John and I were ready for a day full of quirky adventures so we headed toward the Salton Sea. Last year when we went to see Salvation Mountain, we did not travel out further to Slab City and East Jesus. We were told by fellow campers we should check it out. Our first stop of the day was to revisit Salvation mountain. We had read online about water towers located out behind Salvation Mountain that have some interesting paintings on them. Unfortunately we could not figure out how to get out to them. All routes from Salvation Mountain were blocked with signs indicating not to hike on. We abandoned our attempts to get out to these and decided to drive on to Slab City which is literally right behind Salvation Mountain.
Slab City is referred to as “the last free place in America” by the people who live here. This area used to be a Marine training base called Camp Dunlap, the military pulled out after WWII leaving behind concrete slabs. The warm weather and the concrete slabs initially drew snow bird RVers. This is state land and there is no fee to stay here. This is the kind of place where you can go to escape modern society or a place to go if you are “down on your luck”. The majority of people who live here are living in older, run down RVs, tents or old school buses. You need to drive through Slab City to get to East Jesus. You literally come to a “fork” in the road. You stay to the right to get to East Jesus.
East Jesus is a growing artwork exhibit that is built out of “trash”. The foundation has a philosophy of reuse before recycle. I found this exhibit to be very thought provoking. There is so much detail in the structures that you could spend hours just walking around and taking it all in. This is a place I would go back and spend more time.
Our next adventure of the day was to try to find the “bubbling mud pots.” The mud pots are located at the intersection of Davis Road and Schrimpf Road, four miles to the South of Niland, California. The drive down the dirt roads was easy in our Honda CRV. We saw signs posted around the area warning not to trespass.
We were a little hesitant to make the short hike out to them with these warning signs. John started across the dirt and immediately turned back around for the car when he heard shots being fired. It took us a minute to realize we were right near the water and the shots we heard were bird hunters shooting birds. This was enough of a scare for us and we decided to abandon going out to the mud pots. We drove down to the Sono Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife area. The visitors center here pointed out the best places to see birds and asked if we had gone to the mud pots yet. We decided after talking to her we would return to the area. We were really glad we did. The mud was bubbling and spurting, John even got covered with quite a bit of mud. Thankfully the mud is just bathtub warm. These mud pots are located at the very end of the San Andreas fault and an intrusion of magma 4000 feet below the earth’s crust. The bubbling mud is created by gas and water being forced up through the sediment and soil.
We planned on one more stop of the day. We wanted to go to the Sono Bono Wildlife Refuge area off Vendel Road. The drive through this area is smaller paved and dirt roads with farming fields for miles. We saw lots of birds along this drive.
The lady at the visitors center had told us this was the best place to see birds. Unfortunately when we arrived at the junction of Vendel and Bannister Road there was a very bad motorcycle/truck accident and the road had been closed to all through traffic. We changed our plans and decided to drive down Poe Road to get to the shore of the Salton Sea. The views here of the lake are great, but we could hardly stand the stench of the Salton Sea. We were literally walking over dead and rotting fish along the shore. I have a pretty strong stomach but I found myself gagging. It took a long time to get that odor out of our noses!