SALVATION MOUNTAIN AND THE SALTON SEA
WHAT: We can spend months roaming California's Colorado Desert, one of the least populated areas in California which stretches from Northern Mexico beyond the Coachella Valley. You can either keep things chill and civilized by staying at a hotel in Palm Springs (plenty of people there), do your camping in Joshua Tree, or if you're down for getting a little weird and apocalyptic, try Salvation Mountain and the Salton Sea. The San Andreas Fault runs right through there if that helps to add dramatic value.
Salvation Mountain is equal parts bizarre and beautiful, standing three stories tall and made up of adobe clay with over 500,000 gallons of paint. What's more impressive is the man who built it, Lenard Knight, who came to the area in 1986. His mantra was to, "Love Jesus and keep it simple." He lived in the back of his truck, loved to work on his art and share it with anyone willing to come see it. In a time when so many people pervert religion to justify hate, his philosophy was genuine, his passion authentic. You can't help but admire the guy. Lenard died in 2014. Read more about him and his technicolor mountain HERE.
Once called the "miracle in the dessert" the Salton Sea is California's biggest lake and was known as a playground for the rich. It exists purely by accident, forming when a Colorado River canal overflowed in 1905. It's been kept up through the years because of human intervention, namely via agricultural water runoff. Today the lake is dying because of no real water flow becoming a giant evaporation pond killing off wildlife and creating health problems for area residents. In the 50's and 60's it was all yacht parties with the Beach Boys and Sonny Bono, now it's abandoned hotels, trailers, and grey dusty sand, well, not sand, but dead fish bones.