Slab City – California’s Gold (806)

The California desert has always been a place filled with mystery … and surprises! When you travel through our desert you’re never sure what you’re gonna see, who you’re gonna meet, or what strange and wonderful experiences you’re gonna have. Huell Howser discovered that first hand on a recent trip to the Salton Sea community of Niland.

At first glance, Niland is a sleepy little agricultural town once known as a major grower of tomatoes. But a few miles out of town — out in the middle of nowhere — Huell discovered two honest-to-goodness, little-known pieces of “California’s Gold.”

First Huell visits with self-taught artist and desert character Leonard Knight and gets a tour of “Salvation Mountain,” a huge multicolored mosaic of scripture, flowers, trees and the American flag all sculpted into the side of a mountain with adobe, straw, and as much bright paint as Leonard can lay his hands on. “Salvation Mountain” is an on-going labor of love that Leonard started ten years ago and he shares his enthusiasm and his mountain with Huell.

About a half mile down the road, Huell next visits a town that is like no other in our state. Everyone lives rent free. There are no landlords, no official rules and there are no utilities or houses, yet over 3,000 people call it home during the winter months. It’s called “Slab City” and it sits on the sight of an old abandoned Marine Base. Its citizens are a hearty bunch of independent, self-sufficient folks who have turned this desolate, yet beautiful part of the desert into an unofficial RV park. Huell spends a day touring “Slab City” in a twenty-five year old dune buggy, meets many of its colorful residents, and finds out why so many of them keep coming back year after year.