As I left Joshua Tree, I headed south to I-10 and an enormous wind farm that is set up in the narrow mountain pass near Palm Springs where Pacific winds push through all the smog from LA.
I could have turned west and directly to LA, but decided at the last minute to take a detour south to the Salton Sea and to visit the infamous Slab City.
The drive to Niland, CA was uneventful. Not much on or around the Salton Sea (due to pollution levels I believe), and the only reason it seems one would come to the little town of Niland anymore would be to visit Slab City.
The “Slabs” are the concrete foundation remnants of an old Marine Corp base (Camp Dunlap). The lore goes that some marines stayed on after clearing the base and the location was perfect for retired RV’ing snowbirds looking for a warm, dry, free place to park for the winter. But it was also the perfect place for Hippie-type free spirits to escape the California coast for a sort of a “year-round Burning Man” experience.
The Slabs gained additional fame when a man named Leonard Knight arrived in the mid-1980’s to start creating Salvation Mountain. The website has a fascinating history of the man and his “mountain”. Both the Slabs and Salvation Mountain were prominently featured in the 2007 film “Into the Wild.”
Slab City itself has no electricity, water, sewer, or garbage disposal. Residents are very heavy into recycling, solar power, and living sustainably. It certainly isn’t a traditional RV or mobile home park, and initially seems a bit unsafe, but there are some unique signs of “community” that seem to bind this unlikely group of people together none-the-less:
The “Range” is the community band shell where talented musician residents perform each weekend.
Residents use this slab to recycle and exchange old clothes.
And what town would be complete without it’s own church?
There are some traditional RVs and mainstream snowbirders here, but this is more a place about unique expression. So many residents adorn older trailers and cars with whatever unusual décor they can find to “make it their own”
Slab City is indeed a “wild” place. Not sure I’d want to stay there for an extended time, but it’s certainly an interesting place to visit and worth a short trip!