Devil’s Spahn

Just west of Spahn Ranch site, south of Santa Susana Pass Road.

I became intrigued by that nasty old icon of the sixties (Manson, I mean) and picked up a copy of Helter Skelter, the trend-setting true crime book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.

Still in the midst of the reading experience, I won’t go on about it here. I only bring it up because when I studied the maps in the hair-raising book I was amazed to realize I more or less know where all these sites of long-ago murder and nuttiness are. In fact, when I parked by the trailhead of the Rocky Peak Trail I had been only a stone’s throw from the location of the infamous Spahn Ranch were Mr. Manson and his “Family” tripped, immersed themselves in the Beatles’ “White Album” and laid their goofy plans for igniting the race war Mr. Manson eagerly expected.

Today after marching up and down Rocky Peak Trail, we headed east on the Santa Susana Pass Road and stopped just short of Topanga Canyon Road to take the picture you see above: As lovely and peaceful a spot as you could imagine. Whatever satanic evil that goofus Manson dreamt he embodied in ’69 has washed away over the ensuing forty years.

John Muir, that loveable old preservationist, hiked up and down the mountains and valleys of California — maybe these very hills, for all I know — all the while preaching about the spiritual and uplifting value of Nature. That the awesome beauty of this particular spot seems never to have penetrated the rancid hearts of Manson and his hippie pack argues against Mr. Muir’s charming 19th century belief in the healing power of Nature. On the other hand, his Outdoorsy Romanticism does seem vindicated by the way forty years of Nature’s changing seasons, cleansing rains and fresh growth have purified the place of Manson’s cornball diabolism.


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