There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more.
~ Lord Byron
I’ve never before (outside of the movies, anyway) seen a piano on a beach and yet I wasn’t the least bit surprised to find one abandoned on the shore of the Salton Sea. The beachfront in Bombay Beach, in particular, is in a constant state of flux which is one of the reasons I keep returning. You never know what you’ll stumble upon there.
Another shot from my recent visit to the flood-ravaged town of Bombay Beach. One of the things I find to be most compelling about the Salton Sea in general, and Bombay Beach in particular, is that they stand up so well to repeat visits. Indeed, every time I make the trek out to this visually-arresting and eerie place I notice things that either weren’t there before or, for whatever reason, failed to catch my eye in the past. Time seems to speed up and I’m always left wishing that the daylight would last just a little bit longer.
Today’s photo isn’t technically all that great (it was overcast and the light wasn’t very good) but it gives you an idea of what Slab City’s residences are like. There is so much creativity in this poverty-stricken, off-grid “squattersville,” that it’s not much of a stretch to think of it as one big art installation.
Slab City’s the Range from a different perspective. The center of nightlife in a remote “squattersville” that is often referred to by locals as “the last free place in America,” the Range is a free outdoor venue that provides residents and visitors (Slab City was prominently featured in Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild) with regular concerts, plays and poetry readings. To read more about this colorful and bizarre community of societal dropouts, click here.
Just down the road from Salvation Mountain is Slab City, an off-grid RV settlement comprised of an eclectic and highly-eccentric mix of snowbirds, hippies, veterans, drug addicts, retirees, and anarchists. Situated on the site of an abandoned WWII Marine barracks, this lawless and fee-free community (no fees equal no water, electricity or sanitation services) is home to about 2500 people during the winter months while only about 200 much-hardier souls stick around for the summer when desert temps can reach 120 degrees. Both Salvation Mountain and Slab City (including its open-air nightclub The Range, pictured here) were featured prominently in Sean Penn’s 2007 film Into the Wild.