Catalina Island Traverse June 2022

This year’s Father/Daughter trip was a traverse hike the length of Catalina Island.

We took the ferry from Dana Point to Avalon, staying the first night in a little hotel off the main tourist thoroughfare. Since we would be camping and eating envelope food for the next 3-days we treated ourselves to a nice margarita and some local seafood dinner.

We could have saved a 1½ mile trek on day one if we had taken an island taxi to the trial head but we hoofed it to make it more authentic. The first 4 miles was straight up and grueling. At a rest peak, we ran into a young botanist who was working for a world renown botanist we know at the SD Natural History Museum. One island danger is the resident bison, brought over in the 1930’s for filming of Zane Grey’s silent movies “The Vanishing American” and “The Thundering Herd.” The small herd has grown to over 100.  We were on the lookout! Day 1 contained a lot of bison chips and large wallow areas but not the real thing…yet. First campground: Black Jack. That evening I hiked up Black Jack Mountain. (click on any picture to see slides)

Day 2 started with a hike to the highest peak on the island, Mount Orizaba, followed by a reasonable climb up the ridge and snacks at the Catalina Airport in the Sky. Everyone was talking about their bison sightings. One Bison lying on the trail forced a couple to detour down a steep ravine, relaying their packs back up the canyon adding 2 miles to their trip. After our break, we had a sighting a distance away. Despite my best “Moo” and lack of speaking bison, he wasn’t interested in us, so we moved on.  Further down a fire road and getting ready to exit back to the trail, Quinn turned the corner and declared, “Bison! Coming towards us! Dad, please don’t moo! He’s really close.”  Sure enough, about 30 yards away was a big one stopped and staring at us.  The trail was too close, so we bushwhacked a few hundred yards to avoid a close encounter of a bison kind. We made it to Little Harbor with a view of the herd from a safe distance. Situated on the cove, Little Harbor Campground provided a nice evening swim to get the trail dust off. Our site was on the bluff overlooking the Pacific for a picturesque sunset.

The weather changed for day 3, becoming hot. With only 7 miles to go, the first 4 were very steep uphill and made for a tiring day.  We ended at Two Harbors for a late lunch, joining 2 hiker friends we’d met on the trail. Two Harbors was featured in the filming of several movies and TV programs. That night, our camp site was directly on the beach. A late lunch paid off because it was Sunday and the only restaurant in the little harbor town was closed, so we had a pizza from the local General Store. It didn’t matter because we were tired of envelope food. We had another refreshing evening swim.

The last day we took the ferry from Two Harbors to Avalon and spent the afternoon in Avalon touring around the town in a rented golf cart. A ferry ride from there to the mainland was nap time. Overall, the traverse was a strenuous 31.8-mile, 7,100 elevation gain hike. The nice part was that there was water at sites along the trail and at the campgrounds. The camps also had porta-potties, cold showers, and trash collection, so we didn’t have to haul our stuff out. One very nice feature was that you could pre-order firewood delivered to your campsite for an evening fire. Remarkable for this father/daughter hike was:

1. It was on Father’s Day

2. I had made my 1,000,000 ft elevation gain landmark.

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