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Slab City: Great for an Experience, Not for the Squeamish
What can you really say about a free place to stay in the middle of the California desert next to an active bombing range?
Well, to begin with, one could say that Slab City is an unusual, extraordinary place where the usual rules governing public lands have been tossed out the window, along with perhaps years of broken furniture, stripped out motor homes and last night's trash.
The thing is, Slab City is neither a public land, nor a private one. It's a free place to stay that happens to be owned by the federal government. But the feds don't want it since it's too costly to clean up, so instead, the drifters of every socioeconomic class have reclaimed it as their own.
Slab City is a place without hookups or services. If you believe in respect for the environment you'll pack out what you came in with, but sadly, many people who stay here don't. If you can tolerate this kind of live-and-let-live attitude, then you just might appreciate the diversity and funkiness that this open space has to offer.
As you pull into the area, you're greeted by one of this country's newest national landmarks, Salvation Mountain, a handmade hillside colorfully painted with religious-themed messages to love one another and love your lord. Beyond this eye candy lies the real heart of Slab City, the two square-mile camping area where million dollar RV busses boondock across the road from burnt out junkies and wandering drifters. Where artists perform on Saturday nights and pirate radio hosts jockey to keep visitors entertained.
Come here in winter if you're sane, and during summer if you're not. Temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees in July.
Be warned, Slab City isn't for everyone. But if you're ready for something really, really different, it's a must see for at least one night.