Day Four: Slab City and East Jesus.

This is a part of a series detailing our itinerary for the upcoming trip through the California desert. For details, and to donate, check out our Kickstarter page.

After overnighting at the Salton Sea, we plan to head out to what I anticipate is likely to be the strangest part of the trip.

We’ll be heading to the Slabs.

Slab City is a collection of concrete foundation slabs leftover from the removal of Camp Dunlap, a set of old Marine barracks. Only the slabs were left behind. Later, the slabs became a temporary housing site for creosote harvesters, and today this area has become a haven for snowbirds, survivalists, and squatters. People come down here to escape the cold of northern climates, and the slabs provide a free place to park up. Some others come down here to be left alone. Some have been driven to live here out of poverty, having been kicked out of other camps at nearby Mecca and Bombay Beach.

Many living in the slabs derive their main income from government checks, some from salvaging scrap metal.

My understanding is that it is unwise to arrive in the slabs after dark… there is no police force and there are no streetlights. There are, shall we say… private folks… who own firearms. We wouldn’t want to startle anyone. This is the main reason for staying overnight at the Salton Sea. I anticipate that we will meet people with a diverse array of outlooks and opinions.

While we’re in the slabs, we also plan to investigate East Jesus. East Jesus is billed as an extensible, habitable “art work.” The community living at East Jesus is composed of artists, musicians, writers, and scientists, and they strive for both self-sufficiency and as small an environmental impact as possible. I’m very interested in seeing what they’ve been doing with the place. According to their website, they’ve been looking in to projects like chicken keeping and tilapia farming. I’m interested to see exactly how self-sufficient they’ve managed to become. I also understand that they have a sculpture garden. I think it should make for some interesting photographs, and I hope some enlightening conversation as well.

We may camp for the night at East Jesus, if the current cast of characters ends up being welcoming enough.  If not, we may carry on toward one of the nearby towns, such as Brawley, CA… or even on toward Lake Havasu.

I’m not really sure what to expect from the slabbers.  Artists can be a very unpredictable group of people, jealous of their privacy, and I expect that many of the folks in Slab City proper may have, shall we say, some political disagreements with my traveling companion and I.  Regardless, this is one of the parts of the trip that interests (and terrifies) me the most.

Slab City and East Jesus will be the apex of our trip; after this point, it’ll be a long burn back up to Sin City.

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