Tag Archives: outdoors

At the west edge of Brentwood hides a Nazi past

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Murphy Ranch, located off the Rustic Canyon Trail, was a Nazi commune in the making until the man behind it all was arrested during WWII by the FBI.

Summertime at Camp Josepho in Topanga State Park might be filled with Boy Scouts honing their BB-gun-slinging skills, fine-tuning their eye for archery or earning an equestrian merit badge.  But less than a mile south of the youth camp lies a more sinister history.

Murphy Ranch, just off the Rustic Canyon Trail at the west edge of Brentwood, was supposed to be a safe haven for Nazis and the future of the Fourth Reich.  But its founders’ plans went sour after it turned out Nazi Germany was not going to bring about the New World Order in the United States and would eventually be defeated by the Allied powers of WWII.

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The Trail To Echo Mountain

The front of Echo Mountain House, courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library

The front of Echo Mountain House. Courtesy of the Los Angeles Public Library historical photo archives.

The remains of Echo Mountain House are seen from its former south side.

The remains of Echo Mountain House are seen from its former north side.

In memory of a friend and fellow adventurer, Dan Zembrosky, whose time to explore this earth was cut short too soon.

A little over one century and a decade ago, one could could take the Mount Lowe Railway up to Echo Mountain House and spend the night in the $65,000, 70-room Victorian Hotel for only $5 (or in today’s currency, the approximate cost of a burger at any given fast-food joint).

In 1900, exactly 109 years and three days ago, a kitchen fire destroyed the hotel, and in 1938, the scenic railway that took riders up to Echo Mountain was abandoned after floods destroyed the mountainside.

The foundations of the once-luxurious, turn-of-the-century hotel, its incline railway and other surrounding buildings can be seen at the top of a 2.7-mile uphill hike on the Sam Merrill Trail in Altadena.  The trail starts at the Cobb Estate where Lake Avenue ends at the mountain.  The estate, built by  lumber tycoon Charles H. Cobb, is also the site of trails leading to former mining sites (another subject for a future post!).  Round-trip, the hike is about 5.4 miles and takes about 2 & 1/2 to 3 hours, plus time to explore the top.

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