"So what places haven't you visited yet in LA?" my hiking partner asked me as we were walking back from the M*A*S*H site in Malibu Creek State Park.
"Oh my God, so many. Everywhere!" I said, thinking there were too many to enumerate.
"Yeah but what's like on your Bucket List?" he persisted.
"Well, this was towards the top of it..."
It's hard to believe I already have a Bucket List for LA, having only been here four months, but given the temporal nature of everything out here, of life - job, lakes, love - it seems like a good idea to get in as much as I can before something happens to change things before I get the chance to do everything.
I'm not used to having a hiking partner, so I agonized over where we should meet, wanting to try somewhere new. The opportunity to see the M*A*S*H site kept nagging at me, because, as I am new in town, I'm still somewhat of a tourist, and still get tickled when I recognize sites from movies, TV and music videos. In a relatively short drive, you can find yourself hanging out in Mayberry, Walnut Grove, Southeast Asia, oron another planet.
It's not the most difficult hike, clocking in at just over four miles and a couple of hours of meandering and gawking, but it sure is pretty, and interesting.
The pièce de résistance is the site where they actually shot much of the outdoor scenes of the M*A*S*H TV series, including the opening credits with the helicopters. The former set has been cleared of decades of brush and overgrowth, and somewhat restored to its functioning set condition, and is well-marked with interpretive signs, historical photographs, maps and drawings. There are even some goodies that were left behind, like old vehicles and an ambulance.
The M*A*S*H site is probably what brings most people to Malibu Creek, but there were plenty of other interesting trails that caught my eye on our way out there: Lost Cabin Trail, Forest Trail, Grasslands Trail, Century Lake, Rock Pool... There is actually a creek in Malibu Creek State Park, but most of the year it's dry. We found plenty of water on a windy spring day after a rainy winter.
There's also plenty of shade, with oak-lined paths intermittently scattered on the main trail, Crags Road, along the creek. As you're walking along a rocky path that looks like an old stream bed, you discover all kinds of hidden treasures: pipes, California poppies, and horses, to name a few.
There are wide open spaces too, where the trail opens up to a landscape that looks familiar: grasslands and bush-dotted mountains, hills, peaks, rocks, none of which look terribly Californian.
But maybe that's because when I'd seen it before, it was during the Korean War.
I was really looking forward to my trip to the old Reagan Ranch with park docent Brian Rooney and I was not disappointed. It was a gorgeous June morning and we set out to retrace the steps of Ronald Reagan from when he owned this land from 1951-67. There are a lot of remnants of Reagan’s old ranch left from the stables to possibly the barn. But the best hidden treasure was the Reagan’s slightly overgrown pool hidden up on the bank. We were not able to see the heart engraving of "NDR / RR" on the concrete slab but Brian later emailed a photo of it.
As a professional archivist, I had seen various photos of the Reagan’s Ranch but this brought it to life. Long gone are the rows of white fences and “Yearling Row” sign leading to the Ranch but you can still imagine Ronald Reagan horseback riding along these trails.
Then we set out to hike a short while along the Deer Leg Trail and saw a Chumash mortar hole and eventually the “M*A*S*H” site. It was a great day which encourages me to go back and hike other park trails and possibly see the old “Planet of the Apes” movie site.