April 22, 2012

The Other Secret Stairs of Rustic Canyon

After a lot of press coverage last year, I think Murphy Ranch in Rustic Canyon isn't such a big secret anymore. Even if they haven't actually been there, a lot of people seem to know about it.

There's one huge public staircase that most people know leads down to it - though it's not terribly easy to find either from the top or the bottom - but it's not the only set of stairs in Rustic Canyon, and it's not the only one that you can descend down to Murphy Ranch and the other ruins of Rustic Canyon.

And it's not the only one that you can take from Sullivan Fire Road down into the canyon.

But most people have never explored the other stairs.

Last weekend I decided to test my footing and take the first set of stairs off Sullivan Fire Road that I could spot, which required some bouldering and crab-walking just to drop down on them. They led to a locked gate and a catwalk that seemed to go nowhere.

I climbed back up the way I came, walked a bit farther down the fire road, and took the next set of stairs - with no railing for steadying my gait, I took each wooden block (barely a stair) very slowly and sideways. As I padded downwards, I heard chatter above me - "I think there's a river down there. Maybe she knows."

I stopped and looked up. "Well there's a creek down there. I wouldn't call it a river."

"Oh cool, let's go!" they said.

"Just so you know," I said, "I haven't been down these stairs before. I don't know where they go. There's another staircase back there that goes straight down you can take..."

"Oh," they said, "We probably don't have enough time..." and turned around and went back up.

I plodded down.

I hit another cat walk, which proved to be another dead end...

But I turned around and saw more stairs weaving their way through the canyon...

...these more worn, eroded, consumed by, submerged into the canyon soil...

...and past an abandoned pickup truck.

The overgrowth got too thick and, fearful of ticks and poison oak, I scrambled up the canyon wall, nails digging into dirt, back up to the fire road to take the big staircase down and look for more ruins I previously haven't been able to find.

Rustic Canyon is a labyrinth of stairs, some of which lead to nowhere (the perils of urban exploration), and others which all pretty much go to the same place.

But you can pretty much be sure that if they're going down, you'll get to the ruins and the creek...

...and if they're going up, you'll get back home.

Related post:
Photo Essay: The Stairs of LA

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