A Microadventure to Slab City and Beyond


Setting your own limitations to maximize adventure

It started, like most good ideas do, with a casual conversation as I was driving Matt home from the airport on New Years eve.

"I had this idea to do some short trips and team up imagery with writing..."

He was and is a great and witty writer, a good friend, and has the rare quality of being someone I wouldn't mind doing road trips and hikes with. We ironed out some details and basically landed on doing an online blog of our trips with a few set limitations that would force us to be MacGyver if needed and to not rely on our debit cards if things went south. We settled on a few rules:

  1. Do not bring credit cards, only 20$ cash
  2. The adventures had to be no longer than a day from the time we leave our door to the time we get home
  3. Start with yes.

There weren't many rules, but we, like many people, got the sense that there is an overwhelming opinion that so much of adult life is spent thinking adventure exists elsewhere and for people with a great deal of expendable cash. We wanted to look close to home. 

Before I get too far in this story I have to mention this isn't an idea I thought up on my own, I heard about microadventuring by following Alastair Humphreys who basically is the father of microadventures. 

To launch blacktop journal (name we gave the blog) we did a trip I had wanted to take many times: Salvation Mountain and Slab City. The movie Into The Wild for some was entertaining, but for me it was idea-birthing if you leave out the whole dying-by-berry-poisoning bit. Leonard Knight, the man who started Salvation Mountain was also a character to me that always had a draw, he had an unshakeable belief that Love was the greatest thing in this world and devoted his entire life to sharing that message. He passed away shortly after our visit and I'm so glad I visited his legacy out there past the Salton Sea. 

After that we continued on to Slab City, which has it's own way of doing things.

I'm very aware and respectful of the fact that we were literally viewing the place these people lived as a tourist destination so we didn't stay long. I'm adamant about treating people with dignity and not imposing on their privacy and while it was a fun place to visit, I didn't feel like they appreciated a lot of the attention they got from photographers, so we took off. We followed all our own rules and went home to plan our next one.

The second trip was a place called Murphy's Ranch hidden away in a deep cut valley in the Santa Monica mountains. It is an abandoned Neo Nazi camp from what we could gather in our research and has also been obviously frequented by taggers and parties. It has a very dystopian, end-of-the-earth sort of Walking Dead vibe. It is literally a perfect location if you wanted to have a paintball war. It's a great small afternoon hike and I imagine if there was a high pressure system covering the area with fog it could be even more picturesque.

Then time got the best of us

I had another daughter and his career moved him East. But for the two that we did it was formational in the fabric of who I am to never assume adventure is somewhere else or for someone else, just need to use a better set of eyes.

Published: October 31, 2016

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph.

Autumnal Plum & Ginger Breakfast Feast


Recently we escaped for a weekend to a little camp spot up in the Catskill Mountains. Little did we know, a storm was rolling in so the night was spent bundled up listening to rain on the tent roof.

0 Saves

5 Tips for Finding Beautiful Fall Foliage in Massachusetts


1. Foliage Maps There are a bunch of tools and foliage maps online that you can use to find the perfect place to visit.

0 Saves

Trekking to Machu Picchu Without a Guide


Day One - The Departure | Humantay Distance: 1.5 miles Elevation Gain: +1200 ft     Our alarms were set for 5:30 AM.

2 Saves