The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I got in my car and took a little day trip to Niland and the Salton Sea. It was a beautiful fall day, sunny and mid 70’s in the desert. I had the sunroof open and was having a grand ‘ole time. Little did I know that I would be driving home that night in my bare feet and smelling like poo.
I found a great spot along the north shore of the Salton Sea for sunset photos and then headed further along Highway 111 towards Niland. I was in search of Salvation Mountain. I had been out to Salton Sea once before but didn’t find the mountain. This time I was armed with directions! Once you hit the dinky little town of Niland along Hwy 111, you just turn left on to Main St. and follow it into the desert a little ways. Finally I had found Salvation Mountain!
Salvation Mountain is quite amazing! It is one man’s statement to the world that God is LOVE. Leonard Knight, now in his 80’s, has been building Salvation Mountain since the mid 1980’s. The first mountain was built using items from the local dump and covered with sand and cement, but it collapsed after about four years of work. He vowed to make it smarter and stronger. His new mountain is made out of the local adobe clay mixed with straw and is covered in layer upon layer of donated paint. The mountain is a labor of love and is never truly finished.
Leonard experimented with using bales of straw and adobe to build a dome shaped home for himself to shelter him from the desert’s harsh elements but he still prefers to live in his truck. He has also started work on a museum made in the shape of a dome. The museum is made of “trees” that Leonard builds from old tires, wood from the area, and adobe.
Salvation Mountain is truly a work of art. I’m so glad I finally got to see it. If you are ever in the Salton Sea area, make sure to stop by Salvation Mountain. And bring some paint with you to help the mountain along!
I left the mountain with just enough time to get back to my sunset spot on the Salton Sea. I really do need to start these trips earlier and watch my time! The spot I chose was where the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club stands in sharp contrast to it’s long ago abandoned surroundings. The remodeled club reopened as the Salton Sea History Museum in 2010. The museum then relocated while awaiting permits from the county. The museum still has not reopened in the club. In it’s heyday, celebrities such as the Beach Boys, Guy Lombardo and Jerry Lewis docked their boats at the club.
The sunset was just gorgeous this evening! As the sun went down behind the mountain, the sea and sky was filled with oranges, purples and reds! I worked at getting right up to the shore line: I really wanted to get nothing but water. I wanted to get closer shots of the dozens of pelicans and shore birds that were coming and going from the sea. Ten feet from shore, it got a little “muddy”… no biggie! One step…two steps…third step and I sank into the muck! Was it mud? Was it quick sand or was it just toxic waste? I don’t know. All I knew was that I was mid-thigh deep in it and I couldn’t get out. I’d try and pull myself out and I’d sink again. I lost a shoe about 2 feet down…it was either my shoe or my leg. I chose my leg. I finally crawled on my hands and knees out of the mess. Boy did it stink! …like poop it stank. But, I was out! I took off my other shoe and threw it into the sea. I loved those shoes! But, I did get my photo!
Now stinky and shoeless, I made my way back to the car. I was sure I had an extra pair of shoes in the back, but nope! Using a couple of shop rags and a bottle of Windex, I cleaned myself up the best I could. I threw the shop rags away and got in the car for the long, barefooted and stinky ride home. I stopped at a convenience store for a drink and a snack. I must have looked like a hobbit with my dirty bare feet!
“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.” ~ Frodo Baggins about Bilbo Baggins
For more history and information on Salvation Mountain visit the website: www.salvationmountain.us
To see more photos from this adventure or to buy prints from this story visit my Gallery.