When we talked of our move to Los Angeles, as the snow fell across Pennsylvania for the 6th time that winter, Neal and I were equally excited for 2 possibilities: attending the Rose Bowl Parade and camping at the M.A.S.H. site in Malibu State Park. During our second month of living out here, we decided to take a family hike to the filming location to scout it out.
What we didn’t know as we were starting off down this path was that less than 12 hours earlier, a man had been shot to death in his tent while his 2 small children slept next to him…in Malibu State Park. We saw no evidence of anything awry. No police tape, no news crews, no signs warning us of a murderer on the loose. We saw and chatted with 2 mounted police officers but they made no mention of any recent foul play in the park. They just looked like they were out for a safety check of the area on what was turning out to be a blistering June day. But that’s another life lesson about Los Angeles. Things are rarely as they seem.
At the end of a 2.5 mile walk down a dusty path where we encountered swarms of bees and a creek to cross, right as Blue was running out of steam and interest in the mission, we found the Swamp.
And it was everything I wanted it to be. It looked just like every episode of M.A.S.H. I had ever seen. Neal whistled Suicide is Painless and ran up the hill to “meet the chopper”. He let Blue climb on rusted out Red Cross jeeps while I over-explained how they treat tetanus at the hospital.
The sun was unrelenting, the shade sparse compared to hiking on the east coast, and we were running out of water. But for 35 minutes, we surrendered to the thrill of walking where great television had been created a lifetime before. Hawkeye and Hot Lips. Colonel Potter and BJ Honeycutt. Trapper John and all. those. nurses. It was not a very politically correct show, but it was pretty spot-on about life in the military…the glorious and the gruesome.
And I’m glad we got to see it all before the damn thing nearly burned to the ground during the Woolsey Fire. Apparently, the city signpost is slightly singed, but the rest of the props survived. Although it was a brush fire that burned the original set in 1982. Meaning that if it didn’t burn this time, it could very well go up in flames the next time. Malibu has a lot of forested area, which is a great escape from the chaos of Los Angeles and Santa Monica. But also makes it fairly flammable. My advice? Make your list and then start checking off the things because here today, gone tomorrow.
We never did camp at Malibu State Park and it’s not likely to happen before we leave. They think they caught the murderer. But I’ll pass on an overnight, at least until we buy an all-weather camper with 4 solid walls.
Never insult seven men when all you have is a six-shooter.