I don’t usually do adventure reruns, but last weekend, I just needed to get outside to clear my head, so I returned for a second hike to Murphy Ranch, an abandoned Nazi compound in the mountains of Los Angeles.
In 1933, Nazi sympathizers began construction on Murphy Ranch, Hitler’s L.A. dream house. The self-sustaining community had its own power plant, water tank, meat locker, bomb shelter and vegetable garden. Original blueprints included plans for a four-story mansion with 22 bedrooms, five libraries and several dining rooms. The compound was raided in 1941, sold and transformed into an artists’ colony in the 60’s and 70’s. The buildings were abandoned after the Mandeville Canyon Fire of 1978. (Curbed LA)
Today, the ruins can be accessed on a hike through Rustic Canyon. My second hike to Murphy Ranch could not have been more different than the first. In Los Angeles, seasonal change, Nazi ruins and secret waterfalls are real. No Hollywood magic required.
As soon as I heard about Nazi ruins in Los Angeles, I told my friend Justin to prepare for his first Shoestring Adventure. We were joined by my partner in crime and two other experienced adventurers, Rachel and Alia.
We descended over 500 steps down a narrow, concrete staircase and followed a path through the garden ruins. When we entered the power plant, the smell of fresh spray paint lingered in the air. Every inch of the walls was covered in layers of graffiti art. From the roof, we could spot the surrounding ruins, including the water tank and the garage.
The garage appeared to be a twisted tin roof supported by a pile of rusty scrap metal. The ground was littered with empty beer and paint cans. Just beyond the garage, we came to a grassy hill, studded with delicate white daffodils. Someone had painted a message on a sheet of metal resting against a tree: LIFE TAKES TIME. I laid down in the grass to meditate on the meaning of those words.
When I returned by myself to Murphy Ranch two months later, I came directly to the same spot for some quiet reflection. This time, the grassy hill was completely dead, except for some bright orange succulent flowers in a planter. Someone had written on the planter in black marker: “B*tch, don’t kill my vibe.” (Quote by hip hop recording artist Kendrick Lamar)
I sat down in the dead grass to meditate on the meaning of those words. Whatever bad vibes I was carrying around disappeared as soon as I said them aloud. Thank you, Kendrick Lamar. Re-energized with good vibes, I prepared myself for the climb back up 500 steps.
I was nearly back to the trailhead when I noticed some wooden steps trailing off the side of the mountain. I decided to find out where they led. As I neared the bottom of the hill, I could hear rushing water. Someone had tied a rope around a tree, so I grabbed on and scaled backwards down the steep incline.
At the bottom of the trail, I found myself standing at the top of a concrete dam, looking down at a 20 foot waterfall. Judging by the discarded beer cans and the tattered ropes hanging from the trees above, I think I stumbled upon a locals only spot. For the moment, I had it all to myself.
I stretched out across the top of the dam, using my backpack as a pillow, and closed my eyes. At this point, my phone was dead, so I wasn’t able to take any photos. This was a private moment just for me, a reward for taking the path less traveled. Good vibes all around.
Murphy Ranch Trail
- Trailhead Address: Capri Drive & Casale Road, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272.
- Trailhead Parking: Street parking
- Trail Length: 3.85 miles round-trip
- Fitness Level: Intermediate
- Source: Go to Hikespeak for turn-by-turn trail directions.
- Special thanks to One Cool Thing Every Weekend for the tip.
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