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Beyond the concrete

Slab City: America's Last Frontier of Freedom

By afifaPublished 7 months ago 4 min read
Slab City: USA

Situated in the remote and arid expanse of the Colorado Desert in Southeastern California, you'll find Slab City, an intriguing off-the-grid community that has garnered a distinctive reputation as the last bastion of freedom in the United States. Originally established on the grounds of a World War II Marine training base, this region, now christened Slab City, is defined by the enduring remnants of concrete slabs, remnants of the military structures that once stood here.

In stark contrast to conventional settlements, Slab City operates without the trappings of a formal government or established infrastructure. Its inhabitants, often affectionately referred to as "slabbers," reside within a kaleidoscope of makeshift dwellings, including RVs, trailers, tents, and a variety of other improvised structures. This community serves as a magnet for a diverse spectrum of individuals, drawing retirees seeking an unconventional retirement haven, artists in search of creative freedom, wandering souls who embrace the transient lifestyle, and those yearning for an alternative way of life that liberates them from the conventions and restraints of contemporary society.

The location where the Slabs now stand was previously occupied by a U.S. Marine Corps installation known as Camp Dunlap. This military facility served its purpose until 1961, at which point the decision was made that the base was no longer necessary. Consequently, the majority of the infrastructure at Camp Dunlap was dismantled, leaving behind a scattered assortment of concrete slabs and various other remnants strewn across the arid expanse of the desert.

Slab CIty

Subsequently, individuals employed at a nearby chemical factory stumbled upon these abandoned slabs and perceived them as an ideal spot for temporary habitation, employing small trailers and other makeshift setups to create living spaces in this unconventional environment.

Over time, the land changed ownership, as it was acquired by the California State Teachers Retirement Association. To this day, they retain ownership of the property; however, it's important to note that they do not exercise regulatory control over the individuals who opt to reside on this land. This unique arrangement allows a degree of autonomy for those who choose to make the Slabs their home, fostering a distinct and unconventional community on this intriguing piece of desert terrain.

Slab City possesses a distinctive character that is entirely its own. It's a fusion of elements, reminiscent of various eclectic experiences: part Burning Man, part RV gathering, part Artist's Colony, and part homeless encampment. As you wander through Slab City, you'll quickly notice that its appearance is a constantly shifting tapestry. At one moment, you might chance upon an RV adorned with an oversized tire and a chair teeming with stuffed animals, all presided over by a welcoming message emblazoned in bold letters: "Welcome Visitors." Turn the corner, and you could encounter teepees and handcrafted shacks, accompanied by vigilant dogs tethered to sturdy stakes.

Venture deeper into this unconventional enclave, and you may stumble upon an entire wind chime sculpture, painstakingly assembled from discarded materials, with a kind-hearted woman eager to share her homemade bread with you. However, the subsequent corner might present a different offering altogether – perhaps an invitation to purchase illicit substances. One thing you'll certainly encounter in abundance is refuse; Slab City's lack of traditional sewage and garbage utilities inevitably leads to the accumulation of substantial waste.

Slab City doesn't fit the bill for those seeking a conventional and predictable vacation destination. Yet, if you're in search of a place unlike any other in the country, a locale that defies categorization and promises a genuinely unique experience, then Slab City may just be the destination you're looking for.

Salvation Mountain: Slab City USA

Before entering the heart of Slab City, you'll encounter an awe-inspiring spectacle composed of a striking arrangement of ruggedly painted slabs and rocks. This elevated mound of brightly adorned terrain stands at an impressive three stories in height, its surface adorned with a vibrant fusion of paint, adobe, and concrete. Scattered across its facade are numerous Biblical verses, adding an extra layer of depth and meaning to this artistic canvas.

As you traverse this landscape, you'll find yourself navigating through a labyrinthine network of pathways, each twist and turn revealing a fresh masterpiece of creativity and expression.

When we first set our eyes upon this towering mass of slabs, the sheer magnitude of artistic brilliance juxtaposed against the arid desert backdrop and scorching sun left us in awe. Stepping into this realm, you'll experience a profound sense of immersion into a different reality, one where the prospect of enchantment and wonder feels tantalizingly tangible. At every juncture, the anticipation of what might unfold around the next bend is palpable, ensuring that each encounter is nothing short of captivating and enthralling.

Slab City California


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  • Alex H Mittelman 7 months ago

    Nice to read your story! Great work! Good job!

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