Heard of it?
Nestled in a cozy little middle-of-nowhere desert in Southern California, there is a random mountain painted and formed into a work of God glorifying art. If you hit up 8-East for 2.5 hours, you’ll eventually find Niland, CA. Take a few random highways surrounded by nothing but desolation, and eventually you’ll stumble upon Salvation Mountain.
I had never been here before but I had seen some pictures friends had taken from their own visits. Helen, whom I’ve mentioned in quite a few posts now, is an adventurous spirit. In just a few short weeks she will be venturing into Turkey – one of many places she’s traveled to. It’s no surprise that she had been here and it’s no surprise that she invited me on a last-minute, poorly planned trip here for Easter. Her church regularly has services on Saturday nights – she isn’t an adventist but that’s simply when the church building is available. The church I go to offers a Saturday night service and two on Sunday. I generally go on Sunday morning.
I like to think that I’m a “Yes-Man.” With little consideration, I’m typically quick to simply say, “Sure.” This is definitely a new trait I picked up and God only knows where I picked it up from because I was quite staunchly the opposite up until recently. But I said, “Sure.”
Saturday, April 4, 2015, I went to an Easter service at my church. Immediately after (well not so immediately, I stayed to chit chat a bit), I drove over to Helen’s apartment, left my car in her garage, transferred my thrown together bag into her car, and we were off. We picked up a $5 hot-‘n’-ready pizza from Little Caesars, two gallons of water, some chips, and cough drops, medicine, and tissues at CVS, and continued on down the road. However, Helen was sick. I mean, really sick.
Another more recently acquired trait of mine is a germaphobic one. To be in a compact car next to a sick human being was not comfortable for me at all. I was being a bit of a diva, throwing out dramatic, “ewwwwwww! oh my gosh Helen!” at every sneeze, sniffle, and cough. I did not want to get sick. It didn’t help that upon our late night arrival, I was far too sketched out to sleep in a tent outside so I urged her to allow us to just sleep in the car. We were so tired, the idea of pitching a tent anyways just seemed like too much work. We dropped back our seats, and that was it. Only, that wasn’t it.
Sidenote: I was sketched out because weird things happen in the desert and there were trailers around us, and a super impoverished but dark town nearby called Slab City. Furthermore, there was a large cultish group of people nearby having a large bonfire through the night. Truly, there was nothing cultish I could actually affirm happening, but my overactive imagination thinks it was cultish.
I got approximately 2 hours of sleep total – if not less. Not only was I paranoid about being in the middle of the desert, but Helen was sick. As a result, her snoring was relentless and hideous! I mean, this girl might as well have been an elephant blowing his trunk. All. Through. The. Night. Needless to say, I was stoked to wake up in the morning and be done with that treacherous night. I had come here at night so I could wake up with the sun rising behind this mountain. It was like receiving a present. I had arrived while it was wrapped in darkness and experienced the anticipation of its revealing with light!
Helen was still asleep but I couldn’t lie there any longer – plus it was a cold morning. I open my door and begin walking up around when I see a dog which my paranoid brain thought was some sort of desert-mountain lion? I guess? I booked it back to the car. It was a dog.
He just sort of stared at me for the longest time and didn’t greet me till much later when Helen and I began to exit the car and head towards the mountain. At that point, he basically attacked us for 5 seconds then ran back to the trailer from which he came. And alas! Before me was this glorious sight with the sun just peaking its rays over the mountain.
We stared for a second, taking it in; observing all the words and scriptures painted throughout the mountain. Then we “followed the yellow-brick-road” up to the top of the mountain where that cross is.
It was here at the base of the cross that we blasted my Spotify Worship playlist and sung out praises into the cool morning desert air. What a glorious Easter morning! What a blessed way to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. After several moments camped out at the base of the mountain, leaning up against the “D” in “GOD,” and meeting a few random strangers, we explored the other section of the mountain; what I call the Dr. Seuss part.
This area was so captivating. There were places to explore to your right and to your left. Colors were splattered all over with branches and strange designs all around us. There were certain small rooms filled with polaroids and notes from various visitors and pictures framed on the walls of the mountain cave of the artist, Leonard Knight who said, “Love Jesus and Keep it Simple.” All over this mountain were Scriptures pointing to the love of God but also to the need for repentance. Such a glorious place. It began getting hot very quickly and so it was time to go.
But we weren’t done just yet!!!
Now, we are covered in dirt and dust and oils excreted from our faces over night, so we used our gallons of water and a travel sized bottle of shampoo to wash our hands, faces, and feet. It was an adventure. And only now do I realize that I planted my feet to do this, right over where Helen had popped a squat and peed that morning. Gross.
Next stop: Salton Sea.
This place was eerie. A friend of mine told me that this body of water is really just irrigation run-off. But when people saw it, they began developments of hotels and planned for resorts – yeah, in the middle of the desert. This explained the completely desolate nearby towns. According to this friend, one day somebody decided it would be a good idea to throw a fish in the water. With no vegetation, and no predators, the fish population boomed, but most would die without the oxygenation from vegetation. Birds would come and eat the fish, but would be poisoned by them and die. I saw quite a few dead fish along the bank. Eerie I tell you. We did meet an old man by the name of John with his beautiful lab sitting in the back seat of his tractor quad thingy. There was also a group of people with a giant truck filled up with equipment. They drove nice cars and looked like…well, normal people, so Helen and I want to tell ourselves they were shooting a music video 😉 who knows.