- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Visit Slab City, California
During winter months, abandoned navy base becomes off-grid home and alternative living community for thousands of retirees.
During the winter months, as many as several thousand campers – mostly elderly retirees – flock to the site for the warmer desert weather and lack of fees. These seasonal residents, known as “snow-birds,” live in a variety of housing formats. Though most come to the area in their RVs, many also squat in abandoned structures, such as old, inoperative buses or driftwood shacks. A small population of people also live there year-round, braving the harsh summer months when temperatures can reach above 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
The permanent residents, also known as “slabbers,” most often end up in Slab City due to poverty (many are said to subsist off government checks), though some also stay for the feeling of freedom that comes with living in an uncontrolled, off-grid area in the middle of the desert. With no electricity, fresh water or sewage treatment, residents are forced to rely on solar panels and their own waste system. The residents share one communal shower, a concrete cistern that is fed by a hot spring 100 yards away.
The lack of government is also what drives many people to the free land of Slab City. With no rules or laws, it is said that some squabbles have resulted in RVs set in flames, and even shootouts. Though instances of this vigilante style have been reported, most residents and visitors to The Slabs know it foremost as an alternative living community. Away from the hustle and bustle of city living, the campsite features its own community library, golf course, sculpture garden, two live music stages and several social clubs.
Perhaps the community’s most popular slabber was Leonard Knight, the creator of nearby Salvation Mountain. For over twenty years, Knight lived out of his truck and worked continually on his colorful art “mountain,” which marks the entrance to Slab City. He has since been forced to leave the mountain due to failing health, but still enjoys local legend status, and receives many letters from well wishers.
The Slabs have been referred to as “the last free place on earth” and an “anarchist RV town,” and was recently featured in the novel and film, Into the Wild.