After a few weeks of packing and preparing for our Catalina Island camping trip, we knew we were ready to go! Saturday morning, we got up at 6am, filled up our water bottles, and headed out! We got maybe 200 yards down the street in LA, when Irving’s 10-year old hiking boots disintegrated. Literally. The soles of his shoes just completely fell apart! Not a great way to start a four-day long hiking trip, but was pretty funny. After a quick change of shoes, NOW we were ready to go. We had to walk a mile down the road to the Metro Station, and we took the subway all the way down to Long Beach. Then, we had to walk another couple of blocks to the Bus that brought us to San Pedro. Then, we had to walk another mile to the Pier where the Catalina Express Boat would take us to the island. We made it with ten minutes to spare! We were so excited, we put our bags down, and enjoyed the hour-long boat ride over there. About 40 minutes into the ride, the boat stopped, and we looked over the edge, and there was a Blue Whale breaching right next to us. I don’t know if I got a good picture, but it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was beautiful!! We also saw some Sea Lions and some other big fish. This was just the beginning of our wilderness expedition!
We arrived in Avalon, the only real town on the island, around noon. We put our bags in lockers on the pier so we wouldn’t have to carry them all day long. As we were shoving them in there, one of the straps to Irving’s bag snapped off… of course it’s the one strap we actually NEEDED… but at this point, we weren’t letting anything get in the way of our trip. We headed into the town, and were pleasantly surprised at how developed it was. There was even a Von’s grocery store there! They have everything they need all in one place. We walked up and down the streets, noting how cute everything was. In Avalon, there are hardly any cars; everyone has golf carts! It was surreal! We saw golf carts with child seats in them, convertible golf carts, you name it, it was there.
We had lunch at an Italian Restaurant called “Antonio’s”. We ordered a nice big greasy pizza and sat outside and watched the boats in the harbor. Halfway through lunch, a sea gull pooped on Irving’s head. Classic. After lunch, we got some ice cream and walked along the beach. Around 3pm or so, we went back, and got our backpacks. Thankfully, Irving’s strap was still hanging on, we were just hoping it would last the whole 4 days. We went to our campsite in Hermit Gulch. I picked up my rented Sleeping bag and Mattress pad, and we set up camp for the night. Irving has a small one person tent that we shared, but it actually worked out pretty well. We left all our stuff at the site, and went back into town to have dinner. We ordered huge burgers, because we knew that was the last good meal we’d have for the next three days. It was great.
On Day 2, we woke up when the sun came out, and we packed up our tent, filled up our water bottles. We were just about ready to start our 30 mile hike across the island, when we realized our homemade gorp had been infested with ants. Ew. Well I guess we’d just have to hike without peanuts and M&Ms. I was pretty bummed. We decided we’d take the “Hermit Gulch Trail” instead of using the fire roads. It was so hard, it was a 10% grade uphill climb. It was close to 90 degrees, no shade, and just no break. It kept going up and up. As we climbed, the views were getting better and better though. It was really amazing. I was a little nervous because the island has hundreds of rattle snakes. Everyone says they keep off the trails, but I was watching every step I took.
We made it to the crest of the mountain around noon, but we still had a good 7 miles left to go before we could stop for the day. I ran out of water, and was very thirsty by then. We stopped at a little rest area overlooking the ocean. I was laying on a bench in the shade, really freaking out that I didn’t have any water left. There was no way I could do 7 more miles in the heat without any shade, with a backpack on. But there was a car that pulled up all of a sudden, there were some locals who went out for a little ride. We told them we ran out of water, and they came back with a huge bottle of Ice cold water. It was like candy. I’ve never tasted better water. It was exactly what we needed. So then we kept on trekking.
For lunch, we stopped at a little picnic area, that even had a swing set with a see-saw. Haha. We rested here for about an hour, and made lunch. We set up our little camp stove and cooked Chili with crackers. Our first camp meal. Then, we got back on the trail. We had about 4 miles left to go until we reached our campground. We finally made it to the trailhead, thinking we were there, only to be greeted with a 1.8 mile 12% grade hike into the woods. Oh my god, I really thought I was going to die. I was tired, hungry and sore, and this was the last thing I wanted to do. Its mentally hard because you cant see the top. You just keep going up, and just when you think you cant possibly go up anymore, you do! Ugh! We were just about there, when we saw a huge buck prancing along the trail ahead of us. It was awesome. I couldn’t believe it, we were so close to it! That gave us the boost we needed to get to the camp.
We stayed that night in Black Jack campground. It only has 10 campsites there, its very small and secluded. I think there were only 8 other people sleeping there that night. It was pretty shady there, so we laid out of camp mats and rested for a bit. Then we heated up our stove and made a pasta dish with cream of Chicken soup. It came out surprisingly good… but then again, anything we could have eaten would have tasted good at that point. It was so hot, so we put our bathing suits on and took showers outside. They have a little rinse shower, and it felt soooo good! When the sun went down, we tried to start a fire, but it wasn’t working so well. We were so tired, we didn’t even try to make s’mores. Our Hershey’s bar had completely melted at that point anyways. So we made a freeze dried Apple Cobbler for dessert instead. Then, we went to bed!
Day 3 – We woke up, again when the sun came out, packed up our bags, and headed out! 12 miles down, 20 more to go! Since it was all uphill on the way to the campground, we enjoyed the 2 mile downhill hike back to the road. Along the trail, we saw Bison grazing in the fields. Apparantly, in the 1920s, a movie company shot a film on the island and brought Bison there for one of the scenes. Well when production was over, the Bison refused to get back on the boat, so they left them there! Now there are hundreds of them all over the place! Pretty crazy.
We walked about four miles, to the Catalina Island Airport. Its called the “Airport in the Sky”. It was cool, they had a little store up there, and we bought fruit salad and water. It was a nice stop over. Here, we got directions to Two Harbors, the next campground we were going to. Its pretty desolate on that side of the island, so we wanted to make sure we were going the right way. We headed out, and were doing pretty good. It was hot, but it was pretty easy terrain. The mile markers started getting further and further apart, and we weren’t sure if we were going in the right direction. Finally, we hit a gate, and it was a dead end. We didn’t know what to do! Irving went to get his map out of his pocket, and realized we had dropped it somewhere on the trail. So now we’re in the middle of no where, without a map. Finally we saw some other people, who pointed us in the right direction…. Straight up the side of another mountain. We looked at it, and were like “no, that can’t be right”. But we didn’t really have another choice. So up we went… again. It was going pretty well, we were taking it easy… but around one particular corner, we saw the trail went almost straight up. My heart was already beating so fast, and I was exhausted. I couldn’t breathe, and I started wheezing and coughing and crying. Hahaha I’m the biggest loser ever. But it was all so overwhelming. Knowing we had about 5 more miles to go, I was hungry, there was no shade… it was almost too much. But I just cried my way up the hill, and then I was ok. Its hard when you’re all alone. There are no cars, no people, nothing. It really makes you feel stronger than you think you are. I knew if I could get through the last 5 miles (of the 30 mile hike), then I could do anything. I whined a little bit more, and I swore to Irving that if a car did drive by, I was hitchhiking the rest of the way. But finally, we crested the mountain, and we could see Two Harbors below us. Only about 2 more miles left!! At this point, my feet were all blistering, my muscles were fatigued beyond anything I could have imagined, and I just wanted food. Irving ate three granola bars, but I was too tired to eat anything at that point. We just kept going, and we finally got there.
We had campsite number 8, which we were told was nicknamed the “Two Harbors Suite” because it’s a secluded site with trees on all sides. It was very nice. We dropped our stuff off, and headed to the restaurant. Irving ordered his double cheeseburger, and I just got a veggie platter. I don’t know how he could have eaten that. Haha. After that, we went swimming in the ocean for a little bit. After being sweaty and tired all day, it was so refreshing to cool off. I was so dirty, the dirt wouldn’t even come off in the water! I had to use sand to literally scrub it off. Haha. Lovely. Then we got some more food, had a few drinks, and headed back to the campsite. Someone there before us left a bag of Matchlite charcoals, so we poured them into the fire bit and lit a fire. We tried to roast marshmallows, but it wasn’t really working out. So we took our blanket up on a hill and watched the fireworks in the harbor instead. It was awesome. It was a nice end to a great weekend. But then we had such a hard time blowing our fire out. We kept pouring more and more water on it, but it kept flaming up again. That was annoying because we were so tired. We slept well that night, except around12:30am, I woke up, and there was a deer in our campsite! He was eating the bamboo chutes nearby. I could hear him chomping on the sticks all night! So incredible though.
Day 4 – We woke up, packed up, and boarded the boat back to LA. I cant believe I did it! 30 miles, uphill, with a backpack on.. in 90 degree heat. Truly amazing. An experience I will never forget.
I look back on that trip now and realize it was probably one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was hard, but so rewarding. We’re so lucky to live in california. So many amazing places to see.