Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photo Essay: San Marcos Mountain Lodge, a.k.a. Knapp's Castle

Tucked away in the Los Padres National Forest...



...high above the Santa Ynez Valley and Lake Cachuma...



...down an unmarked dirt road...



...is the path to Knapp's Castle.



Completed in 1920 by businessman and civil engineer George Owen Knapp, this mountain lodge was originally built on a parcel of land in the Santa Ynez Mountains along San Marcos Pass, dubbed "Laurel Springs Ranch."



Twenty years later, only a month after the sprawling property was sold off, it burned to the ground in a forest fire.



All that remains are some stone foundations...



...the frames of huge picture windows...



...some stairs...



...and, of course, the views.



Knapp's "Castle" - as it became known after the fire - has become a popular hiking spot...



...despite the fact that it is still privately owned.



Its current owners have allowed public access...



...which the front gate reminds us can be revoked at any time.



They've also made some unpermitted changes to the property...



...including the addition of some amphitheater-style steps made of native stone.



Construction ceased after a "stop work" order was issued...



...but the site remains littered with construction equipment...



...and what can only be described as junk.



For now, though, you can still wander about the ruins...



...exploring the various fireplaces and chimneys...



...and taking in the view (including of the reservoir, which hadn't been built yet at Knapp's time).



Knapp's Castle is relatively easily reachable by car now, its long, winding driveway accessible off East Camino Cielo...



 ...a turnoff from the San Marcos Pass which was built, graded, rerouted, and improved in the late 1800s. But East Camino Cielo wasn't even paved until 1930.

Fortunately, one of Knapp's passions was road-building, and finding ways to create public access to remote areas of the Santa Barbara Forest Reserve, as it was known then.

Knapp's Castle has been threatened since 2011, when construction equipment first moved in and "improvements" commenced. Much of the equipment still remains on site, but it appears as though no work is being done.

Let's hope its current owners don't close it off to the public altogether.

To Like Avoiding Regret on Facebook, click here.