Salvation Mountain
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God is Love in Color
About an hour southeast of Palm Desert is Salvation Mountain. A man made, God inspired colorful creation by Leonard Kight and his helpers. Films have been made about the place, and Leonard briefly appears in the film "Into the Wild" No story or photo can capture the experience of being there yourself. I spent two hours of being mesmerized by the photo opportunities and then I was dragged away by my brother-in-law who said we needed to be in Phoenix by nightfall. Oh, and you want color not B&W at this site. Not easy to find, even with a map, you suspect it doesn't exist until you go a long way down the road. Sort of the same with God.
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Love, Faith, and Thousands of Gallons of Paint
The technicolor mound in the middle of the barren Imperial Valley desert is a quirky manifestation of Leonard Knight’s mission to spread the message of Love after discovering Jesus at age 35 in 1967. Salvation Mountain is a three-story mural of rainbow-colored flowers, waterfalls and scriptural references painted over a mass of adobe mixed with straw. Front and center is the sculpted "God Is Love" mantra above a massive red heart and a yellow brick road to climb up the side. One and a half hours from Palm Springs, near the just as uncanny Salton Sea, Salvation Mountain is a drive worth making to experience the eccentricities that the desert tends to educe.
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Sunset over the Salton Sea from Slab City
Is Slab City the most unique place I've been to in America? YES. Would I shack up there? NO. Should you go? ABSOLUTELY. There are few experiences in America that have compared to my visit to the Salton Sea and Slab City, and it's for that reason that I recommend people visit to experience it on their own. The Salton Sea being one of the largest inland seas in the world, but harmful to fish because of its high saline levels. Nearby Slab City, formerly a military base, is now home to thousands of campers since it's decommissioned and uncontrolled - donning the name "The last free place in America". Past residents include Christopher McCandless, who many travelers know because of "Into the Wild".
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A Surviving Masterpiece in California's Desert
Perched along salt flats near the Salton Sea and now left in the hands of care-takers and volunteers, Salvation Mountain was the brainchild of Leonard Knight's testament to show the love of God. The site remains as a communal art project. If you do happen upon it, bring a gallon or two of paint to the care-takers—they’ll really appreciate it.
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Do You Know Who Leonard Knight Is?
He put Niland, CA on the map with his raison de etre: Salvation Mountain. A monumental and cheerful art installation esteeming to God's Love, it is now an official Folk Art Site and is preserved and protected. Camp at nearby Salton Sea, bring a gallon or two of paint to donate, and wear sneakers to scale the heights. Oh, and some kitty treats for the guardian felines.
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Go Tell it on Salvation Mountain
With its name deriving from “Nile Land,” it was thought that Niland was a fertile area. Clearly, the town’s founders were mistaken. We knew what we were getting into before our road trip to Niland, and our desire to see Salvation Mountain and the Salton Sea nearby motivated us to press onward in this bleak region of California. Salvation Mountain is an art installation in the middle of a desert wasteland. If you’ve ever watched “The Walking Dead,” you’d think that you’d just ventured into a zombie zone when making your way to this site which was created by the late artist, Leonard Knight. With murals and paintings of Christian maxims, it seemed that Salvation Mountain was the only colorful glimmer of life and hope in what otherwise looked to be hell on earth. To be clear, people live in this area. We saw trailers and campers sporadically parked near Salvation Mountain with clusters of trash surrounding them. You see, Niland is a census-designated place (CDP) that’s identified by the U.S. Census Bureau for statistical purposes only. As such, CDPs like Niland lack municipal governments and the services that governments provide such as garbage collection. Why anyone would want to live in such a dead environment?! God only knows. To each his own, I suppose.
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