Wednesday, May 6th, 2015: Murphy Ranch

NAZIS. GHOSTS. RANDOM HORROR MOVIE SWEATSHIRTS. You guys are in for an adventure in this post.


Today we hiked to a literal abandoned Nazi compound in the Santa Monica Mountains and it was amazing. Now, no Nazis have lived there for quite some time, but just in case, we brought Our Lady Peggy Carter with us for protection.


Patron saint of kicking ass with random household objects

“But princesses!” you might say. “Who was protecting your cars from the evil Nazis?” Don’t worry, we had that covered too.


…Shannon may have been waiting for a chance to show this off

So Murphy Ranch was built in the 1930s by Nazi sympathizers, presumably so they could wait it out until the USA lost WWII and the Nazis took over. Unfortunately they were big dum-dums, because the cops raided the places after Pearl Harbor. Since then it’s been an artist’s commune for a while, then it kind of fell apart and partially burned down, as structures in these mountains tend to do (re: Solstice Canyon). Now it’s mostly one big graffiti canvas and a hell of a good destination hike.

We took the Sullivan Trail to Murphy Ranch (which we gather is one of two ways to get there) so it actually started in a really nice neighborhood in the Pacific Palisades. If you don’t know Los Angeles, those are some fancy damn digs. There’s like a 0% chance we didn’t pass at least one celebrity’s house on our way to the trailhead. Also it was pretty obvious that anyone who was actually walking through the streets with a dog or a baby was actually hired help.

Anyway, a fire road leads to the park/compound’s gate. It’s nice and wide, mostly paved if not in great shape, has nice views and steady, slow elevation. We had to move over a time or two for a park ranger truck, which was just leaving the gate as we got there.


Yes, that says “no grafity” [sic] in graffiti. We don’t get it either


It’s v important to keep gates securely locked when there is a big hole in the wall right next to it, v v important

From there the trail starts to lead down into the valley. It’s still paved but even more torn up, which isn’t a problem unless you’re biking or like Bella Swan levels of clumsy. Eventually we came to a fork in the road, with no indication as to which way we should go. Usually we keep the hikespeak page open on one of our iPhones so we can refer to it even if we have no service (which we usually don’t) but we’d forgotten to do that today, so we completely arbitrarily chose the left fork and hoped it would all loop around eventually.


We didn’t even sing anything from “Into the Woods” this time

It wasn’t long before we found our first ruined/burned structure on the side of the trail. All that was really left was the foundation, a fireplace, and what maybe looked like some bathroom fixtures? It was all very overgrown and graffitied (that’s gonna be a theme in this one, people) so it was kind of hard to tell.


And then there were SCARY MONSTERS jk that’s Shannon the scary stuff comes later


Shannon’s just thinking about freedom

We encountered our first other hiker on this trail, who said he had just come down an insanely long staircase right off the trail. We poked our heads over there and he was not lying about it being long.


Allison went high enough for a picture and no higher, Shannon stayed on the ground because why wouldn’t she

The trail continued on for a while longer. We had time to chat. Allison’s love life of course came first, because that’s v important and also because we knew once we started talking about the new Avengers movie it would be a while before we moved on to another topic, and we were correct, especially because Shannon took out her phone and read aloud some of the list she had made of homoerotic moments between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark in the film. She only read some of it, because it is not a short list. It is very insightful though.

Alas, the scintillating topic of Marvel slash shipping was cut short when we arrived at the main event. The trail forked again, this time with one prong(?) leading up and another fairly flat. We headed up and found what may have been a building at one point but looked to us more like an old garden.


Now it only grows delinquents

It would make sense if it were a garden, of course, because the ranch was designed to be self-contained for long periods of time because apparently the USA was going to fall into anarchy when they lost the war to the Nazis, but apparently those fuckers never heard of CAPTAIN AMERICA. (I’m just kidding of course, Steve Rogers didn’t take the super-soldier serum until 1942 and the ranch had already been raided then, duh.) Anyway, um, Nazis are bad.


Stay in school kids

There was another long staircase leading up from the garden which we climbed a bit of before discovering we still couldn’t see the top and calling bullshit on that. Instead we descended a very short staircase and slipped through a big hole in a chain-link fence to get to what we have since learned was a power station.


We were not at all kidding about the mass amounts of graffiti

Some of the graffiti is boring and pretty pointless, just tagging and throwing something up there to be a badass or whatever, or so you can say you did. Some of the artwork was pretty staggeringly good though.


See how staggered we are?


We took pictures with this because we were impressed by the artistic ability and not at all because it looks like Vision from the new Avengers movie

There were some basement-like caverns that could be accessed through stairs, which we did not go into because they were full of garbage and because we are not crazy. There was also a ladder you could use to access a sort of catwalk, which we did not climb for that second reason again. Someone else did climb it while we were there though and he bonked his head on something so we felt pretty good about our decision.


Naturally we thought it looked like a stage because the play is our master and we are its whores

When we headed out the back of the power station is when things started to get really good. We could see another structure through some trees and started towards it. We had to do a little creative maneuvering and duck under some makeshift fences but when we got there, we realized it was a water tower.


Did someone spell “Hodor” wrong? 

Or it used to be a water tower, anyway, because something big damaged that thing. We are talking huge, devastating dent in what is basically a big steel tank. We’re dying to know what happened, because it looks like the work of either the Hulk or Mjolnir.


It was probably something like this


Okay fine whatever Allison is strong too

There was some more very cool graffiti up there, and some of it was very high up. Like, do taggers bring their own ladders with them to this place? Because the only ladder on the water tower itself was hella broken and way too high to reach. We’re telling you, someone went through a whole lot of effort to paint some shitty snails on that thing. Anyway.


Guess we know which one of us is interested in history

So we started to head back down to the power station so we could continue on from there, and as we mentioned (and as you can see in some of the pictures) there were mass amounts of litter everywhere. Spray paint bottles, water bottles, empty food containers, and in the picture above, you can also see a sweatshirt someone left there. It’s been there for a while. It’s crusty and dirty. And as we were passing by, we noticed we could see the letters MUH written on it. Those are letters we are very familiar with. So we spread out the sweatshirt a bit…


This is where our horror movie starts

AND IT WAS A FUCKING MUHLENBERG SWEATSHIRT. For those of you who don’t know, Muhlenberg College is Allison and Shannon’s alma mater. It’s where we met. It’s also a very tiny school and is all the way across the country in eastern Pennsylvania. So this was not like finding a UCLA sweatshirt. It wasn’t even like finding a fucking University of Wisconsin sweatshirt. Muhlenberg has less than 3000 students and the odds of finding a sweatshirt from there on our hiking trip are astronomical and NOW WE ARE FUCKING SCARED.


Why is this happening? What does it want from us? WHAT IS IT TRYING TO TELL US

So basically we got the fuck out of that little valley because finding our initials written on walls or carved into trees is one thing but this is some M. Night Shyamalan shit and it is above our fucking pay grade.


But first we had to take a picture of Allison in this weird little prison…which in retrospect may have been a bad place to take a picture of a Jewish girl

On we went until we came to the most ruin-y ruins (and also the ones that Allison thought smelled like poop), the former machine shed and garage.


Perfect place for a barbeque

There wasn’t much to explore here, though we did find another random bathtub filled with debris and junk. We slipped through another hole in another chain-link fence. We can’t quite figure out the fences. There was a big hole in every one so they were doing absolutely zero in terms of security, like, apparently someone decided at one point that they were going to block everything off but do a totally half-assed job and then completely neglect to follow through on maintenance or even ever coming back.


Bathtubs: you’re doing it wrong

We had basically been following a paved or partially-paved trail this whole time, but now we were following a dirt trail. It was obviously well-traveled and even had some bike tracks, plus we were still coming across graffiti so we figured we were good in terms of staying pretty much on track. We saw what we think used to be a truck that had been pretty dramatically destroyed (again, DYING to know the story) and some weird chimney with a chicken or something on it.


Also the steps were broken

At this point we still hadn’t come across anything that had obviously been a residence, so we have to wonder if all of those burned down? Or if they never got around to building any? Or if Nazis are just really poor planners? We may never know.

The dirt trail continued for a while and now all we were seeing was wilderness. We could have been on any hike at this point, except there was still graffiti on some of the trees, and we passed the broken-down remains of what could have been an old plow.


Btw at this point we were still 100% chilled to the bone by the sweatshirt tbh

The dirt path let out at another structure, which we weren’t really expecting because we had walked quite far from the others. But here we were, walking right over another broken-down chain-link fence and strolling into a barn.


This particular barn appears to have attracted a more philosophical class of tagger


No there were shitty ones here too nm


Horse stalls and everything

The barn had a second floor, sort of a cross between a loft and an attic. It looked cool up there so we climbed the ladder, and it was cool but also parts of the floor had fallen in, not to mention half the roof and it was not exactly the safest we had ever felt. Also there was an empty Lunchables package? And some cans? And one of the cans was still like half full of cocktail fruit? Basically why are people so gross.


This is your weekly reminder that the City of Los Angeles is not here to hold your fucking hand; if you want to climb into condemned buildings go the fuck ahead and not dying is on you

We climbed back down and exchanged info about our journey thus far with the other two people who were currently at the barn, since they had come from the opposite direction and hadn’t seen any of the other buildings yet. It was a girl and a guy, and the girl was wearing a Batman shirt, so it was kind of like a parlay between Marvel and DC. It was fruitful for all.

Now, during the whole trip we had kept our eye out for graffiti of our initials, like we found on our last two hikes, because of the spirits that are haunting us. Wouldn’t you know it, when we take probably the most heavily graffitied hike there is, we couldn’t find them anywhere. Finally on the side of the barn we sort of hit the jackpot.


Just…pretend you can’t see the beginning of a third letter

Since that was a little disappointing, instead we found some nicknames written and decided to adopt them as our own. That’s how nicknames work, right?


Shannon&Allison now = Skip&Bird until the end of time

On our way back out the way the other two at the barn had come, we ran back into the guy who had told us about the long staircase way back after we had taken the left fork when we entered the gate. In retrospect, it took him and his hiking buddy a really long time to get there? Like, we had definitely taken the longer route, and had taken a bunch of time to explore and be terrified to our very bones, so we don’t know what they were getting up to. Maybe something homoerotic. Probably.

Anyway, the trail soon became paved again, and before long we were back at the fork, which did in fact loop around to meet itself (as in, we finished in the opposite prong[??] than the one we had taken). We felt really good about that, like we did something right. We like doing stuff right.


These are not the faces of people who get stuff right a lot. Not when homoeroticism isn’t involved

From there it was a short trip back up to the gate and then back down the fire road to the neighborhood where our cars were parked. There were nice views down into Santa Monica and out to the ocean. The visibility wasn’t the best because it was cloudy, but since it was a destination hike the overcast sky had no adverse effect on our experience. Really it made the hike a little better, since it was nice and cool, unlike last week.


Plus we can see the ocean anytime. We do live here

Afterwards we went to lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, which was probably the least fancy place nearby but still feels pretty fancy when you’re wearing workout clothes and covered in Nazi grime. We had quiches, because we’re Americans and we’re free.

Wildlife? Thin on the ground for this hike! We only saw about two lizards, both of them when we were on the dirt trail between the machine shed and the barn. We did pass like three beehives though, which is not at all a fair trade-off but did inspire quite an Eddie Izzard quote-a-thon (“I’M COVERED IN BEES!”) And on the way back down the fire trail at the end Shannon saw what she optimistically hopes was a little rabbit but was probably just a fat squirrel.

Conclusion? This was a fucking awesome hike. The weather was perfect for it, we only saw probably a half-dozen other people all the way up until we were heading back down to the cars, and there was so much to explore. It’s probably more crowded later in the day and on weekends, which would be less fun and also probably take away from some of the inherent eeriness that makes the hike unique. 10/10 would do again.

Thanks for reading! We may be back in a couple of days with a short post about a rollerblading trip, depending on if we have anything interesting to tell you. Otherwise we’ll be back when we can, hopefully next week, with a new hike. And if you have any suggestions for us about hikes to try, please leave them in the comments!

Until next time,



2 thoughts on “Wednesday, May 6th, 2015: Murphy Ranch

  1. Pingback: Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015: Old Youth Camp | Two Princesses Go For A Hike

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