Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Secret Stairs Walk #42-Murphy Ranch

The author describes this as the "monster step walk."  It is a lovely stroll through a secluded canyon that ends in a climb of over 500 steps.  The stairs in this walk were not meant for public use and there are no cafe's, restaurants r public restrooms.  This walk is not easily accessible by bus or Metro.  There is a lot of history and beauty in this walk.

Looking toward Santa Monica

Another view looking toward the ocean.  

The walk begins on Casale, which is accessed from Sunset Blvd. and Capri Drive.  After a short while, Casale becomes Sullivan Fire Road.  When we got to a wide yellow fire gate, the sign tells us that we are entering Topanga  State Park via the Rustic Canyon entrance, as well as to be alert for mountain lions.  We kept going and never saw a mountain lion.  The fire road provides views of Rustic Canyon, Santa Monica Canyon, as well as the city of Santa Monica and the Pacific ocean.  Eventually we came to a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, which the outer edge of the gigantic canyon estate built in the 1930's by Winona Stephens.  According to local historians, Ms. Stephens was persuaded by a man named Schmidt to invest $4 million in building a 50-acre, self-sustaining compound, complete with its own water and power system and capable of withstanding military assault.  Story has it that Schmidt was a Nazi and believed Hitler's rising forces would take over America.  Ms. Stephens funded construction of water tanks, diesel fuel tanks and electric power generators as well as living quarters fro an army of Schmidt's followers.  Frank Lloyd Wright was asked to submit a bid for additional construction.  The compound operated well until the onset of World War II.  Schmidt was identified as a Nazi spy, and arrested.  He died in prison.  The hideaway fell into disrepair and the land was deeded to the state.

We took the second set of stairs downhill.  This set of stairs has 321 stairs.  One of the water tanks still exists and is decorated with American graffiti.  Around the back of the water tank is the next set of steps.  Most of the staircases do not have handrails and many are extremely steep.  Some of the handrails were used for conduits for electrical service.  At the bottom of this staircase, there is a wide paved road, that was one of the driveways to the estate.  We turned right and headed up a slight grade and found our next staircase, which took us down about 170 steps to land within the Nazi camp itself.

Electrical conduit



Headed downstairs

The remains of the greenhouse and the power station still exist and are covered with graffiti.  Continuing on, we found the guardhouse and fueling station.  It is now a mass of steel walls with a rusty collection of cast iron sinks, refrigerator doors and electric generators.  We continued on a footpath that runs along the bottom of the canyon to a large barn like structure that is behind a chain link fence.  After we explored the barn, we followed our path back and continued along the path, past the greenhouse and the power station.  Along the path, we saw pine trees that were probably planted by the Stephens-Schmidt group.  We finally got to the final staircase, which has the 512 steps and slowly made it to the top and started our trek back to the car.  It was a fun and interesting day.  Enjoy the pictures!


Power House

Near the barn

Near the barn

Near the barn


Up the stairs

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