Among RVers, no other camping area evokes such intense reactions as Slab City. People either love it, or hate it. There is no gray area among this 640 acre dismantled military base near the Salton Sea.
Made famous by its appearance in the movie “Into the Wild,” Slab City wasn’t on our radar until our friend Skinny Chef asked if we wanted to meet her there. Then coincidentally, I found this blog entry, by a young RVing couple we met back in South Carolina;
“The movie depicts Slab City as this really cool RV hippie community, where people of all ages hang out – peace, love, happiness, rock and roll, and all that. Well yesterday, we drove two hours to Slab City and nothing could be further from the truth.
Slab City is an RV slum, pure and simple. It’s actually really sad – people living in tents and abandon vehicles. There were even remnants of burned down RVs strewn all over the place. It’s amazing to think that people actually live this way in the US – and it’s only 80 miles from swanky Palm Springs.”
This intrigued me. Liz is a nice person and I like her a lot, but the two of us are quite different. I’m crunchy granola and like to keep things simple, while she’s a high flyin’ New Yorker who’s into manicures, and the glamourous life. Once I saw what she thought of Slab City, I figured if she hated it, I’d probably love it.
I was right.
Slab City: The Last Free Place
Do come here with an open mind if you plan to visit. Many people we know would be completely offended by the post-apocalyptic look of the place.
To come here requires someone who is willing to look beyond the surface, to scratch a little deeper at a situation to learn the real story.
What Slab City Is:
- Free camping. It’s a spot of abandoned, state-owned land where hundreds of travelers from all over the world come to stay for free, some permanently, others just to ride out winter. Call us squatters, if you will, since nobody has “official” permission to be here.
- Serious Boondocking. There are no facilities whatsoever: no electricity, water, or trash. Nothing. The closest dump station is 8 miles away.
- Kinda trashy, in places. Yes, there is some garbage and abandoned RVs around. The state doesn’t care about this spot, and the closest city refuses to clean it up since residents don’t pay to be here. It’s up to campers to be responsible for taking trash to town, and like any neighborhood, some people are better about this than others.
- Very Social. There is much to do and see here, including social clubs, a couple of concert stages, a library, an 18 hole golf course, a church, hot springs, and more. We’ve been to two potlucks, and seem to be doing something every night of the week. We’ve never been so active in one location before.
What Slab City Isn’t:
- Lawless. Contrary to how the media portrays it, I don’t feel in any more in danger here than I do in most cities. Sure, there are some sketchy looking characters, but if you keep away from them, they’ll most likely keep away from you. The county sheriff makes regular runs through here, and Border Patrol is constantly driving through.
- Depressing. There is more creativity here than any tidy suburban neighborhood I’ve been to. Residents have contributed many hours of labor to build free amenities like the golf course (with free equipment!), concert stages, church, or the public shower down near the springs. I’m impressed that people would do so much with so little, in such an unforgiving desert environment. Now if they could only get it together to do something about the trash . . .
- Mainstream. It’s as if someone took a sampling of every kind of ethnicity, personality type and mental disorder, and shipped them here. There are international travelers, old folks, musicians, fulltime Rvers, wandering travelers and offroad enthusiasts, all camped out in the same area as drifters, people struggling with addictions, mental illness and/or homelessness. Everyone seems to get along, following a live and let live attitude.
The desert scenery outside Slab City is beautiful, surrounded by a rugged mountain range. On most days, you can look east to the Chocolate Mountains, about 2 miles away, and watch the US Navy spend your tax dollars by practicing bombing runs and playing war games in the air. We took two hour bike rides without seeing another soul.
The other day, Jim went to see Solar Mike, about our solar system. Mike asked Jim “How long are you staying?” Jim replied with “oh, a week or two.” Mike looked at Jim with a knowing look and chuckled… “Yeah, right.”
I think he could tell just by looking at us. The Slab City lifestyle is agreeing with us, and we’re going to find it hard to break camp this week.
24 thoughts on “Mad Max Meets Good Sam at The Slabs”
If it ever hits the fan these people should block the entrance to stop the devils of society from entering
I was wondering if you have any of these individuals contact information?
I am a Casting Director for a production company and I would love to speak to any of the individuals regarding a potential for a TV Show. Let me know!
Thanks so much!
Which individuals? Most slabbers don’t have contact info, but you can reach us through our contact form any time!
Hi! Iwas just wondering if you’d have a problem if I linked yours to mine, I have been trying to describe the Slabs to my family, and you have great pics and I like the way you describe. I love the slabs and hope to be there this Christmas and new years. I don’t know when you were there, but we just came from there, we were there of and on between mid-January to mid-march. We performed music there several weekends, perhaps we met you? thanks, Sunny
No problem at all. You rock! I just checked out your blog, and yes, we noticed you at the Range a few times, but no, we never met. After seeing you in the crowd a couple Saturdays in a row, last thing I remember was you hopping up on stage and jamming with some incredible riffs. We just left the Slabs and are hanging out near Why, AZ. Great, quiet, beautiful, clean, free boondocking site after a nearly two months in Slab City!
Good luck finding those hippies. Loved the fish game! Funny how you found this post, from last year.
Excellent positive comments about Slab City. Many visitors have a negetive attitude about Slab City. It is one of the most unique places in US.
That sounds so fun. We haven’t been there yet, but there’s it sounds like it might be a good place once we get something capable of solar and real self containment.
Hey C, thanks for finding us! I checked out your blog and have added it to my reader. Hope we get to meet up some day soon, you guys sound like a lot of fun.
Yeah, solar is key. Next time we go back to the Slabs though, we’re going to invest in a water tower and a blueboy so we don’t have to go dump once a week, more like every other week. Found out we can go 10 days on one tank of water and our waste tanks, but it would be nice to go even longer next time.
Thanks for writing!
Lmao..el jefe thinks your crazy…too funny. In order to understand to the fullest spectrum one must understand what is really going on around us… enough said. Go and mingle!! Nice to hear you don’t even have to bring your own clubs..a society that shares aww. Are you guys on a time restraint?
We are somewhat on a time restraint, and wish that we could stay there longer. The Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Alpine, TX is calling our name…..
Aww. I had seen it hinted that you guys were going to be there. I had hoped that we would see you when we arrived. Aw, well another time. Glad you guys are enjoying yourselves. Safe travels when ever you do decided to break camp ;).
Jenn, you two would LOVE it there!
I hope so.
Hey, maybe if we are near the same place(between there and texas) at the same time, I can set up a caving trip. If you guys are interested in that kind of thing.
Sam and I were going to visit here this past fall on our way back to Louisiana. We never got there because we ran out of time. We’re hoping that next winter we’ll get the chance!
estan bien !locos!