Finding Salvation in the desert : adventureday to the Salton Sea/ Yucca Valley/The 951

It’s a tricky situation to be in when you’re a perpetual homebody
I mean hermit
*cough cough*
who also suffers from wanderlust….or maybe it’s escapism…

Thankfully my children, like myself, find joy in the simple adventures. The beauty of the world (although Cohan’s first question is always “is it a hike?”). This is what took us out to the desert and to Salvation Mountain.

I had seen a picture of Salvation Mountain a few years ago and tucked it into my mind under “places to adventure for another time”. That time arrived when I was pondering places for us to go on our mini vacation this last weekend.

First of all I regard this area of the desert like Radiator Springs, the fictitious town in the movie Cars, before they turn on the neon lights. The area between Palm Springs and Salton Sea are a series of few and far between road side stops, palm tree farms, open desert and abandoned homes. Here and there there are signs of life. People, much tougher than I, that can live in the extreme temperatures that hit this area of Southern California hard.
That’s why we came in the winter. I’m a massive wuss when it comes to the sun and heat. We stayed about an hour and a half away from where Salvation Mountain is located in the city of Banning. I didn’t want anyone to be in the car longer then they had to so staying at the half way mark between our destination and home worked perfectly.

My number one priority was Salvation Mountain. It’s a labor of love created out in the middle of the desert by Leonard Knight. His life and story behind his creation are incredible and his devotion will leave you staggered. To live so simply, so full of hope and love.

To get there, don’t listen to the map app in your iPhone. Seriously.
The best directions are located on the foundations website : “From Los Angeles or Phoenix, take Interstate 10 to the 86S (just east of Indio.) Travel south (11 miles) to 66th Avenue (Hwy 195.) There is a big gas station and truck stop on the left. If you miss this turn, you’ll end up on the wrong side of the Salton Sea. Turn left (east) and go about a ½ mile to Highway 111. Turn right (south) and go about 42 miles to Niland, California. Turn left (east) on Main Street (which eventually turns into Beal Road) and travel for a little over 3 miles. Look to the East. You absolutely cannot miss it.
From San Diego or Yuma, take Interstate 8 to Highway 111 north. Niland is about 32 miles. Turn east on Main Street (turns into Beal Road) and go a little over 3 miles to Salvation Mountain.”

People from all walks of life can be seen climbing over the modest “mountain” as well as helping with the upkeep. Donations are accepted as well as donations of paint to keep the project going. My first impression was mild disappointment. There were about 30 people besides the people working there…I guess I was after a little bit of solitude and my hermit side was showing. After a few minutes I shook it off and started up the “yellow brick road” to the top.
My overall reaction was a feeling of peace and awe. At one point when we walked into the museum (it’s hard to explain but reminded the kids of whoville, you can read more about it on the website posted above) there was an older woman sitting against one of the walls, eyes closed and it didn’t matter if she was praying, meditating, thinking or just resting. Her face reflected pure serenity and it was contagious.

Brayden thought the experience was really cool (a high compliment coming from a 15 year old that I didn’t think was having fun).
Kaplan thought that it was interesting and cool.
Cohan said “salvation mountain? It was fun. But not the yellow brick road” (he took the dirt path on the left to the top, the paint hardened dirt of the yellow brick road made him feel insecure).
George (an agnostic) really liked it. “At first it’s a bit…different. I thought it would be more part of the mountain. The den part (the museum) was really cool though. Peaceful.”
I have to admit, I was a little concerned how George would react. Thankfully the message of love spoke louder than any spiritual or non spiritual differences.

I had packed food for the trip and we started toward the National Wildlife refuge (Sonny Bono wildlife refuge ) to have a picnic. Don’t let the smell of the park turn you away. It’s not overpowering but it is noticeable, it practically screams “birds live here! A lot of them!”. Another thing. If gun shots freak you out, don’t go during dove, duck or geese season. Hunters hover on the rocks in the Salton Sea that border the reserve and wait for the flocks to fly over. For an animal lover like myself, it was disconcerting not because of the guns but because the hunting in earshot of what should be protected threw me off. The view of the Salton Sea is wonderful, the small trail a good stretch of the legs with some of the best bird watching around (if that’s a hobby or passion of yours). The fields and view of Salton Sea are hard to beat right before sunset.

We started back to the hotel stopping by the International Banana Museum to see if it was open this time (we checked on the way to Salvation Mountain and the operating hours were not the true hours. The gentleman, while I read reviews of how awesome he is on Yelp, adheres to his own schedule). It was not open. Two strikes this far away from home I take as a sign and move along.

On our way back we stopped at Native Foodsin Palm Springs . A restaurant we’ve eaten at several times before and enjoy quite a bit but don’t frequent often because for a family of 5 it gets expensive fast. I didn’t know that the Palm Springs location was the original store front so it was fun to realize where we were. Co and I got the Oklahoma Burger, Kap the Brontosaurus Burrito, Brayden the Twister Wrap and George the Chicken Ranch. As I’ve stated in previous blogs, Kap is a mostly vegetarian, Co and Brayden are meat eaters and George and I are Vegan. When we find a place where the boys don’t miss meat at all, we know it’s a keeper. Native Foods is one of those, just as my all time favorite, The Healthy Junk , in Anaheim.

We went “home,” hit the gym and the jacuzzi and passed out *blissful sigh*.

For our last day we packed up and headed to Yucca Valley to the Sky Village Swap Meet . This place is amazing! Not because of the vendors or deals (honestly it was slim pickins) but because the layout and shanty type “booths” have the most random stained glass, oversize chicken statue and wagon wheel decor that all of us were positively charmed. If they could get some structure to the layout or some of the thrift and vintage stores on the main street in there they could really liven it up (in my opinion). Still if you feel like digging through “could be trash, could be treasure” you’re in the right spot.

Continuing toward home we made one last stop at the UC Riverside Botanic Gardens . This place… I have to admit, I had fairly low expectations of after our trip to the Los Angeles Arboretum, which we loved. It was inexpensive to park (25 cents an hour) and a suggested donation of $4 for entry. It wasn’t a must but, after seeing the grounds and the care that obviously goes into it, $4 doesn’t seem like a lot. Overall, it’s not very big but the views from the tops of the hills, the gazebos that spring up around corners, you forget you’re in the middle of a suburb in Riverside. Co, as per his usual, had issues with the height of the hill we climbed but forgot about it soon enough and had “the best time ever!”.

It really was a wonderful time and just what we needed.





















20140105-191830.jpg any pictures of me were taken by George or Cohan 🙂


4 thoughts on “Finding Salvation in the desert : adventureday to the Salton Sea/ Yucca Valley/The 951

  1. This is Adam & Blue Jones long time viewers first time commenters. As always great pics and beautiful commentary. Makes me miss the desert, and that’s something I never thought I would say. All and all I realize I need to get back to California and do some more explorations. Been half way around the world and missed stuff in my own backyard. We’ll live vicariously for now via Pollyanna complex. Love you sis.

    P.S I’m not a member but hit the like this comment box first. TFF.

  2. Again, amazing. You and your mother should collaborate and write together. Made me smile reading your brother’s comment. Teared up when I read, “Love you sis.” Dad

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