(LATIMES) — Reporting from Niland, Calif.—
Under the warm winter sun, tourists and pilgrims and the just plain curious marvel at the candy-colored pastoral scenes on a painted mound in the desert called Salvation Mountain.
Some of the visitors climb the winding yellow path to the top of the three-story mound to pose for pictures beside a tall cross. Others inspect the flowers, waterfalls and rivers that adorn the mountain's 150-foot-wide face.
And everywhere are biblical citations and admonitions: "Jesus Is The Way." "God Never Fails." "God Forgives Sinners."
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Cats, paintbrushes, wheelbarrows and donated vehicles remain in the gravel-strewn area at the base of the mountain.
But the key element of Salvation Mountain is missing: Leonard Knight, who spent most of three decades painting this adobe-clad monument between the Salton Sea and the squatter community known as Slab City.