After a weekend in L.A. amongst the high rises and high heels, we were more than ready to head into the California desert. Driving east, the wind picks up, the air grows warmer, as dust and sand whirl around everything like a protective shield. Niland, CA isn’t much to look at; with a population of about 1,000 people, it seems like a ghost town in the hot summer days. Just across the railroad tracks, however, you can find one of the most infamous squatter communities in the U.S. Featured in the film “Into the Wild,” Slab City a town whos name from the concrete foundations that once supported Marine barracks during WWII, has become somewhat a tourist destination over the last 10 years. It is home to upwards of 6,000 residents in the winter months (primarily ‘snowbird’ RVers migrating south from harsher climates) and less than 100 in the summer months. Now, the foundations serve as parking spaces for winter residents, and the dusty desert floor welcomes transient travelers and explorers. With no electricity or running water, the area attracts people who want to explore living off the grid, but also just people who want to get away from it all, with no rules or regulation.
After an extremely warm night, it quickly became clear why the area is deserted in the summer. As the sun peeked its head above the hills, it revealed structures dappling the landscape, made of recycled materials. One aspect that is present in every element of the scenery is creativity, the entire community is a work of art from small shantis set up and build with materials that have been deposited or collected, trees with shoes adorning them, and technicolor paintings on every surface. It felt as though we had entered a storybook. Though the infrastructure was evidence of life, the critters were all hiding under the rocks; the 111-degree dry heat was not conducive to socializing. A quick self-guided tour quickly brought us to the most well known structure on the land, Salvation Mountain. The love and power of this place could be felt from the car as we pulled up in our Sedan.
Salvation Mountain was a labor of love constructed by Leonard Knight, a dedicated Christian and artist who spent the last 30 years erecting this spectacular creation. Clearly a sight to behold, this structure is what brings in most of the visitors from around the world. It’s a Dr. Seuss world of color and texture, where cats climb rainbow trees made of adobied tires and branches. A spectacular example of what dedication and love can inspire, this is a very humbling place to behold.
As we climbed on the Candy Land like castle, we were greeted with two friendly faces. Eric and Joshua are the men behind Wanderfoot. As stated on their webpage, “Wanderfoot is an online destination for those who love the journey! An adventure-fueled digital magazine featuring high quality artisan goods & off-the-beaten-path travel information from around the world. It is of our utmost purpose & joy to inspire a lifestyle of creativity and consciousness. We warmly welcome you to join us on the adventure!” What a place to bring such similar people and similar journeys together. We talked food, community, fate, and the future. We encourage you to use this resource as another approach to exploring this beautiful planet!
As we continued on through the desert of California, what we found next was in every sense of the word, magical. We’ve decided to keep this one to ourselves, because the magic is beyond explanation. This, we hope you understand, is not to withhold information, but to keep a private experience for ourselves. We did want to mention it, however, to serve as a reminder; a reminder of all magic that is out there, how much there is to discover. Remind you that the universe is in you and every choice you make; remind you that your medicine is in the earth, and that your utopia is out there waiting for you to come contribute to it. The land emanates healing, growth, and rejuvenation; it was our desert oasis.
This is another place for all of those with nomadic tendencies to settle and contribute to a vision. We would encourage all of you with wandering feet and a light heart to make your way to Garth’s Place, for a time of mystical manifestation and bountiful beauty. Just know it’s out there, readers, all around you; the light that makes up the power of the world is in each person you encounter, and it’s such an important thing to remind ourselves of as we, and all of you, continue on this spectacular journey.