5. Salvation Mountain / by Leslie Seaton


From the Salton Sea, I drove on to Slab City. I didn’t intend to spend long, just wanted to have a look.

On the way into Slab City, you pass by Salvation Mountain, a three-story manmade hill constructed of adobe and straw and covered with bible verses and colorful paint.

Leonard Knight, the creator of Salvation Mountain, was a New Englander, Korean war vet, and jack of several trades who had a religious awakening at the age of 35. He became focused on the Sinner’s Prayer: “Jesus, I’m a sinner, please come upon my body and into my heart.”

Eager to spread the word, he became convinced a hot air balloon printed with the words would be perfect. For ten years, he prayed for a balloon. When praying didn’t work, he decided to sew it himself.  He worked odd jobs and bought fabric when he could.

From the Salvation Mountain website:

“It became a wonderful patchwork of colors with big red letters proclaiming ‘God Is Love’ on a field of white. Alas, his enthusiasm betrayed him. Over time, the balloon became much too big to manage and, after an endless amount of attempts to inflate it, the fabric and its stitching began to rot and fail.”

He finally gave up on his balloon while he was staying in Slab City. He intended to leave the area but…

“Forever trying to promote what was burning so deeply inside of him, Leonard decided to stay one more week to make a ‘small statement’ before he left for wherever his van and his faith would take him. Armed with half of a bag of cement, he fashioned a small monument. One thing turned into another - days turned into weeks and weeks turned into years.”

The Salvation Mountain that exists today, though, is not that original effort. After four years of work, his original hill made of sand, cement and junk collapsed.

“Instead of being discouraged, Leonard thanked the Lord for showing him that the mountain wasn't safe. He vowed to start once again and to ‘do it with more smarts.’”

next part:

6. bird dream