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Lost Path to Shangri-la

The apocalypse showed up early for the Rodeo Grounds. The idyllic artists’ community was decimated at the grubby hands of corporate greed and civic apathy in 2006 when the last of the residents were officially evicted.

What remains is a heartbreaking mess of vandalized rubble and dried-out, unmanaged overgrowth. Three cheers for State Parks. Instead of a thriving, rent-paying community, the bumbling idiots can now boast a dilapidated junkyard and overgrown fire hazard. Arcing above Topanga Creek is a rickety deathtrap of what was once a glorious bridge — designed and built by Rodeo Grounds resident Bernt Capra, and now dangling by the odd splintery thread.

Back when the Rodeo Grounds was a bustling hub of creativity, joy and beauty, the bridge stood strong, proud and sturdy over the babbling waterway, offering safe passage for those walking home from the beach, eager to get back to their gardens, their art and the happy nasturtiums crouching alongside the dirt road.

When it rained and the water levels rose (and rose and rose), the bridge was the only way to cross the creek and get to the secret world nestled alongside it, hiding behind the towering bunches of arundo, the fecund avocado trees and the imposing eucalyptus wrapped in winding, purple-speckled lengths of morning glory.

Atop the wooden bridge you can see hawks soaring high above treetops and mountains; you can hear the creek slosh beneath your feet, where ducks loll in foamy eutrophied water rumbling loudly over ancient rocks, and frogs chirp high-pitched complaints about Monsanto’s pesticides that have leached into their river. You can hear the waves break upon the shore at Topanga Beach, where surfers brave F-rated waters for a chance to ride a tasty right-point break. The creek drowns out the sounds of traffic on PCH as well as those voices in your head that tell you you’re not enough and berate you for the fries you scarfed down at the Reel Inn. From the Rodeo Grounds bridge, Los Angeles seems kind and gentle. The world of striving, driving and ass-kissing slows to a crawl and you find your way to the truth: You are massive and infinite and light and bright, and left only with what is real — the beauty of nature and the sound of your own breath.

Take Topanga Canyon Road from Pacific Coast Highway and turn left onto Rodeo Grounds Lane. Veer right at fork in the road.