Monday, February 28, 2011

THE Trip, Slab City, near Niland California

Copyright 2011, CABS for Reflections From the Fence

(Note/warning to readers, this and the next several posts will be graphics heavy, hope I don't freeze up your ISP and computers, hope you enjoy.)

Several docents at Visitor's Centers we stopped at during our '2 week plus a few days' stay in the LaQuinta and Niland California suggested we would find Slab City, well, interesting.  They were right!

Tomorrow I shall bring you a post about Salvation Mountain, which is a kind of "gate" to the area.  If you can find Salvation Mountain, you have arrived at Slab City as well.

Slab City has to be one of the most unusual places Man and I have stopped this trip.  This is boondock camping to the extreme.  Wikipedia has an article about it, here, which covers the basics fairly well, and tells us, "It takes its name from the concrete slabs and pylons that remain from the abandoned World War II Marine barracks Camp Dunlap there. A group of servicemen remained after the base closed, and the place has been inhabited ever since..."

There are several other web sites that explain Slab City, one is the MsTiogaRV Magazine 4 part article, that appears here. And another good description of Slab City can be found on this page (which seems to be a series of article/pages on boondocking, which I fully intend on seriously checking out!)

To find Slab City, first get to Niland California, on 111.  It is a small town, maybe it is different during the summer, but in February it was tired looking, a few restaurants, a couple of grocery stores, a gas station, not sure just what else.  There were a number of interesting looking guys and gals in town, some obviously down on their luck, possibly with addictions to alcohol or drugs. I do not mean them any insult, but, they were rough looking, not necessarily dangerous, what I might have thought of when someone said the term "desert rats".  They truly fit the description of "characters", which I don't think is necessarily a bad thing.  But, I digress, once in Niland find Main Street, turn east on Main, cross the railroad tracks, follow Main until it turns to Beal, drive till you find Salvation Mountain, several miles.

When you first arrive in the area on Beal Road the first hint that you have arrived, is, Salvation Mountain, you will stop there, and you will take lots of photos, as you will see tomorrow!  After spending an hour or so there, learning, being humbled by the experience, you will wander back out to Beal Road and turn northeast, you won't drive far, just feet and you will happen along this small building, use unknown (to us), maybe a bus stop??  Out here??

Because I am the curious sort, while preparing this post I went and paid a visit to Google Maps, this screen capture photo shows the area where Man and I drove around while visiting the Slab. To get full appreciation of this photo, you need to click on it so it opens in a larger screen, click your back button to return here to Reflections.

Here is a distance photo of Slab City taken from the top of Salvation Mountain (the adobe structure on the right side of this photo is part of the mountain).  This photo is one you should also click on to see the larger image.

Now, let's let the photos speak:

The metal looking container on stilts that says
"El Oasis", we believe to be water, it will feed by gravity
to the RV, it can be ordered from the town of Niland
and delivered to you in Slab City.

Trinkets anyone??  I know, it is strange, but, I love it!
Solar panels, the ones on the far left and on the far right are good sized.
Solar panals are not cheap, and the system/equipment required
to get the power to your appliances gets pricy too.  This could 
easily be a $10,000.00 set up, less if installed by the owner himself.
I like to think the home owner has a great sense of humor.
We saw tents, trailers, fifth wheels and a couple of high end motorhomes parked in Slab City.  Since we had spent a great deal of time at Salvation Mountain we did not spend a lot of time in Slab City, I can only imagine  what unusual and poignant things we might have seen if we had really investigated the city.

There were stories  in Slab City, stories of those simply wanting to save a lot of money and be away from the crowds for the winter months (you can stay as long as you want, no day limits here).  There were stories of our fellow man, down on his luck, way down, but, somehow surviving out there in Slab City despite the summer heat, the total lack of utilities, living in an unforgiving climate.  There are stories of them doing the best they can with what they have.  I hope someone tells their stories.

Man and I left, stunned, humbled, with much to think about.  I don't think we shall ever forget Slab City California or the emotional impact it had on us.



Lisa Wallen Logsdon said...

I was so dang disappointed that I could not get down to street view to see Slab City! What an experience, like going to a third world country might be!

Carol, if you get a chance, check out Shelby Lee Adams website here:

On the right, be sure to click on the Napier family link (pay attention to the dates the photos were taken) and if it intrigues you, browse the rest of the site.

So many of us live in our comfortable worlds and don't even really know...

hann said...

Using solar energy can help you economically. But other than that, it can also help us preserve our environment as solar power is not inimical, neither is it detrimental to our environment. A flat plate collector is like winding length of tube on a flat plate that is painted black. Water passes through the tube and getting heated in the process.