Jan 23, 2015

Salvation Mountain, Searching Salvation

Located just outside of Niland, California, less than an hour away from the Mexican border, Salvation Mountain is a work of art unlike any other. Built by Leonard Knight, the mountain was constructed out of straw, wood, adobe, and gallons and gallons of paint. There's no denying that it was a labour of love that Leonard dedicated years of his life to while living at the site. 

Leonard passed away in February 2014, however my friend Dave and I spoke to him in 2009 on our road trip across the Western USA. Being back here was a surreal moment on my return visit this past December. Dave died unexpectedly in 2011, so without him or Leonard to share with, I feel like I'm the only one left holding on to the memory. 

Nothing stays the same forever. Salvation Mountain has crumbled a bit since my last visit. I noticed that the paint has started to crack without the regular maintenance it was used to. Similarly, I felt my emotions crack a bit as well as I brought everything back to the surface. It wasn't what I prepared myself for, but it was serendipitous nonetheless to tour the site again. This was what my pilgrimage to the desert was all about.

Standing at the top of Salvation Mountain. 2009 meets 2014.

Carrying a photograph of Dave and myself that I snapped while standing on top of the mountain in 2009, my goal was to photo journal the location, shoot footage for my Searching Salvation video, and leave the image behind as a memorial. I accomplished all of these things by driving out to Salvation Mountain on two separate occasions during my time in the area.

I'm not a religious person, but in my eyes Salvation Mountain really isn't as fanatical as it may look on the surface. Hearing Leonard speak about it those years ago and from touring the site in detail, the take away for me is just to love - spread it, share it, create it.

Leonard's passion was infectious, and I began to view this location as a symbol of my friendship with Dave following his death because just being there was an uplifting experience. For me it was enlightening; a realization that some of the greatest things that can happen to you aren't because you planned them perfectly. Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time and everything unfolds better than you could have scripted it.

When we left Salvation Mountain on that day back in 2009, Dave and I were in a state of euphoria that was fueled by Leonard's excitement in sharing this place with us. If you're familiar with the scene from Into the Wild (see below) it was like he recreated that moment for us (as I'm sure he did with countless others). It was a pure, natural high and I got to share it with one of my best friends. That's something that I never want to forget.

I left my photograph in here with the other notes and messages.

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