California’s five-year drought has ended and the winter rain has resulted in a colorful super bloom. Desert Sunflowers greet you as you drive into Anza-Borrego and the desert floor is currently covered with fields of scattered white, purple, yellow, pink and blue flowers. It truly is beautiful. The Rangers have begun calling it “flower-geddon”, catchy. I had been wanting to tour the Sky Art in Anza-Borrego for quite some time and decided this was perfect timing for a day trip. Off I went… with not enough water, no sun screen and wearing black. On the bright side, I did not see even one rattlesnake. WooHoo!
Sky Art consists of 130+ sculptures commissioned by Dennis Avery to create an outdoor sculpture gallery on his property at Galleta Meadows. Avery purchased the land for conservation and allows public access and three nights of free camping. The full-sized metal sculptures by artist Ricardo Breceda depict desert life and animals once found on the land. The sculptures are located on Borrego Springs Road on each side of town. DOWNLOAD MAP. The 350 ft long and 15 feet tall Sand Serpent crossing the road was my highlight!
Anza-Borrego has many hiking trails and off-roading routes. Be on the lookout for Bighorn Sheep while you are in the area. I love stargazing in remote areas and have sought it out in Sedona and Tucson. Borrego Springs is a Dark Sky Community and known for stargazing. I had other plans but Night Sky Tours are available.
Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area
Next stop, Salvation Mountain. Salvation Mountain is 1.5 hours east from Anza-Borrego. It didn’t take that long to get there, I may have been speeding. On the way you will pass through Ocotillo Wells. This area is known for off roading and great for adventure lovers. Pull off the road at one of the camp areas and watch for a minute or two. It’s hot out there, I didn’t stay long.
Salvation Mountain is another place I have been curious about for quite some time. Leonard Knight spent thirty years creating this desert art using adobe clay and over 100,000 gallons of donated paint. It is 50 ft tall and 150 ft wide. The message is simple and clear: God Is Love. You truly need to see it to appreciate it. Truthfully, if I saw Leonard’s van parked at Walmart, I would walk out of the way to avoid him. I would. I admit it. But, I love his story and I wished I had brought a couple gallons of paint. Sadly, he passed in 2014.
Slab City is ‘the last free place in America’ and was made famous by Sean Penn in Into the Wild. It is located in Imperial County on the concrete slabs from the abandoned World War II Marine Corps barracks of Camp Dunlap. There is no electricity, no running water, no sewers, no toilets, and no trash pickup service. Slab cities residents are recreational vehicle owners and squatters. Most leave in the summer when temperatures are around 120 degrees but there are 150+ permanent residents living off the grid. “Live and let live” is the philosophy of the Slabs. There is a church, an entertainment venue, even a skate park. Freetown Christiania it is not but there were a couple cool places. One house was constructed of cabinet doors.
East Jesus is a private artist camp and public sculpture garden located on the edge of Slab City. What’s with the name? It is means: a fictional remote, backwards inhabited place. In other words, it is slang for off the beaten path. East Jesus is about the art and I loved the sculpture garden. The residences are fenced off. I’m rude and peeked through, there is some awesome street art back there. They don’t mess around at East Jesus – Read This
Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea
Next I headed 40 minutes North to Bombay Beach on the Salton Sea. I expected abandoned homes covered in graffiti. And there was some of that. But there was more. It was like a third world zombie apocalypse scene. There are people residing in Bombay Beach alongside abandoned homes, completely destroyed homes, a beach of dead fish as sand. Seriously, thousands of dead tilapia skeletons on the shore. The whole area was eerie and uncomfortable. I didn’t stay long.