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Slab City: A home for those on the fringe

Eric Thayer / Reuters

An art installation called "Salvation Mountain" is seen in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 15. A former military base that was closed after World War II, Slab City is a place on the fringe both geographically and philosophically and attracts a variety of people, including jobless and financially struggling recession refugees who can no longer pay for food and housing.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Rob Walker kisses Dayna Lambert as Walker's son Andy walks toward their campsite in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 16. Walker said he retired and bought a motor home, and has mixed Slab City into his traveling destinations.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

An art installation is seen in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 15.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

A man shaves in a hot spring in Slab City on Feb. 16.

Reuters photographer Eric Thayer recently spent some time with the fringe community living off-the-grid in Slab City. The former military base located in southern California was closed after World War II, and is on the fringe both geographically and philosophically. It attracts a variety of people, including jobless and financially struggling recession refugees who can no longer pay for food and housing. There is no water, no electricity, the landscape is dotted with expensive rv's, beat-up trailers, tents and art installations.

This is a place people go to get away from society, to escape, to go into self-proclaimed exile from the mainstream, into a society of travelers, hippies, snowbirds, artists, outcasts, the down on their luck, the slightly unhinged and the downright crazy.

On Reuters' Photographers Blog, Eric Thayer describes:

Along the road Salvation Mountain rises up, a hill that was covered in what looks like concrete, in its shadow a small society goes on. A checkpoint, most likely from the military base that this place once was, is painted with a welcome message to Slab City, named after the slabs of concrete leftover from its days as a military base that served as foundations for the buildings.

I drive past newer looking recreational vehicles, along dirt roads, some camps have signs, addresses, or are decorated, while others are unmarked. Painted signs mark roads like Edge, The Low Road, among others, stopping at a colorfully painted trailer on the northern edge.

For a place that people go to get away from society, the people of the Slabs still have a need to stick together, there is still a sense of belonging here, even in a place for those few who don’t really belong anywhere. The Slabs welcome just about everyone; whether or not they stay is based on their own ability to endure the elements and the primitive living conditions out in the desert.

Read Thayer's complete post.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Timothy, Zack and Casey Spyder are seen in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 17.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Jack "Two Horses" stands at his campfire in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 15.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

People eat lunch in Slab City just outside Niland, Calif., on Feb. 16.