A Trip to Salvation Mountain

Friday, February 9, 2018

Salvation Mountain…oh, where do I start with you? (You know it’s going to be a ride when I start a blog post this way.)

It all started while I was scouring places on Pinterest to visit on my and my mom’s trip to Palm Springs that we took last week. We decided to try some new things this trip, so I mentioned one of my finds: Salvation Mountain. She thought the pictures looked cool, so we decided to make a day trip of it.

Here is my honest look and thoughts on my visit to Salvation Mountain.

Some Background

Salvation Mountain was a passion project by Leonard Knight, a man who wanted to spread the message of God’s love. He did so in such a unique way: he layered piles of trash with Adobe clay and countless gallons of latex paint, and after decades, Salvation Mountain was born. He absolutely covered his mountain with Bible verses and various sentiments about love itself; most repeatedly, “God is love.” If there was one thing he wanted you to take away from this experience, it was those three words.

Leonard Knight lived in a truck on the plot of land he built Salvation Mountain on (shown above), up until his passing in 2014. Now, the land is owned by the state of California, and it’s staffed by locals from dawn until dusk.

Also, it’s one of many filming locations in Kesha’s music video for her song “Praying.” (You can clearly see the mountain around the 2:56 mark.)

The Mountain

The mountain itself is a work of art. It’s almost Wonderland-like with all its mismatched colors, and Dr. Seuss-like with all its winding corridors and bright, twisting branches jutting in various parts of its caverns. And even the caverns had hidden messages and verses. You can walk on top of it - provided to “stay on the yellow brick road,” as various signs around the mountain direct you - but I would only do so if you have shoes with significant grip. (Mom and I didn’t, so we didn’t risk it, as there are no rails.)

When you look at this mountain as a work of art, almost like a museum piece by a man who dedicated his life to sharing what he was passionate about with others, you really get a sense of how much he loved God and how much he wanted others to know that He is love.

To be honest, it really made me think about how I presented myself as a Christian. Though this mountain isn't meant to be a sermon by any means, knowing that God loves us is always a good lesson to take away from anything. At the end of the day, I want to share Christ’s love with others, and I want to do so with the talents He gave me.

The Surrounding Area

If you sensed any chagrin or hesitation at the beginning of this post, this is the reason why.

As I was driving my Mom and I down California’s I-10, and farther and farther away from the city, we got an increasing sense of how alone we were in the desert. I get that its the desert, but it was unsettling how dead everything became.

Salvation Mountain is located near Niland, CA, just forty minutes away from the border to Mexico. While I’m all for exploring new places, I was very, very glad I was with someone. Long story short, it’s an unsafe area, especially at night, and especially alone. We kept describing it as “post-apocalyptic” and “Mad Max,” and not in a good way. 

Near Salvation Mountain is a community of drifters and those who choose a true off-the-grid lifestyle called “Slab City.” It’s a community of shanties and scrap metal that’s something out of a zombie movie. But this is real life. Honestly, it was saddening to see how people lived out there, in all that dust, surrounded by dilapidated buildings and closed down groceries. You couldn’t even get gas out there, unless you were willing to drive an hour away.

But, you know what? They need God’s love, too. So, looking back after being out there, maybe it was a good thing that they lived so near something so positive.

I just added these thoughts for safety reasons. God loves everyone no matter their station in life.

Final Thoughts

This is even more honest icing on this figurative truth cake, but I think this is the first time that I’ve ever been hesitant about recommending a place to you.

On one hand, it was cool to walk through. It was fun to know that I walked through some of the parts of the mountain Kesha walked through, and, hey, it’s about God and His love for us. If I can’t get behind that, I don’t know what else.

But the area is not for solo travelers. At all. Go in a group during the day. And I would not just go to this area just to visit Salvation Mountain. I know it’s about an hour and a half from Palm Springs, and it’s a few hours from Los Angeles. Wait until you’re less than two hours away to visit. It’s too long of a drive for artwork that takes forty-five minutes tops to visit.

But, if you want to take a quick trip to see a work of art with an uplifting message, it’s cool to see once.

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