It’s a shame I’ve never made it out to Joshua Tree before, because it’s a beautiful place full of great hikes. Granted, it’s a hike just to get out there–about a two and a half hour drive, but the scenery is not to be missed, especially when the desert is blooming
We checked in at the Visitor Center, picked up a map, and had the ranger point out a few options for us. We chose an easy 8 mile hike, which was perfect.
The Salton Sea is California’s largest lake. It covers 350 square miles in the tester southeast of Palm Springs. In the 1950’s it was THE place to be until it was all but abandoned due to the increasing salinity and pollution from agricultural runoff and other sources (Get the Salton Sea’s full history here.).
After looking at pictures online of surrounding towns, I wanted to get a closer look at the place, hoping there would be some redeeming quality to it. Not surprisingly, there wasn’t. In fact, it’s sadder in person than it is looking at pictures. I felt strangely voyeuristic and cruel looking through what I thought were empty and abandoned homes, only to find them currently occupied. This is a foreboding place–a place that reminds you of your good fortune.
Just down the road from the Salton Sea, in the town of Niland, there stands a monolithic testament of folk art glory. Salvation Mountain has been featured in numerous documentaries, PBS, BBC, and in the film, “Into the Wild.” It’s an incredible feat of devotion, artistic ambition, and perseverance.
Just beyond the Salvation Mountain’s shadow, lies Slab City–a road that leads to what appears to be the end of the Earth (and not the end you want to be in). Whereas Salvation Mountain represents ambition and vision, Slab City stands in stark opposition, as a haven for people looking to escape life, responsibility, reality. I read about Slab City being a thriving artistic community, a sort of mecca for artists looking for inspiration and lack of artistic constraints, but while driving through, I felt a sense of sorrow and isolation. Here’s a link to Slab City Stories, an assemblage of videos and anecdotes of a few of its residents, that does a much better job of describing the residents and their reasons for living here.