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Catalina

Hiking the Trans Catalina Trail.

The Trip

Map: https://caltopo.com/m/FP5T

Gear: https://lighterpack.com/r/9kjgxp

Took a trip out to Los Angeles to go on the Trans-Catalina Trail as a quick December backpacking trip. The trail itself isn't too long at 38.5 miles, but it provided an interesting chance to go backpacking on an Island.

Campsites need to be reserved ahead of time, which meant I needed to pick a somewhat shortened itinerary. In the end, as I was short on time, I skipped the final out and back to Parsons Landing.

My itinerary ended up being Avalon to Black Jack for the first night, Little Harbor the second night, and leaving via Two Harbors.

Another interesting wrinkle is that arriving on the island requires a ferry, which restricts bringing flammables, in my case camp fuel, so I went no-cook and just re-hydrated instant quinoa.

To get to Avalon, I needed to leave from Long Beach and return to San Pedro.

Day 1

Woke up at 4 am in Long Beach to get to San Pedro and park my car at the exit harbor, then grabbed a Lyft back to Long Beach for a 6:15 AM ferry. Slept a good bit on the ferry, but awoke to an incredible sunrise over the water. About an hour arrived at Avalon, picked up a map at the conservancy, and set out to Black Jack, but not without going down the wrong roads in town to meet the trailhead.

The initial ascent snaked back and forth to reach the top of the large hillside, giving a great view of the town. Hiking went through a variety of environments, with forested areas, hilly plains, and established buildings. The whole time, I was keeping an eye out for the bison Catalina was known for, but didn't end up anything.

Arrived at Black Jack campsite early, around 1PM, and found it largely empty. The site itself is interesting, it felt like the cross between an abandoned Soviet military base and a children's playground. It's tricky to describe exactly why, something to do with the fire barrels with Cryllic writing, swings, disconnected payphones, and open showers.

After setting up my tent, I found a nice overlook near my site and laid back to catch up on reading. Around 4, I was joined by a couple who had started from Avalon that morning and we chatted until things got late and I turned in for the evening.

Day 2

Got up to see the sun, but noticed as I started to climb out of camp that most of the island was covered in fog, but I was at a high enough elevation to avoid it.

After a quick hike, I arrived at the Airport in the Sky, where I grabbed some quick food and met a hiker who had taken the wrong road out of town and had road walked all evening, only to sleep outside of the Airport until it opened. We chatted for a bit over food and made my way towards Little Harbor.

The trail spent the rest of the day going up and down through the fog, which let me feel as though I was walking on top of the clouds - at least until I had to walk deeper into the fog and had the eerie experience of being surrounded by fog while the sun was brightly shining well above.

While still in the fog, I noticed well ahead a set of large rocks. Then I noticed the rock started to move and realized I had run into a herd of bison! I knew they were largely peaceful, but wanted their distance, so I started to down the hill on the right side and walked along the cliff. The issue was trying to figure out when I could come back up, as they were out of view. After a good few minutes of walking this way, I was fairly certain I was past them so came back up - only to see a lone bull pacing ahead of me, matching my movements. After 3 or 4 minutes of dancing around, however, he sat down on the trail and I made my way past, giving plenty of berth.

Arrived at Little Harbor and found a school trip playing hide and seek in the campsite - which wouldn't have alarmed me too much if I hadn't noticed that a bison had taken over my campsite. That being said, neither the bison nor the chaperones seemed to bothered and the day was uneventful.

Little Harbor was a major upgrade to Black Jack, as the campsite was right on the beach, surrounded by beautiful cliffs and palm trees. The night here was much busier, including the hiker I met at the airport.

Speaking of which, the couple I had met at Black Jack arrived later in the evening and offered to let me set up next to them, as the bison seemed very intent on staying on my tent pad. We gathered some firewood and setup a nice fire, while chatting about our respective lives. I also let them know they needed water planned ahead of time for them for Parsons Landing, and they were thankfully able to get enough signal to call ahead.

The sun set without the fog lifting and the evening was condensation-heavy.

Day 3

Got up nice and early and followed the hiker I met at the airport out of town. There's some very minor, but epic ridge walking, where you get to see water surrounding the island on both sides as you walk the narrow ridges.

Descent into Little Harbor was relatively quick, and I made my way to the gift shop to grab a change of clothes, as I didn't want to stink up the return ferry too bad, costing me a stupid amount of money. After a shower, I sat down on the beach with a drink, and let the ocean breeze clean me off.

When the ferry arrived, I chatted with the airport hiker as he had a friend arriving on the incoming ferry, before getting on the departing ferry.

Of course, after spending all of that money, I found out I was the only person on said ferry, so there wasn't really a strong need to change (plus, the crew said everyone who gets on at Little Harbor is usually camping anyways), but a few gin and tonics helped the sting of realizing I didn't need to spend that money while I sat at the front of the boat, watching the trip back to Los Angeles.