Fresh back from a trip East, where I reconnected with family and friends and got a taste of winter weather, Mark and I landed in Slab City, an outpost in the California desert that has become a mecca for people who want to live way, way off the grid. Or, as the welcome booth to this piece of federal land declares, “The Last Free Place.”
The isolation of the place, an abandoned military camp, attracts hundreds, even thousands of RVers in the winter, who come here despite the fact that the camp has no electricity, no running water, no sewers nor toilets, and no trash pickup service. We rolled in after dark and quickly found a spot to park in the large spaces between RVs that had already settled in.
What they do have in excess at Slab City is creativity, found in the art community that created East Jesus, an outdoor music venue, and Salvation Mountain.
Made from discarded material that has been reused, recycled, or repurposed, East Jesus creators imagine a world without waste in which every action is an opportunity for self-expression. Assemblage and mixed-media art covers nearly every inch of the interior and exterior.
Across a couple of gullies, people can listen to music at the Ranch, where locals share their musical talents while the audience sits in this repurposed seating.
A mile down the road, Salvation Mountain, a three-story concrete structure covered with acrylic paint and Bible verses. With caves and chapels tucked around the mountain, the mountain is a designated National Folk Art Monument.
Our brief stay intrigued us and we vowed to return for longer and get to know the people who make Slab City their home.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.