The road to salvation

Leonard Knight: The artist heart

Have you ever been in a place so desolate, uninspiring, neutral? We all have been to that daily mundane routine in life. Where part of us is a desert- our thoughts wander like the tumbleweed in the vast and open dry land. No growth, just stagnant air. 

The war in Ukraine has brought even more a damper to this situation; opened new wounds and for many of us depression slowly taking over our lives. It lingers long enough to eventually get a hold of our hope. Where do we stand in the future? How are those children of war going to recover? Will they ever be reunited with their parents? The very necessity of food, water and shelter displaced by war. To wake up the next morning completely striped off from life- freedom and the very essence of peace. Death.

The prophet Ezekiel once had a vision in the open valley of dry bones. This valley was littered with human skeleton riddled with despair- lifeless and dead to their core. He prophesied to these bones as the Lord had commanded bringing flesh and skin in human formation. He called on to the wind and brought living breath in them. The prophesy of hope restored in the Israelites as they faced the Babylonians.

Fast forward to the 1970’s. A young man by the name of Leonard had a grand design and plan in his mind to bring out the message of God to the people. A message of hope. Leonard served in the war and knew well in his heart that hope is the driving force in life’s whirlwind of battles.

“I wanted to put ‘God is love’ to the world. On a hot air balloon.”

He’s planned to build a hot air balloon 200 feet tall and fly it so people can see God’s message. Inspired by a grand balloon he’s seen when he was a boy of a brand of beer high up in the sky to where it was visible to everyone from down below. He’s collected materials over the years in building one. However, many years of planning and attempts, a gust of wind in the dessert would flatten it preventing it from flying. He’s attempted for many years and soon the materials rot before his eyes and failed him miserably. The balloon never got up to fly on his many attempts. After nearly fifteen years, it was all over. The project deserted. Abandoned. Alone in the desert. With his every effort, now dry as those bones in the valley.

‘I stopped my vehicle besides the road and I started saying. Jesus I’m a sinner come into my heart. Ten or fifteen time. Tears started coming through my eyes and I was alone by myself. And my God! I’ve been changed my attitude for fifty years’.

In 1984 He’s called out to God once more. He gave himself one whole week to come up with a different plan. He’d collect anything he can pick up in the desert from broken glass, tree branches, discarded tires, windows and local adobe clay. Inspired in his heart to bring out God’s word to the people. He would soon continue on this journey. He’d work on the mountain for four years but was soon taken down by a mudslide in 20 seconds. A pile and a big blub of mud was all that was left. Devastated and in disbelief the onlookers thought Leonard would soon give up and abandon his work.

‘God almighty you build it. You’re gonna have to do it God. Leonard had fourteen years and it rotted that balloon. Four years in the mountain and it’s rotted down. God you do it! And ever since then I’ve been trying to get rid of Leonard…’

Working countless hours with a renewed perspective he’d soon find himself working at it again. Days turned into weeks and months into years.

The mountain was completed in over 22 years with people continuing to donate their time, materials and paint to this present day. In a documentary, Leonard recollects working deep into the night when a group of bikers stopped over to volunteer their time. Together they worked into the night with a few flash lights brought by the group. He’s expressed such an event with joy and a smile in his eyes.

Leonard explained how he would find cracks in the structure and reinforced them with adobe. Punched it in which made the apperance of a small hollow crater. He would soon paint them with colors and made flowers out of them. Over the years he’d find these cracks and made countless flowers out of them strengthening the structure even more.

In May of 2002 it was declared a national treasure by the US congress. It has a yellow brick road guiding you to the top of the mountain where a cross stretch high up in the air, a waterfall and an ocean visible from the outside. The mural has bible verses and the Lord’s prayer. One wall has the fruits of the spirit painted and written all over it. You walk around a corner and you find yourself surrounded by a wall of painting. Framed drawings decorated with borders of bright colors.

An Igloo made up of 100 Bale of straw houses a museum of repeated blocks of ‘God is love’ adorned with red flowers made from adobe materials. Across this Igloo is a museum of nine thousand bale straw over nine years in the making. A pile of truck tires with sticks holding it in place covered full with adobe resembles a tree like beam that stands over 10 feet and holds the structure in place. Light penetrates this decorated and colorful room of flowers from the windows and parts that have been left out to rot in the desert. It is a beautiful design of many raw materials from the desert. Its own individual characters displayed from what is considered junk to a work of art. It’s continued to be celebrated by travelers and a shaded sanctuary from the midday sun.

‘I can make a thousand flowers in one day with the best adobe there is and the whole mountain gives me the clay’.

‘Any big church that can go around and claiming they’re the best there is- is a dangerous statement. We shouldn’t be saying that. Because Jesus is the best there is’.

Nearby attractions

The mountain had several names. Technicolor mountain and mountain of love. But the people decided to call it salvation mountain. It is here where a glimmer of hope can be found to those seeking one. A refreshing scene driving through the valleys and desert plains of Palm springs.

We made this trip in May of 2018. My daughter was 15 month old then. She was hopping one colorful painted walkway to another and gravitated towards the colorful adobe flowers. My son was 3 and a half then. He’s mostly a climber at this age with magical super powers. It is very important to accompany and watch them climb up the stairs. We enjoyed the murals and most especially the museum. A stark contrast from the hazy backdrop of the surrounding badlands.

The trip takes about 3 hours 30min by car from Los Angeles to the Salvation Mountain. If you were heading west from Los Angeles you will hit few places along the way from shopping to fine dining with a grand view of the valley down below.

If you want to go shopping, the Cabazon outlet mall sit along the I-10 80 miles east of Los Angeles. The Palm Springs Aerial tramway is nearby Cabazon outlet mall that boast an aerial view of the desert while you dine in. A refreshing hike during the day can be experienced too.

Further down, along the freeway heading east 23 miles from the shops at the Cabazon outlet mall, The Children’s discovery museum of palm springs is a must visit and explore for children. An hour drive south east from here is the The Salton sea.

Another hour heading south east from the Salton Sea is where you find your destination and inspiration in the desert- The Salvation mountain.

If you are not in a rush and have few remaining days to spend in the desert, the Joshua Tree National Park is just north of the Salton Sea.


Leonard lived in an old beaten down fire truck made into his home painted with soft pastel blue and green with a bold statement ‘repent now’. He continued these work day in and day out. Before suffering from dementia and was put in a home, Leonard would send thousands of DVD’s to nursing homes, hospitals for the elderly and those who cannot visit the place.

For me to plan on something, forget it. Cause every time I do- it won’t work’.

‘For forty five years of my life I’ve had a one track mind. To put God almighty to the whole universal world. And keep it simple. God loves us all. Don’t get complicated with love. Let’s keep it simple.’

I just give…

The farmers gives me too much hay, cause there’s millions of bale all over the valley…

And people donate paint and people donate stuff,

Because I donate DVD’s to people

and you can’t out give God.

So I’m sitting here with a lot of paint and a lot of adobe and a lot of happiness and a lot of love.

The whole mountain is gonna be strong if it cracks 10,000 times. I’d put another 10,000 flowers in it.

Leonard Knight died in February 10, 2014. He’s made a clear impact on people through his art. His childlike love for the Lord resonates through his brush of colors in his painted adobe walls. He’s gone through decades of struggle in the desert. The mundane heat, dust, and pieces of junk that litter throughout the valley. He’s somehow made it known in the desert. In the very desolated part of the world. A hint of flower brings life but a mountain of dedication speaks to the world. Let’s make LOVE universal.

Thank you Leonard. Learn more about Leonard Knight and The Salvation Mountain.

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