Friday, September 13, 2013

Hiking to Knapp's Castle

After stumbling across George Knapp's cabin in Kings Canyon, I couldn't wait to hike out to the ruins of the fabulous mansion he built in the mountains behind Santa Barbara.  In 1916, after making his fortune, Knapp purchased 160 acres up here and built himself a castle (or that's what we locals like to call it!).  It took four years to construct this masterpiece and it was the talk of the town and the talk of Hollywood once it was completed.  Many a celebrity made his way up here to wine and dine with this energetic man.  He had a million dollar view, that's for sure.  Not only did he build a home, but he built an observatory, a second house for his groundskeeper and a series of locks and pumps so water could get up here from the creek below.

The Paradise Canyon fire in 1940 swept through the property and the home was burned to the ground.  All that remained were the stone fireplace and foundation walls.  Consequently, the property was abandoned and it soon became a favorite hiking spot.  My boys and I spent many an afternoon up here.  I soaked in the magical views while they scrambled among the ruins.  We always packed juice boxes and cookies.  I let my dog off the leash so she could chase rabbits.  Such happy, happy times.

And so . . .
  Last week, I invited a friend to hike up there with me once again.  It had been over ten years.  I couldn't wait to show her the fabulous views.  We started out at seven a.m. with our backpacks filled with water, a thermos of coffee and some muffins.  It's an easy walk from the "saddle" at the top of East Camino Cielo.  But things had changed.  A locked gate barred the entrance as we approached.

"That wasn't there before," I said, stunned.  My friend stopped, but I have been traveling far too long with a rebel.  Locked gates are never a deterrent.

"There's no one here," I shouted, waving for her and her two dogs to pass through.  She was reluctant, however, to venture too far.

Clearly, things had changed.  There were signs of new construction going on.  A threatening sign had been posted that trespassers would be fined.  I was furious.  How dare they?   I thought the ruins were part of the Los Padres National Forest, but evidently, I was wrong.  Someone had bought the property and was using it for professional photo shoots.

The magic was gone.
I snapped a few pictures, carefully editing out the ugly debris, and then we left.  We drove all the way back to Santa Barbara and had our picnic breakfast at a local park.

I tried very hard not to be bummed.  This has happened to me before.  Magical moments can never be relived.  It's best to leave the past behind and find new magic elsewhere.  There are hiking trails galore in the mountains behind me.  There are places where I will be welcomed.  There are places of enchantment just waiting for me to discover and explore to my heart's content.  It's what this blog is all about.  The search is on!

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