Driven by an insatiable desire to spread what he believed was God's message, Knight began building the installation in 1986. He worked for more than 20 years, constructing new additions and reinforcing the existing structure. It reminded me of the story of the Winchester Mansion, except that Knight's work was fueled by reverence rather than fear.
In 1989 the Salvation Mountain collapsed in a landslide. Interpreting it as a sign from God that the original construction was unsafe, Knight improved his technique and rebuilt it.
He kept at it until December 2011, when at the age of 80, he was placed into assisted living due to dementia. He died in February 2014. The site is now maintained by volunteers.
Salvation Mountain may look familiar to you if you ever saw the movie Into the Wild, in which Leonard Knight briefly appears. He and his creation are also featured in the documentary Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea, which is very interesting and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the Salton Sea.
It was a scorching hot day. Dozens of tourists snapped photos and followed the yellow brick road up to the top of the mountain.
Cars, trucks, and even a tractor were decorated with Knight's message.
Salvation Mountain is constructed of bales of straw joined together with adobe and thousands of gallons of paint.
|Parts of the structure were under construction|
|A closeup of cracking paint and the underlying straw|
Several rooms are built into the side of the mountain.
The largest room contained a large painted tree with bare branches
|I climbed up the hanging tires to get a view of the inside|
|Inside one of the cisterns|
Tents stood in the shade of each cistern, cars parked beside each. Out of respect for their privacy, I gave them a wide berth.
In the distance, the desert was overtaken by the motley community of RVs and semi-permanent structures that is Slab City.
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