Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Salvation Mountain, Slab City, Bombay Beach, and The Saltan Sea February 8

If you have heard of any of these places, you really know your American geography, folk culture, and history. These places created one of the most unique days of our trip, definitely a learning experience for us. We Jeeped north, through Brawley, where I rode yesterday, and out into the desert. Even though it was desert, it was very irrigated, very agricultural, and populated with a couple of small towns, right out of the 60s or 70s. We also saw what they use all the hay for that we have seen the last two days. We have heard stories of the crowded cattle farms in California, but we had never seen one, until today. There must have been 10,000 black and white cows (and one brown one), packed into pens over about a square half mile. No free roaming or grazing for these guys. Just live, eat, then get eaten. The cow huggers can't be happy with these farms. And boy did it smell!!! The area is so fertile because the soil is made up of silt from Colorado River flooding before the Hoover Dam was built. The dam, and governmental agencies known as irrigation districts now control flow of what water is left this far south, so the farms can thrive.
I had seen a large lake on the California map previously, and when I researched it, I found the Salton Sea, a polluted, over salienated, body of water that is half the size of the state of Rhode Island, located in the middle of the desert. They say all the fish in it will be dead by 2030 because of fertilizer runoff, and the shrinking size of the lake already has the salt levels greater than that of the Pacific Ocean, but not as great as the Great Salt Lake. We saw sea gulls and pelicans, diving for fish today, and they say that one of the only species of fish that can survive in it now is talapia. Think about that next time you see talapia on the menu at a restaurant!
In the 1920's, Bombay Beach was created to be like Palm Springs, an oasis for tourists, with water and recreation, in the middle of the desert. Well, things went south after a while, and they say that the smart people were gone by the 60s, but there is still a town there today, with a store or two. The problem is that you can't tell which trailers are inhabited, and which ones are abandoned. There is also the original sea side properties, which were flooded many times over, and are still on the wrong side of the dike they built, deteriorating and being slowly eaten by the desert and time. We also learned that the sand is not sand, but pulverized fish bones from thousands of years of drastic fish kills that had floated ashore. I bet we could get a beach home there, even cheaper than at North Beach in North Carolina! 
In the town of Niland, on the south shore area of the sea, is a mountain of Adobe and straw bales, coated with paint that is Salvation Mountain. A man, who is now in an assisted living facility, created his own version of a temple to God and salvation, that is absolutely something that you have to see, except that there is really no reason for most tourists to be in this area. I couldn't stop taking pictures of this ' mountain,' which was obviously this guys life's work. The vehicles that surround it just added to the aura. Some people have obviously come here to have a 'religious experience, ' as is evidenced by the pictures and notes they left behind, but we came, just because it is here. National Geographic also came, just because it's here, and were doing a documentary on the lifestyle of this culture that includes Salvation Mountain, and nearby Slab City. 
Pam drive through Slab City, and we even went four wheeling in the desert in the area around the outskirts, all the while listening to 'Free Radio Slab City,' a self proclaimed  'drug induced' selection of music, that was actually pretty good, and served as a sound track to our travels. The legend of Slab City includes drugs, sex and violence, as well as artistic interpretations of the population. The population was allegedly at its highest during the housing bubble break, and the recession of 2008, when over 2000 people lived there.
Slab City is an abandoned World War II training facility that has been taken over by squatters, free spirits, snowbirds, and an entirely different breed of people than I have ever been exposed to. The trash, more than anything, speaks to the number of people that have called this area home over the years. There is, nor has there ever been, any sewage, water, or power.  The pictures that I took can't begin to describe today's adventures, but you really have to see them, as they are different than the pictures in any other post. What a crazy, indescribable area. I would highly recommend a trip to YouTube to explore these places more. The stuff there does a much better job demonstrating reality there than I can.

Cattle pens - better photo will follow later, but cows as far as you can see!

Bombay Beach - just abandoned and destroyed by flooding

Trailers left behind after the flooding

Jeep just checking out the Salton Sea!

More of the beach area - very depressing


                                Video at Bombay Beach as we were driving in the Jeep.

Border Patrol check point that we had to go through

Welcome to Salvation Mountain!

One of the many decorated vehicles - not much I can say!

Salvation Mountain - it's all made of bales of hay, junk and covered by adobe  and then painted

Standing on top of Salvation Mountain looking towards Slab City

Looking down at the parking lot - some of the RVs and buses are people living there so they can continue the work on the mountain

This is the "museum" with trees built into it

We are out in the middle of the desert!

Inside the "museum" the creator plastered photos on the walls.  Other items have been left by visitors

Others leave messages

This place is just bizarre!


Trees that are created in the middle of the "building"

If you can read this, it explains a little about the creator

Paint storage area

National Geographic crew filming the mountain

Interviewing one of the "free spirits" who is just hiking into Slab City with his dog

Building is an old military building

Some guy riding his horse through Slab City

"The garbage dump" in Slab City

                                             Riding through the desert in Slab City
Groups of snowbirds camping together (safety in numbers I say!)

Old beat up trailers are plopped down anywhere

This trailer didn't fare too well

This guy was having a yard sale!  That's what the sign said!

What's left of a radio tower

Someone lives here

One man's junk is another man's art!

VW art!

I hope you can read this - it is painted on the side of someone's trailer

Getting closer to civilization, but we see alot of dogs wandering

Panoramic of the cattle

This is their life - no roaming for them!

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