Where was I…
After grabbing a coffee and strolling through Venice Beach I aimed my arrow towards the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain. I had read about the Salvation Mountain art installation and the resident artists who live there years before and had always dreamed of traveling there.
The Salton Sea is beautiful and it is hard to believe that this huge lake exists in the middle of such an arid place. I kicked myself for not knowing about it when I lived in Tempe as this would have been an ideal weekend spot to canoe and hike around. On one side you have a still glass-like lake,surrounded by rust colored mountains, and on the other you have miles of outstretched farmland and desert.
My next stop was Salvation Mountain. There is a small artist colony overlooking this mountain and a really friendly caretaker there waiting to share his stories. The original artist, Leonard Knight, began creating this art installation over 30 years ago while living in his van. He had been in poor health since 2011 and the caretaker explained to me how the town, along with travelers and volunteers had taken over maintaining it, but was uncertain of it’s future.
The site was beautiful! I was immediately drawn to it’s vibrant colors and playful imagery. It radiates out of the brown and orange backdrop of the desert. Religious in nature, it is easy to set the theological patter aside and focus on what has been created in front of you, a telling piece constructed by a determined man.
The caretaker was really friendly and seeing that I was alone, he offered to take photos for me. He told me about the large artist community and some hidden hot springs nearby. He offered me chocolate and told me about how the town had been featured in the movie Into the Wild. As the afternoon light was dwindling it was time to say goodbye. He sent me off with a keepsake that I will treasure forever, a little yellow flower that had broken off of the site made out of dirt and paint. It is the little things that often don’t have any monetary value that mean the most to us and take us back to happy places and pleasant memories.
As evening set I drove back to the freeway via route 78 and was in awe of the scenery. The mountains uniformly popped out of the ground at such an angle that they looked like slanted accordions. It was a great ending to a great day:)
Unfortunately, while I was writing this post I learned that Leonard Knight passed away in early February. I admired his passion and moral obligation to create and express what he felt, and for sharing that with the world. I hope that his artwork is preserved for future generations to admire and connect with.