“We like it here and we ain’t goin’ back.” Residents of Slab City in Southern California enjoy their life of freedom where the air is clean and rent is free.
Sandwiched between the Salton Sea and the Chocolate Mountains, Slab City is home to many campers. Here they don’t care what you look like or where you came from. Everyone is welcome! Campers come on dirt bikes, in RVs and even greyhound buses to park on this hidden desert city.
At the entrance to Slab City, you will find Salvation Mountain where the sides are painted with religious pictures and verses to inspire the freedom that is advocated here. Leonard Knight has been painting and repainting this mountain since 1985. If you like his work and want to donate to the cause, a bucket of paint is his favorite contribution…acrylic is preferred.
As you travel back into Slab City, you find campers set up on the concrete slabs left behind from the WWII training grounds. The Chocolate Mountains and a few creosote bushes add some beauty to this RV oasis in the middle of the desert. This is indeed rough living, even though free, as there is no electricity, running water, or bathroom facilities. And the temperature is hot! Those who stay either use a generator or solar panels to produce enough power to cook, or run a fan for their swamp cooler. Some even use that power to watch TV for a little while each day and have their satellite dishes located on top of their campers. Definitely not a place for those who like all the modern conveniences.
Entertainment seems to come in an easy manner to these free thinking people. Flea markets or swap meets are held most weekends. One camper even set up a library, as there is definitely lots of time to read a good book. In the evenings, those who have an instrument with them provide music with songs like: We Like It Here, Slab City USA, and Free Bird.
Marine Corps Chocolate Mountain Gunnery Range is located close by. This Gunnery range has been a training ground for Marine Corps and Navy pilots since WWII. If you happen to stay at Slab City, you will hear the sounds of artillery practice throughout the night quite often. Where Patton once ran his tanks, today folks race their four wheelers and dune buggies.
Nearby Salton Sea is one of the world’s largest inland seas with its surface being 226 feet below sea level. Originally formed from an overflow during a heavy flood of the Colorado River into the Salton basin, this re-created lake in the Imperial Valley of California is located on the San Andreas Fault. This type of flood should not occur again due to the construction of Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in the Black Canyon. Since this inland sea has no fresh water supply except for the inch or two of rain each year, today this polluted sea seems thick enough to walk on!
There is a possibility that this area may soon be developed into a solar and geothermal energy site for much needed power for the California area. This could power many homes and businesses! But environmentalists are concerned about the dwindling population of the Mojave Desert tortoise, the flat-tailed horned lizard, and the burrowing owl in that area.
If you happen to stop in a local tavern, you might hear this discussion regarding the protected environment. One slightly disheveled man of the desert will laugh and say, “The most amazing creature in the desert is the stick lizard. Carries a stick in his mouth whenever the temperature rises above a hundred ‘n fifteen degrees. Still he searches for food at high noon. How does he do it?”
“Wow, how can he be out there at high noon?” ask the environmentalists.
“Well,” the desert man thinks deeply, “when the sand starts to burn his feet, he puts the stick in the ground so he can climb it. He just hangs there a few minutes ’til his feet cool off. Ain’t many stick lizards left. Definitely endangered.”
If you are tired of the city or your troubles are so many that you can’t list them, flee to Slab City where you are sure to be welcome!
If you are driving or hitchhiking to Slab City, it is located in the desert of Southern California just four miles east of Nilan off Route 111. There is fairly easy access as it lies just north of I 8 and south of I 10.