March 13, 2011

Photo Essay: Franklin Canyon Ranch & Lake (Updated for 2018)

[Last updated: 4/18/18 9:03 PM PT]

The Hastain Trail in Franklin Canyon was one of LA's most popular hikes for years. And when I first climbed it, it was being bulldozed.

Protestors were understandably in an uproar over a developer's plans to level the peak. Hikers coming down the hill while I was climbing it were shaking their heads, telling me that the trail was fenced off before they could get all the way.

"Should I still go up?" I asked.

"Yeah, just to see it..." one told me. But none of them seemed to know exactly what was going on.

When I got to the fence, a trailrunner was headed toward me from the other side of the fence.

"How'd you get up there?" I asked.

"I just walked around," he said, and then swung back around the side of the fence to head on down.

And that's when it occurred to me that there are three types of people in life: those that see a fence and turn around, those that wonder how to get over, under, or through it, and those that are already on the other side.

I usually see myself as the second type, though I aspire to be the third type. So, though the chainlink stabbed my leg in the process (thank God for my tetanus shot), I managed to hoist myself on to the other side and see the bulldozer myself.

circa 2018

And then, there was nothing I could do but turn around, go back down, and look for something else to look at.

Fortunately, there are plenty of other sights in Franklin Canyon that aren't currently fenced off.

circa 2018

The park has served as a shooting location for numerous film and TV productions (are we sensing a trend here?)...

circa 2018

...including perhaps most famously the fishin' hole in The Andy Griffith Show...

circa 2018

...and the lagoon in Creature from the Black Lagoon.

circa 2018

The park features chaparral, grassland, and oak woodland habitats, tucked away in the hills above Beverly Hills...

circa 2018

...but it's not all entirely natural, per se.

circa 2018

William Mulholland led the charge to create an earthen dam that would capture water supply to be used by the Dohenys, who were living just down the hill at the mansion now known as Greystone.

circa 2018

In 1940, when the country was still recovering from the economic downturn of the 1930s, the government put people to work with various infrastructural and beautification projects as part of the WPA (contrary to the plaque, more commonly known as the Works Progress Administration).

circa 2018

Hence a lot of the walkways and even some of the plantings around the 300-acre lake.

There are also abandoned ranch houses that date back to the days of the Dohenys, back in 1935...

 ...including one with a Spanish tile roof...

...a swingset in the back...

...and an open garage door.

In the 1970s, the canyon was threatened with development as residential communities were growing on both sides of the hill (and Franklin Canyon smack dab in the middle).

In 1981, the National Parks Service purchased the land (then known as "Franklin Canyon Ranch," or the "Doheny Ranch") to include it as part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

The MRCA still manages the site today—though, unfortunately, no agency was able to save the entirety of the Hastain Trail. Since some of it did cut through private property, a judge ruled in 2016 that the property owner was well within his rights to develop the land, despite its popularity with hikers who'd gotten used to cutting through.

But, as I said, there are other places to walk and hike in Franklin Canyon. And even if it's not quite wildflower season yet, there are usually a few outcroppings here and there...

...and some very green grass among the ruins, especially in the spring.

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