Four Little Valley Hikes

Flying pigs, swastikas, a religious cult, a movie ranch, the Manson Family…and some amazing natural scenery including caves, massive rocks and mountains.  A year ago I did a day of only short hikes, five of them, all off of Mulholland Highway.  My plan this day called for four short hikes, located in the Valley.  I completed in order: 1) Orcutt Ranch Horticulture Center 2) Corriganville Park 3) Spahn Ranch 4) Garden of the Gods.  I actually spent many hours hiking around Corriganville and probably less than an hour at each of the other spots.  I had bad vibes going in knowing I planned to explore the land on which Spahn Ranch once stood, former home to Charles Manson and his family of murderous followers.  It was sunny but windy which only amped up the spookiness.  I found when I hiked these places, however, that there wais nothing to fear.  It’s too bad such spectacular natural beauty is tainted in people’s minds because of the humans who once lived here.  I had an awesome day.

1     2     3   Orcutt Ranch is a tiny park, actually a working ranch with many citrus trees.  This probably wasn’t the ideal time of year to visit.  I believe this is citrus fruit season and there seemed to be a lot of people on the grounds connected to this.  And the place was kind of a mess.  All the roses were pruned way back, there was yellow caution tape strung up in a few places and there were piles of plant debris.

6     5     4   The ranch house area is decorated with swastikas.  This is an ancient symbol and the use of swastikas at Orcutt Ranch pre-dates the adoption of the symbol by the Nazis.

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Sculptures at Orcutt Ranch

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The trees here are tall and/or massive.

12     13     14   This oak is over 700 years old.

15   There’s really not a whole lot of hiking to be done at Orcutt Ranch.  I hiked just about all of it and didn’t break a sweat.  Maybe better for a quiet, contemplative stroll in the spring.

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To get to my next stop I traveled through narrow and windy Box Canyon, stopping to get photos along the way.  There aren’t many places to safely pull over.  To have these rocks as a backyard view would be surreal.

18   I stopped to check out this house – home base for the Fountain of the World cult.  I’d not heard of it until doing research for this hike but I guess there is some connection between this cult and Charles Manson.  I decided to pop in and investigate.  The words on the plank read, “Ye who enter here enter in upon holy ground”.

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A woman on YouTube said “Charlie” used to hide out in the caves near the cult house.

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A flying pig sculpture by the side of the road a few yards up from the cult house – amazing!  The land this pig flies above didn’t seem to have a house on it, just a bunch of junk.  There’s also a small pink elephant on the other side of the property.

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25   Still on Box Canyon Road – more crazy sculpture.

26   I began my hike at the former movie ranch now called Corriganville Park.  I read thousands of movies and television shows were shot here.  It kind of felt like a cross between Paramount Ranch and Rocky Oaks but with many of its own unique qualities as well.

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I started straight ahead and soon came to a bridge crossing over the concrete pool, aka Jungle Jim Lake.  I walked down into the pool.  Photo 4 shows the square holes that were used to house cameras for underwater filming.

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I continued on and came to a three way junction.  I went to the right having no idea what I might find.  I hiked over to the edge of the park and some railroad tracks.  This view is back into the park from near the tracks.

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There’s also a tunnel. There seems to be a narrow trail that takes you out on top of it, which I didn’t try.

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For the sake of clarity I’m going to list where I hiked by location in a kind of counter-clockwise direction.  In truth I wandered back and forth, up and down and all around, retracing my steps in a couple areas two or three times.  To the left of the railroad tracks is Wildlife Trail.  It begins right next to the oak tree shown in photo 2, taken down to nothing but a stump but still alive and growing.  This is one of two good climbs in the park.  There was a junction near the top of the trail.  I set out on Stagecoach Trail, the same trail I hiked during my Devil’s Slide hike.  I didn’t know it came out this far.  I went back after about three quarters of a mile.  The trail crosses above the tracks, now far below.

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40     41   Now back at the Stagecoach Trail Junction.  I took the trail in the other direction a few yards and hiked under the freeway through this tunnel.

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45       47   Photo 1 – Back in the park, I passed an amphitheater and some large rocks.  And then this garden of grass and trees.  Some of the rocks surrounding the trees have children’s messages written on them.

48     49     50   Another little cave.  They are all over the place.  Inside the cave I found a tin can with a pop top, most likely dropped off by time machine.

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This is called Canyon Rock.  The tree between the two boulders looks like it’s doing the limbo.  Photo 2 shows a tree and rock fighting it out for a small piece of dirt.

54     55     56   A hop and a jump up to Trail Blazer Cave – a fake made of concrete.

57     58     59   Giant boulders are scattered all over the hillsides.

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Gorilla Heads

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This bell had been thrown atop a large rock.  I climbed up to get it and then enjoyed the view.

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Vendetta Village

The ranch once had a mock-up of an old western town, long ago destroyed by fire.  Match the roads in photos 1 and 2 to see what it looks like now.  Photos 3 and 4 – I more closely examine the ruins of the town.

69   My third stop was Spahn Ranch, or really just a small sliver – a trip to find the Manson Family Wave Cave a.k.a. Squeeky’s Cave.  Thank you to a YouTube contributor for the directions.  The written directions on the video were solid but the hand held video didn’t really translate in my mind when I got there.  I will now take you step by step to the cave (I had to do do it twice before I found it).  First, drive up Iverson and park.

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Walk down Iverson to Santa Susana Pass.  Take a left and walk down the road toward Topanga Canyon Blvd.  Cross the road when you come to the end of the white guardrail on the other side.  Hop over.  Face right.  Count off yard long strides.  You will come to the junction shown in photo 3 at around 50 to 60 strides.  Go left down a short hill.  At the bottom of the short hill again go left.  You are now walking parallel to the trail you counted your strides on, but in the opposite direction.  Photo 4 – This wall  and the creek are now on your right.

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Pass a boulder with this carved hand print on your left.

75     76     77   Photo 1 – The trail splits. Take the trail that runs to the right toward the creek.  Pass Big Ugly, head down to the creek and pass this piece of scrap.

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Hop over the creek and look back for a view of the Wave Cave, made famous by a photo that appeared in Life Magazine.

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Photo 1 – Lying down in the cave.  Photo 2 – A framed copy of the picture from Life, covered tightly in plastic wrap.  The photo shows members squeezed inside the cave.  Written above the picture, “Spahn Ranch – Manson Family 68-70”.

81   Finally I stopped at the micro park known as Garden of the Gods.  It’s not that easy to find.  From Santa Susana Pass go up Redmesa Road.  The sign is hidden to the left.  When you reach the condos at the top of the hill turn around and go back down the hill.  You’ll see this sign and the park on the right.  Park next to the curb.

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Right across the street is the well-known climbing spot Stoney Point.

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The Garden of the Gods name is apt.  It looks like only a god could lift these boulders and put them down in the such configurations.

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The Sphinx

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Garden of the Gods – Chatsworth, CA

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