'Mountain Man’ Leonard Knight spent his lifetime spreading messages of love and peace painted over a made-made mountain out in Slab City, California, a ‘snowbird’ community site in the desert with no official electricity, running water or trash collection. But yet, nothing stops Leonard Knight from turning sand into art, creating a horizon of mesmerising colours.
Photograph by Jen via https://www.flickr.com/photos/blu_pineappl3/
The Mountain is Calling
Visionary folk artist and christian evangelist Leonard Knight is the most colourful mountain man ever. Using countless buckets of adobe clay, hay bales, over 100,000 gallons of donated paint, unwanted junks and a span of three decades, Leonard created Salvation Mountain, all with unwavering faith, a joyful heart and his own bare hands. The mountain is painted in brightly coloured flowers, waterfalls, pastoral scenes and biblical quotations. Located in the Colorado Desert, near Slab City, it is widely visited by strangers, art lovers and curious travellers from all over the world.
Photographs by Brian via https://www.flickr.com/photos/bdearth/
Leonard lived at the mountain base, in the back of a fire truck, spending his days building, patching cracks in the cements and paintings constantly. He would also give tours to those who came to visit the colourful site, always with welcoming open arms and a wide smile. The mountain was Leonard’s life, and it is him who gave it life.
Even thou Leonard is not around anymore to watch over the mountain, there are care takers who live and work at the mountain, volunteers who lead tour groups to visitors of the man-made landscape. Together, conserving Leonard’s creation and fulfilling his last hope, that Salvation Mountain would be preserved as a message for future generations. Parking at Salvation Mountain is free, however make sure to bring a cash donation and slot it in the donation box to help with the upkeep of the mountain.
Salvation Mountain is a national treasure proclaimed by the Congressional Record of the United States of America and a remembrance of a faithful servant of God, with one simple message to the world - God is universal. Don’t get complicated with love. Let’s keep it simple.
Photograph by Mr. Joe Bielawa via https://www.flickr.com/photos/joebielawa/
The site, a popular location for all types of creative still and video shoots, was featured in the 2007 movie “Into the Wild” with Leonard Knight playing himself. The unique site was also the film location of Coldplay’s psychedelic music video ‘Birds’.
Photography and creative team JUCO shoots at Salvation Mountain for Paper Magazine. Model Nora styled in designer looks of Kenzo, Dior, Missoni by Stylist Shirley Kurata. Check out the vibrant fashion photography below:
Finding The Last Free Place On Earth
Located in Slab City, also known as “the last free place on earth”, Salvation Mountain is where you can walk around naked, scream at the top of your lungs at 3 a.m., or camp overnight for free outside the mountain of course. If at any point of your life should you ever decide to live there, pack up and go, no rent is required. Rules, regulations and government does not exist.
There is only one way for travelers to visit, and that is by land from Los Angeles or San Diego. Several major car rental companies are situated in Los Angeles and San Diego, which offers a wide array of cars to choose from with convenient pick up and drop off locations. Foreigners are required to produce a valid driver's license from your home country along with your International Driver's Permit when renting a car.
Before heading off to the last free place on earth, here are a few tips to take note. Answer nature’s call before you leave as it can be quite difficult locating a restroom and you definitely will not want to waste time on that. Remember to pack plenty of bottles of water especially during Summer. You’ll need to be hydrated from the heat and all that climbing. Oh, don’t forget to wear shoes with adequate grip if you plan on walking to the top of the mountain as the dry, smooth paint will leave your shoes clinging to nothing.
Photograph by Mr. Chris M Morris via https://www.flickr.com/photos/79666107@N00/
Driving Directions to Slab City / Salvation Mountain
San Diego is the closest city to Salvation Mountain. From San Diego, take Interstate 8 to Highway 111 North. Travel about 51km until you reach Niland. Turn east on Main Street (turns into Beal Road) and go a little over 3 miles to Salvation Mountain. Turn left on Main Street that eventually turns into Beal Road, and travel for about 5km. After crossing a series of train tracks, a fair distance before reaching Salvation Mountain, you can’t help but notice the shimmering rainbow beacon shining from afar. You absolutely cannot miss it.
From Los Angeles, take Interstate 10 to the 86S (just east of Indio.) Travel 18km south to 66th Avenue (Highway 195). There is a big gas station and truck stop on the left. Do not miss this turn or you'll end up on the wrong side of the Salton Sea. Turn left and travel 800m to Highway 111. Turn right and travel 68km to Niland, California.
Photographs by Mr. Marc Cooper via https://www.flickr.com/photos/marc_cooper/
For more information on Leonard Knight, Salvation Mountain and how to get there, or to make a donation to the preservation and maintenance of the Mountain, visit the official website of Salvation Mountain, Inc: http://www.salvationmountaininc.org
To learn more about Leonard Knight and Salvation Mountain, check out the inspiring documentary on VICE: Leonard Knight and his Technicolor Mountain.