Feb 2016 Part 1–Slab City ~ Salvation Mountain


This is the first post about my experience at Slab City, where I spent 10 days in February 2016. In this post I’m giving a little introduction to The Slabs, and sharing some pictures and information about a rather famous area of The Slabs called Salvation Mountain.

Wikipedia’s description of  Slab City (copy/pasted) ~ Slab City or The Slabs is largely a snowbird community in the Sonoran Desert, located in Imperial County, California, 156 miles northeast of San Diego, in the California Badlands, and used by recreational vehicle owners and squatters from across North America. It takes its name from the concrete slabs that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine Corps barracks of Camp Dunlap.

Several thousand campers, many of them retired, use the site during the winter months. The “snowbirds” stay only for the winter, before migrating north in the spring to cooler climates. The temperatures during the summer are unforgiving (as high as 120 °F) (48 °C); nonetheless, there is a group of around 150 permanent residents who live in the Slabs all year round. Some of these “Slabbers” derive their living from government programs and have been driven to the Slabs by poverty. Others have moved to The Slabs to learn how to live off the grid and to be left alone. Still others have moved there to stretch their retirement income.

The site is both decommissioned and uncontrolled, and there is no charge for parking. The site has no official electricity, running water, sewers, toilets, nor trash pickup service. Many residents use generators or solar panels to generate electricity. Supplies can be purchased in nearby Niland, California, located about four miles (6 km) to the southwest of Slab City.

I’d heard a little bit about The Slabs from a couple of travelers I’d met on the road, and they had suggested that should the opportunity arise I ought to go and see it just for the experience, but they had also suggested that I probably shouldn’t go alone and it would be more fun with someone anyway. So when a friend at The Rubber Tramps Rendezvous decided to organize a gathering there for a few weeks I promised to join them, knowing that there is safety in numbers.


When my parents got wind of my plans and did a Google search about The Slabs, they were horrified with what they learned and pleaded with me not to go. The images they saw were of make shift homes made from trash or ratty looking trailers surrounded by garbage, homeless-looking people, and drugs.

I’d watched a slide show about The Slabs before I agreed to go and knew that some of that was true, but I also knew that there were ‘safe’ areas to camp and  a unique respect for other residents, along with some interesting individuals that had decided to drop out of society for various reasons. I was going there to experience the artwork created from the trash, and also to get a bit of an understanding of the people who visited and lived there. I am after all, a bit of a society drop-out myself, and I love to experience things that put me just a tad outside of my comfort zone. If we stay in one place all our lives, or limit ourselves to meeting only one type of people (people like us?), how can we ever grow and learn? How can we become more understanding of other people’s lives and the reasons behind their decisions, how can we change for the better and become more compassionate human-beings when our minds are limited to what we read on paper or on the web. We must experience things up close and personal in order to get a true understanding of them, or at least a better understanding. We must be allowed to make our own decisions and judgment calls, rather than basing our decisions around what other people tell us. Experiencing something first hand is the best way to learn, and is far preferable than being brain washed into believing something that someone else has deemed the only truth. I was curious about this place that has been dubbed “the last free place,” and wanted to experience it in person.

~ The Best Defense Against Prejudice is Travel ~ Roxy Whalley  ~

into the wild

If you have watched the movie Into the Wild by David Krakauer, then you’ve had a glimpse of Salvation Mountain. Here is the scene from Into The Wild starring Emile Hirsch, where Chris McCandless (Hirsch) visits Salvation Mountain with Tracy (Kristen Stewart. https://youtu.be/t_G00TJ45zM. The old man is Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain, and not an actor. Leonard Knight is a true eccentric, and his devotion to spreading his belief about God cannot be covered in this post. There is a fascinating bio written about him and his life story that is several pages long. You can find the link below his picture on this post.

Salvation Mountain is one of the first places you come to as you approach Slab City. A lot of tourists come to The Slabs, but most only go as far as Salvation Mountain, then retreat back to the supposed safety of the highway by The Salton Sea, and their own city or town. I met a couple of girls from Los Angeles there, and when I told them I was camping at The Slabs, their eyes grew wide as they asked what it was like, and was I scared. I’d been there a few days by then, and camping near my friends, and I could honestly say that I felt safer at The Slabs, than I ever would in LA. Naturally this surprised them.


A movie has been made about Salvation Mountain and Leonard Knight – you can view a preview here: http://www.salvationmountainthemovie.com/Salvation_Mountain_-_The_Movie/Home.html. To learn more about Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain, please visit here: http://www.salvationmountain.us/bio.html




I decided to upload a video I made while walking through Salvation Mountain to YouTube. I didn’t add any music to the recording, because I think that the sound of my footsteps gives the viewer some idea of the size of this unusual structure. You can view it on YouTube by clicking here: https://youtu.be/gqah_GTPg8k


I will be sharing more posts about Slab City…I hope you will join me. In the meantime here is a quote for you to muse on:

Travel is quite possibly the best defense against prejudice, and it is something we should all experience as often as possible ~ Roxy Whalley

Until next time,

Roxy ~ A Nomad for Nature

This post first published on http://NomadforNature.wordpress.com/

10 responses to “Feb 2016 Part 1–Slab City ~ Salvation Mountain

  1. Pingback: After the RTR (Rubber Tramp Rendezvous) Slab City, Five Palms and Parker Again | A Nomad for Nature·

  2. Pingback: Feb 2016 Part 4–Yup, More on The Slabs | Nomad for Nature·

  3. Pingback: Feb 2016 Part 2 – Slab City ~ The Tanks! | Nomad for Nature·

    • Certainly not for everyone….but if one is seeking adventure and likes to have different experiences, this is an interesting place. Wouldn’t recommend it in summer though LOL…stay tuned, I’ll be adding more posts, including the not-so-good aspects of Slab City.


  4. Beautifull. What an interesting place the slabs are. I spent only one night there and didn’t overlap with you there at all. Next year I would like to explore more there.


  5. Pingback: Jan 2016–Part 6– Slab City–aka The Slabs! | Nomad for Nature·

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