Leonard Knight tried to sew his own hot air balloon for 14 years to spread the message of God’s love but it just wouldn’t fly. So he started building a mountain instead. His Salvation Mountain is a mass of adobe, hay bales and wood structures encrusted with paint in the desert near Niland, California. It is located in or on the outskirts of an abandoned military compound that has become a haven for RV squatters and dubbed Slab City. There is a palpable sense of anarchy about the whole area.
Leonard talked to us about the wonders of the internet and how the word has spread about him and his mission exponentially since its mass acceptance.
Apparently some of his neighbors in Slab City think he is a fraud and scam artist. Yeah, Leonard sure is putting one over on us living in luxury in a 6’x4′ flatbed truck. He sure is scamming the hell out of everybody by accepting donations from his visitors that help him eat, buy paint, and buy food for all the cats and dogs. SIKE. Whattadouche.
Anyways, the mountain itself is a modest ridge cut out of the desert that is covered in paint. Leonard sculpted steps straight up the front side of the main face and it was fun to climb all over his work and take in the different surreal views that he has created. From the top of the mountain looking down, there was a view of his unfinished dome/ hogan and other newer structures that are being built.
After he showed us around another group of tourists came, saw, and left, and then we spent the early evening with him as he fed the cats and dogs. He told us that we are always welcome to come and stay out there and that sometimes people come and camp and volunteer their help in the construction work which he greatly appreciates.
Finally the animals were fed and Leonard offered to take us to the hot-spring where he bathes down the road…
But when we got near he saw that there were already some people in it so we said our goodbyes and thanked him for the tour. I told him I’d “spread the word” and he said “That really turns me on to hear you say that, spread the word”. Awesome.
This area is a cool and creepy road trip guaranteed, because the infamous Salton Sea and its ruins are not far away. Get on out there and say “hi” to Leonard, he’ll be happy to see you.