the entrance to Slab City, a permanent unincorporated and uncontrolled RV and squatter camp. In spite of the wild lawlessness of the area, Salvation Mountain is an expression of faith in love cobbled together over two decades by a man named Leonard Knight. Out here, Knight and many others have found the freedom and isolation to live life on their own terms. 


Like a magpie, Knight scavenged hundreds of thousands of gallons of colorful paint, cement, clay and hay bails over the years to build and rebuild his life's work. Knight had a small cameo as himself in the film Into The Wild, and it was touching to find a photograph of Chris McCandless in one of the "museum" cave rooms next to the word "acceptance". After he passed away in 2014, volunteers have taken over the job of caring for and repainting the monument as the desert wind wears away at it.