Sometimes we take a break from plants and go visit other cool places. Matti and I both love roadside attractions and Salvation Mountain was one we’d been wanting to see for awhile. We watched a documentary on PBS called Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea (it’s narrated by John Waters and so good) when it came out in 2014 and it immediately became a bucket list place. This was the most exciting stop on our drive around the Salton Sea, which is what happens when humans do really, really, really stupid things to nature. Just watch the documentary, it’s fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.
Can you find Matti on the mountain? We were blown away at how big it actually was in real life and how scary it was to walk up to the top it along the yellow “brick” road. There are no hand rails. Max was too decrepit for the climb, so we took turns hanging out with him at the base. Apparently you can camp for free as long as you as you stay off the mountain according to their website.
Salvation Mountain is a literal man-made mountain 28 years in the making, covered in half a million gallons of latex paint. What started as a small monument made of dirt and painted cement became, over time, a sprawling adobe and hay-bale mountain complex, with peripheral structures made of telephone poles, tires, and car windows, as well as art cars and sculptures, all painted in a patchwork of stripes and color blocks of whatever paint was donated that week.— Aaron Huey, National Geographic
Check out Aaron Huey’s National Geographic photos and essay, they’re beautiful. Darn the weather for not popping blue skies when we were there.
The creator of Salvation Mountain, Leonard Knight initially tried to spread his love of God via a giant hot-air balloon, but after it failed several times he built a mountain instead. That’s the cliff notes version, there’s tons of great info about him on their website and a wonderful video of him giving a tour here:
Leonard made this video so everyone could see his amazing life’s work. I’m not a religious person, so much so that I follow the wonderful Madison-based organization Freedom From Religion Foundation but try (often unsuccessfully) to follow Willie Nelson’s doctrine of, “Don’t be an asshole.”
“Leonard Knight was one of those men who was so singular of vision that from a distance some would brush it off as crazy. But it didn’t take much to realize what Leonard was. Just a conversation and you would know—this man was a saint, an American sadhu in the desert of southern California. The mountain was his living daily meditation.Aaron Huey, National Geographic
Quite possibly one of the coolest dive bars I’ve ever been to, and apparently the “lowest bar in the western hemisphere” according to Wikipedia, is the Ski Inn. They also serve food, so we stopped for a bite to eat and a beer. Bring cash and a dollar to stick to the wall. We met a group of cool and friendly young folk who were part of the Bombay Beach Biennial which I would love to check out some day. We poked around town a little, but I can’t wait to go back and visit again. If you’re jonesing for a roadside attraction, roadsideamerica.com will show you all the cool spots near you.