Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Day 2: Enough is enough!

December 22: Courtney and I woke up bright and early. I slept well, and the morning was chilly but not cold. We cowboy camped and there was a slight film of condensation on us, but nothing serious. Venus shined brightly over the horizon ahead just before sunrise.

Courtney looks excited to start a new day! =) (Actually, I think she was still sleep-walking in this photo.)

I was anxious to get a move on. We had about 13 miles to our next campsite in Two Harbors. We'd get an earlier start on the trail today than we did yesterday since we didn't have to wait for a boat, but we also had a longer distance to go today. If today was as rugged as yesterday, I knew Courtney would struggle.

Courtney, for her part, reported feeling pretty well. A good night's sleep could do that, but I also knew that once the morning bounce wore off, she'd be dragging again.

I mentioned that I'd like to leave camp within an hour, and Courtney seemed to think that was a generous amount of time, but it was nearly two hours later when she realized the time and seemed shocked that so much time had passed! It's easy to get sucked into camp life. *nodding* We were among the last of the campers to leave. Not the very last, but definitely among the last.

Out of camp, the trail followed a road up a hill then reached a junction that wasn't labeled and Courtney and I stood there for a bit trying to figure out which direction to go. The trail was generally well-marked, but we didn't see any markers at the junction. There were people to the left, but were they hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail or doing something else?


Two of them--a father and son pair--passed by our campsite a half-hour earlier in the morning. They  weren't sure where the trail left camp, and we pointed them up the road. Not because we had seen markers leading in that direction, but because everyone else in camp was leaving in that direction and--more importantly--none of them had come back lost and confused. Of course, there had been a small possibility that everyone who walked in that direction was abducted by aliens or disappeared under 'mysterious circumstances,' but it seemed more likely that they were just following the trail.

"The trail is that way," we had them confidently at the time. Now we weren't so sure.

As we stood at the junction figuring out our next move, they approached us from the left. They reported that they had come to a very locked fence and they pulled out their map so we could get a better look. We had a map ourselves, but I printed them on a single sheet of standard 8.5x11 paper and it was way too small for much detail. Their map was a much larger, foldout map with text large enough to read.

And, at first glance, it did appear that the trail veered left at this junction--but there was no indication of a locked fence or closure ahead. The father and son planned to walk around the far side of the Airport In the Sky. It was an option, but not one I was keen to take. It was longer and I was still worried if Courtney could make it to camp before dark.

But then I noticed a tiny detail on the map and took a closure look at it, orienting the map with the ground and I realized that we were all misreading it. In fact, we were supposed to turn right at this junction--but only for a very short distance before we turned left onto another road. This intersection was so small on the map--even the bigger detailed map the father and son carried--it was very easy to miss without a very close examination.

I pointed out the extra intersection and confidently concluded that the correct direction was to the right--but practically a stone's throw away should be another intersection where we turn left onto another road. We couldn't see it from where we stood--it was probably just over a slight rise in the road--but I bet it was less than a 5 minute walk away. Then we'd follow the second road for maybe a quarter-mile to where the trail would leave the road to the right.

We were still on the right path. We didn't have to detour around the airport. Life was good!

About a minute after leaving the intersection, we saw a trail sign confirming that we were, in fact, going in the right direction.

The trail descended to a dry creekbed before rising again toward the Airport In the Sky. We were only an hour into the day's hike and Courtney was already lagging. It wasn't a good sign.

Hikers welcome? How could we say no?!

Late in the morning, we arrived at the Airport In the Sky. It is, as its name suggests, an airport. Located at about 1600 feet above sea level, it's not "sky high"--not in my opinion, at least--but considering the fact that high point of the island was a little over 2,000 feet, it was certainly high by Catalina standards.

A sign on the trail welcome hikers to the "DC-3 Gifts & Grill." It was actually located a few minutes off from the actual trail, but close enough that we felt we had to stop. There would be clean water, restrooms, food and a gift shop. How could we not?!

Courtney wanted to order a late breakfast/early lunch, but I took a pass on the food. I was carrying way too much of it myself already and preferred eating that to lighten my load. And anyhow, I'd only been on the trail for a day. I wasn't sick of my trail food. Not yet, at least!

Instead, I wandered around the airport where they had a small display about the natural history of the island as well as the history of this airport and old photos of when this airport had regularly scheduled flights. Now it only serves private planes. Both were interesting and I was glad I stopped for a look.

After exploring the airport grounds, I rejoined Courtney at the restaurant patio which turned out to be a great place for wildlife viewing. Hummingbirds were engorging themselves on the abundant flowers nearby and a ground squirrel made a quick appearance. The squirrel, I thought, looked like any other squirrel and normally I wouldn't have thought twice about it except the display with the natural history of the island explained that Catalina was the only Channel Island with squirrels and it was a unique sub-species located only on this island. I couldn't tell just by looking, but I pulled out my fancy camera with the zoom lens to get some photos. There was literally nowhere else in the world I could get a photo of this particular sub-species of creature! Even if it didn't look special, I still needed the photo. *nodding*

This is the Catalina squirrel--endemic to just Catalina Island and can be found nowhere else in the world! To my untrained eye, though, he looks like a pretty normal squirrel. (Well, he does look like he just did something bad and is wondering if he got away with it....)
A woman working at the restaurant came out to check up on things and we chatted for a couple of minutes, and I complained about how heavy my pack was and she told me a story about a woman who had hiked through and was carrying four bottles of wine. Four!

"Well," I replied, "That's a woman who either has a drinking problem or solved a drinking problem. I'm not sure which, though...." I'd have liked to seen it...just so I could tell the story about the woman carrying four bottles of wine into the backcountry.

Courtney eventually finished her meal and I told her to go on ahead without me. I wanted to work on some more photos of the hummingbirds and squirrel. "Don't worry," I told her. "I'll catch up!"

So Courtney headed back to the trail and I followed after her maybe five minutes later.

We met up again soon and I passed her by, waiting for her to catch up whenever I reached a small partly-shaded bench to sit down and rest.

A nice place for me to wait for Courtney to catch up.

The trail was rough. Up and down, up and down. It was well-graded, but nothing was flat, and each time I waited for Courtney, the longer she seemed to take to catch up again. I felt a little bad for her but wasn't sure what else I could do to help. I was already carrying her sleeping bag and a bottle of water and I didn't really have room in my pack to stuff more of her stuff.

Later in the afternoon, I stopped for over a half hour at another hiker rest area waiting for Courtney, and when she finally did she asked how long I had been waiting.

"I'm not sure," I told her, "but the sun set and rose again so I think it's been awhile."

She didn't laugh. Not even a little. She was past that stage.

"I don't think I can make to Two Harbors," she told me. I'm not sure that she couldn't make it, but at the pace she was currently going, she definitely wouldn't be able to make it before dark.

But Little Harbor was another mile or so up the trail. Maybe we could get her a ride the last 4.5 miles from there to Two Harbors, so that's what we decided to work on.

There's Little Harbor in the distance!

I continued ahead and reached the campground at Little Harbor. I thought there would be at least a little civilization there, but it was basically just a large, mostly-empty campground. I set my pack down for a rest at the bus stop, then checked the bus schedule on a nearby information board. The one and only bus that passes by each day had left about an hour earlier. The bus was not an option. She'd have to hitchhike to Two Harbors.

Courtney at first waited by a road that she felt most traffic would go by, but I preferred hanging out at the road by the bus stop. I had a nice place to sit, a little shade, and I wasn't at all convinced that waiting at one road was better than another.

It seemed like a long while before a vehicle finally passed, but it turned out to be deer hunters who were returning to their campsite only to pack up and drive back to Avalon--the wrong direction.

I was getting a little anxious to continue onward so I could reach Two Harbors before dark and we finally came up with a plan. I'd leave Courtney at Little Harbor with her sleeping bag and she'd continue trying to hitchhike the rest of the way into town. We felt pretty confident that she'd get there... eventually, but just in case she couldn't get a ride and was stranded in Little Harbor all night, at least she'd have her sleeping bag. And--win win! I wouldn't have to carry it anymore. =) Sleeping at Little Harbor wouldn't be a problem--there was a giant, mostly empty campground here already. She might wind up camping illegally, but she'd be fine.

Then, the next day, if she couldn't get a ride in the morning, she could take the shuttle bus to Two Harbors. Or even just walk there. After another good-night's rest, she could probably walk the 5 miles to town easily enough. It would all work out regardless. Hopefully she'd be able to hitch a ride this afternoon and already be in camp before I arrived, though. We both got cell phone service at Little Harbor, so she would text me with updates of her progress and let me know when she got a ride or decided to camp right there. I might not get cell phone coverage over parts of the trail, but I'd almost certainly get it by the time I arrived in Two Harbors.

With that settled, I continued along the trail alone. The trail climbed steeply and quickly--it was as steep and brutal as the first climb up out of Avalon and I was glad Courtney decided to call it quits at Little Harbor. I knew she'd be struggling horribly. Less than a half hour later, I received a text from her saying that a ranger was going to give her a ride into town, but he had to do a few chores first. Awesome! She should definitely make it into camp before me. =)

The views past Little Harbor were awesome! Even if fog did obscure some of it.... You can also really see how rugged this landscape is!

The rest of my hike was uneventful. At the higher elevations, a cold wind blew through so I didn't stop to enjoy the views. Anyhow, the low-hanging clouds were obscuring the views from the highest elevations.

Descending into Two Harbors, I could see how the town got it's name. It had--surprise!--two harbors. Each harbor came in from both sides of the island leaving only a small gap between the two where the town is located. I hoofed into town just before dusk.

I sat down on a bench by the waterfront and texted Courtney asking where she was. In town? In camp? She replied that she was in camp but wanted to go into town. The campsite was a quarter-mile outside of town and I had no interest in walking to camp, back to town, then back to camp again so I said I'd wait for her to arrive.

I expected Courtney would show up 10 minutes later, but it seemed like it took more than a half hour. It turned out she followed the road out of the campground (which she was familiar with because the ranger drove her to the camp) rather than the shorter trail from the campground (which she didn't know even existed).

In any case, we were finally reunited! We checked out the local market then decided to eat lunch at the Harbor Reef Restaurant where we both ordered delicious hamburgers.

Our delicious dinner at the Harbor Reef Restaurant! =)

Afterwards, we headed back to camp. Courtney had gotten an upgrade for us. We were planning to cowboy camp but when the ranger found out, he said it was much too cold for that and let her stay in a large tent for campers who didn't bring tents.

It was a cozy location, but I actually preferred sleeping outside and decided to sleep on the porch of the site instead. Courtney would sleep on a cot inside.

She also had bought some firewood from the ranger, but I was pretty tired and didn't feel like staying up enjoying a fire. I was ready for sleep! We could burn the wood tomorrow, though. We had this campsite for two nights because the Trans-Catalina Trail makes a loop through the west-end of Catalina before returning to Two Harbors again. So the wood could wait until tomorrow night....

The bright light in the sky is Venus.

Black Jack camp, just before we headed out for the day's hike! Although there aren't bears on the island, there are bear boxes. It keeps smaller rodents (like squirrels and foxes) out of your food.

This was the only cactus that I actually saw blooming. December is a bit early for blooming cactus, but I bet in spring time they're absolutely gorgeous!
Airport In the Sky

I guess this is the control tower for the airport?

There are rattlesnakes on Catalina, but this was the only one I saw on the whole trail! December really isn't a good month to see rattlesnakes. They prefer coming out during warmer weather.
Security was very strict at the airport. This sign stopped me from walking out onto the runway. *nodding*
Hummingbirds loved these flowers!

The one-eyed owl, I think, is also endemic to Catalina. ;o)

This bison would not lift its head so I could get a good photo of it!

This is the bus stop at Little Harbor.

Looking back down at Little Harbor.

My first view of Two Harbors! (The other harbor is off the photo on the left.)
Bison prints in the mud!
Two Harbors second harbor....
This gets my vote for the winner of the "it's good enough award." On a small, isolated island, they must have figured it was easier to "fix" this utility pole rather than replace i, so they attached it to the nearby fence post. And I imagine the person who did it, after it was done, stood there and said, "Yeah, that's good enough." =)
Christmas decorations at the Harbor Reef Restaurant
Moonrise over the waterfront at Two Harbors.

I just couldn't hold my camera steady enough to get sharp photos of the stars!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Day 1: Trans-Catalina Trail

December 21: It was 2:30 in the morning, and I stood outside of my mom's house in San Luis Obispo. The air was chilly and a few streets lights struggled to keep the darkness away. The stars shined brightly overhead.

A few minutes later, at the end of the street I saw headlights turn the corner and grow brighter as they approached then slowed to a stop in front of me. It was my sister, Courtney.

This bridge towered over the ferry terminal.

"You have to drive," she told me. "I didn't get any sleep last night and I almost fell asleep the last ten minutes getting here."

"Not a problem," I told her. I wasn't surprised to learn that she hadn't gotten any sleep the night before. It was less than 10 hours earlier we had met for a mini-family reunion in Santa Maria to the south. Courtney had just learned that I made plans to thru-hike the Trans-Catalina Trail and wistfully said how jealous she was. I told her that she was welcome to join me. I fully meant it, although I doubted she'd join me at such short notice.

Her face lit up at the prospect. "Really?"


And it was done. We looked up the phone number for Catalina Express to reserve a seat on the boat to and from Catalina Island for her, then called the visitor center on the island to add Courtney to my camping permits.

Courtney would have to do a few other tasks before she could go. Grocery shopping, pulling together a sleeping bag, backpack and other necessary camping gear--not to mention cancel any other previous plans she had made for the next few days.

But for now, we had a family reunion to attend! We drove south to Santa Maria discussing the logistics of the trail.

The family reunion was fun, and we spent a few hours chatting and catching up with family that I hadn't seen in years! It was a great visit, but we had to get going. Courtney still needed to pack for her upcoming backpacking trip. I still needed to do some packing as well, but at least I already had my gear gathered together and completed all of the grocery shopping needed. I was mostly ready.

Courtney lives in Paso Robles, about a half-hour north of San Luis, so she dropped me off at my mom's house with the promise to pick me up at 2:30 in the morning--early enough to catch the first boat to Catalina from San Pedro. We weren't sure how traffic would be. It could get bad in places near Los Angeles, but it was also the Friday before Christmas. Would traffic be light because everyone took the day off from work? Or would they cause an even more epic traffic jam driving to far-flung locations like we were?

Traffic, we knew, at 2:30 in the morning wouldn't be heavy, but it could be by the time we passed through Thousand Oaks and--heaven forbid--along the 405. So we left with extra time to spare. If we arrived early, we could stop somewhere near the ferry terminal for breakfast.

It was a good plan.

This is the Battleship USS Iowa, on the Los Angeles waterfront. Wish we time to visit it!

So when she pulled up at 2:30 in the morning saying that she had gotten absolutely no sleep and I had to drive, I wasn't surprised. She only had about 4 hours at home to get packed and all her affairs in order before picking me up.

For my part, I was a little sleep-deprived myself, but at least I got a solid 3 or 4 hours of sleep. I might feel like crap later in the day, but for now I was wide awake.

Courtney got into the passenger seat while I took the wheel and headed south on the 101.

Courtney fell almost immediately to sleep, and I drove the now-quite highway contemplating the meaning of life. I thought about turning on a radio as a diversion but decided against it to let Courtney sleep.

A half hour later, we passed through Santa Maria--where we had been just the evening before. It's a shame we hadn't planned things out earlier. We could have spent the night in Santa Maria after our mini-family reunion and saved ourselves the effort of driving back north just to come south again. We could have slept for an extra hour or two with more advance planning. Too late to do anything about that now, though.

We stopped briefly in Camarillo to get gas. Our dad lives in Camarillo, but we didn't have time to stop for a visit. We had a boat to catch! We planned to visit him on our way back, though, when time was less of an issue.

Courtney woke up while we were getting gas, but quickly fell back asleep once we were on the road again.

Traffic grew definitely heavier after we passed Camarillo, but it still flowed well. When we exited the 101 to the 405 and over the grade by the Getty Center, I had to slow down to about 30 mph due to the traffic. I'd call it "heavy traffic," except this was probably the fastest I've ever been able to drive along the 405. Things were moving really well!

The slow-down lasted about 10 minutes before I could speed up to normal highway speeds again. We drove past the exit for LAX, which largely marked the end of the "known road" for me. I've been south of LAX before, but not very often and I don't really remember much about how things look or how to navigate past that point. Now I had to rely on a GPS for directions--which my phone told me in Polish.

I finally exited the 405 to the 110 freeway and the last few miles to San Pedro. I woke up Courtney, telling her that we were a couple of miles away from the ferry terminal. Our driving was basically done, and we had arrived a little over two hours before the boat was scheduled to depart. Perfect. It was time for breakfast.

We exited the 110 and found ourselves in an industrial area of town that didn't appear to have much in the way of food, but Courtney searched on her smartphone and located a diner--the Happy Diner, no less!--that was allegedly open and located about a mile away. We headed to it.

We ate and chatted, mostly just killing time until our boat was scheduled to leave. About an hour later, we paid the bill and continued to the Catalina Air and Sea Terminal.

We checked in for our boat tickets at the terminal here.

It was starting to get light outside now. The sun had probably risen, but we couldn't see it through the thick clouds that covered the sky. We parked, got our boat tickets and after a short wait, we boarded our ship to Catalina.

Courtney waits for our boat to board by playing on her smartphone.

I headed to the upper deck--I wanted to be as high as possible for the best possible views--but mostly stayed inside where it was warmer rather than the outside deck. I could still admire the views through the windows.

Courtney, within minutes, reported feeling seasick and left to go downstairs. Later, when I stopped to check up on her, she showed me a line of vomit on the side of the ship where she threw up her breakfast. "Nice," I told her, backing away from the side of the ship.

Catalina, or--more properly--Santa Catalina Island--is one of eight islands that make up the Channel Islands located about 30 miles off the coast of California. Catalina is, by far, the most developed of the islands, with about 4000 people living on it. Which doesn't sound like much, but the island typically gets over one million tourists each year. It can be busy and crowded place!

Catalina Island looms ahead... what adventures will await us?

The islands have always been separated from the mainland and therefore are home to about 150 unique species endemic just to the islands or, sometimes, a single island. Catalina is home to about 50 species that are endemic to just that one island.

Although it's surrounded by water, the Channel Islands are very dry with little fresh water. The only official sources of water on the Trans-Catalina Trail are located at campgrounds and other civilization, although there are cow tanks occasionally to be found. Nobody wants to drink from a cow tank, though. I did that on the Arizona Trail and would prefer not to repeat the experience if I didn't have to.

Catalina gets about 10-14 inches of rain each year--not quite "officially" a desert, but pretty close to it. In the summer, temperatures can soar to over 100 degrees, but in December, we expected lows at night near 50°F (10°C) and highs in the mid-60s (18°C). Perfect hiking weather! I had checked the long-term weather forecast before making my reservations to make sure I would avoid rain, so no rain was in the forecast.

Catalina is perfectly visible from the mainland, so we could see the island almost immediately upon leaving port and watched it grow steadily bigger as we approached. Catalina is 22 mi (35 km) long and 8 mi (13 km) across at its greatest width, but it's a rugged landscape with mountains towering over 2,000 feet (630 m) high. And we would be exploring almost the entire island on our little hike.

This would be my first visit to Catalina. I had been to Santa Rosa Island before--another one of the Channel Islands--but this would be my first to Catalina. I was looking forward to it.

The view of Catalina Casino from the boat as we pulled into Avalon.

About an hour after we started, our ship docked in Avalon, the only incorporated town on the island. Before we started hiking, we got all our gear in order. I had carried a duffel bag to use for a checked bag, but I needed to put all that in my pack.

Courtney, I was surprised to see, showed up with a small day pack and a super-large, living-room quality sleeping bag. She didn't have much in the way of backpacking gear and took what she had available.... which was less than ideal. In the end, there was absolutely no way her sleeping bag would fit in her pack. She knew this might be a problem, however, and brought some twine to tie it to her pack.

We tried a couple of ways of tying them together but it wasn't working. At all. The twine kept breaking way too easily. Surely there was somewhere in town we could find something better to attach her sleeping bag to her pack.

We found a hardware store where I bought some webbing, but that didn't do much better. The webbing didn't break easily, but the sleeping bag wouldn't stay on the back of her pack--it would continually slide off to the side and leave the pack lopsided.

I finally gave up and said screw it! I'll just carry her sleeping bag! My pack was already loaded with way too much stuff including my big, fancy camera and more water than I'd really need, but I could make room for her pack despite its large, bulky size. It was a tight fit, but I got it done.

Before leaving the town of Avalon, we walked over to the Catalina Casino, the most impressive structure on the island. Casino is Italian for "gathering place"--it's not an actual casino with gambling. It's a theater which, when we were there, was playing the movie Bumblebee. I'd have loved to take a tour of the place (and they do have them!) or seen a movie, but we really didn't have time. Our first campsite was located about 10 miles down the trail and in December, the sun sets relatively early.

The Catalina Casino is just as impressive close-up as it was from a distance!

Next time I'm in Avalon, I'm spending the night nearby so I can see a movie here. It wouldn't even matter what's playing--I just want to see something here! =)

After checking out the exterior of the Casino close-up, we headed out of town on the Trans-Catalina Trail. The trail wasn't marked in town and I wasn't entirely sure if the official start of the trail was in town or a mile outside of it. (I'm still not actually sure, come to think of it.)

The Trans-Catalina Trail, as its name implies, crosses more-or-less the entire island, covering almost 40 miles of trails and dirt roads and ending in Two Harbors, the second-largest population center after Avalon. (But much smaller! About 90% of residents on Catalina live in Avalon.)

It's official! We found our first Trans-Catalina Trail sign! We're on the trail!

The first couple of miles were flat, easy and uneventful. Then the trail left town and turned uphill into the wilds. The trail was well-graded with lots of switchbacks, but it was a long slog upwards and Courtney struggled up the steep slope. This trail was already turning into something a lot more difficult than either of us had anticipated.

The next mile seemed like it took over an hour to complete, steadily rising higher and higher. Eventually it popped out on a ridge and followed a dirt road and progress went quicker.

Along the way, we saw a couple of bison near the trail. We weren't surprised to see bison--they're a popular tourist attraction and an icon of Catalina. There were 14 of them brought to the island in 1924 to film for a movie and after the movie was done, they decided just to let the animals loose and Catalina has been inhabited with bison ever since. At one point, the herd reached as many as 600 animals, but now they control the population and keep it down to about 150. It was almost guaranteed that we'd see a few of these beasts along the way. With about 150 animals on such a relatively small island, they couldn't all be hiding!

Bison on the trail!

Late in the day, we also saw a couple of the small island foxes. These foxes are endemic to Catalina. There are six subspecies in the Channel Islands, each unique to the island where they're found. I had seen island foxes on Santa Rosa Island years before, and definitely noticed that these on Catalina looked distinctly different. What they do have in common is that they're smaller than regular fox from the mainland due to "insular dwarfism." It's a real term--google it if you think I made it up! ;o) On islands, small species tend to grow bigger than normal while big species tend to grow smaller. (Which, apparently, has happened with the bison, although they still look pretty big! But then they haven't had thousands of years to evolve on the island like the island fox have.)

The first island fox we saw seemed like it was being chased by and picked on by a couple of ravens, but it was located quite a distance from us and we didn't get good views of it. The second one I found napping near the side of the trail and didn't see it until I was maybe 15 feet away. And it just laid there, watching me but not moving. I got some pretty fantastic photos of that fellow. *nodding*

It's the Catalina Island fox! What a beauty!

Courtney was growing increasingly more exhausted and slowed down more and more throughout the day. Looking at the time, I started having real concerns that we'd even make it to camp before dark. We needed to make it to camp before dark for two reasons: I was taking photos for Walking 4 Fun and needed the light for photos, but also because it was actually against the rules to hike out here at night.

We marched onward and the sun finally set. Darkness was descending rapidly. I put my point-and-shoot camera away and started using my fancy camera for photos. It had a much larger sensor for taking photos and was therefore better suited for low-light conditions, and I kept taking photos, making them look much lighter than they did in real life.

A nearly full moon rose over the horizon. At least we'd have some moonlight to help light the way the last bit of the way to camp.


Nearly an  hour after sunset, it was dark. Completely and totally dark--except for the moonlight, of course. I couldn't even fake daylight photos with my camera anymore. I still took some photos--the headlamps in the dark kind of photos--but I could only get photos of stuff that was close. No more wide views over the open ocean.

We stumbled through the darkness for maybe a half hour before reaching the Black Jack campground. We were assigned to campsite #10, but we had trouble seeing the numbers for the camps in the dark and asked other campers what site they were in and what direction that camp #10 was located. I was ready just to take any empty campsite. The camp had appeared half empty when I made reservations a few days earlier, so I knew there were a lot of empty sites.

We set up camp, ate some snacks and soon went to sleep. Courtney was grateful that I had carried her sleeping bag the whole way. "I'd never have made it here with that extra weight," she told me.

It was probably just as well that I carried it. It slowed me down! Despite it slowing me down, though, I was still hiking faster than Courtney. She might have exaggerated about not making it to the campsite if she had to carry the sleeping bag, but we certainly would have arrived a lot later than we did.

But in any case, our first day was officially done!

Hiking at night is against the rules here, but we were forced into it, unable to make it to camp before sunset.
View of Avalon from our boat.

Disembarking from our boat
Welcome to Avalon! The plaque on the side explains that this is also a time capsule not to be opened until 2087 or something. (100 years after it was created.)
Although not officially a desert, Catalina is pretty close to it and you'll find plenty of cactus in the dry environment.

We arrived on Catalina on December 21st, so Christmas decorations were in full view.
I think golf carts outnumbered vehicles in Avalon. On an island this small, golf carts rule the road.
Also, little known fact, Santa ditched his reindeer and delivers presents to Catalina using a float plane. *nodding*
I think this building was the Catalina Yacht Club. (I had to google how to spell yacht. What kind of stupid word is that anyhow? Just ask someone to sound out that word that's never heard it before and I guarantee you that they'll say it wrong!)

On the way out of town, the trail passed by this labyrinth made out of rocks, so Courtney had to stop to walk it. *nodding*
Looking back down toward Avalon. The trail wastes no time going uphill!
Deer hunting season? Well.... I didn't know about that until I saw this sign.
A good place for a short rest. *nodding*
Wasn't even thinking about it....
Yes, you're going the right way! =)
They built this fence to keep out the bison, but it apparently didn't work. Hmm.... That sounds like a metaphor.... for... something....?
This is a day-use area which includes... a playground! So we had to stop for a rest. And... playing!

Yeah, I'm totally having a good time playing. *nodding*

I am! I am!

Yep, there's one!

Sunset! We're in trouble now....

You can see the mainland from Catalina--it's only about 30 miles away! And look! There are even snow-covered mountains over there! I'm pretty sure this is Mt. Baldy, a 10,000+ foot peak in the San Gabriel mountains and the highest point in Los Angeles County. (Catalina, BTW, is part of Los Angeles County.)
Moonrise over the mainland in the distance.
It was actually quite dark when I took this photo. My fancy camera does amazing in low-light conditions! It looks much brighter and lighter in this photo than it did in real life.
That bright light rising behind the mountain... it's the moon. A heavily overexposed moon.
Courtney was so excited to find this mile marker because we knew Black Jack camp was located between MM 10 and 11. We were almost done for the day! (And night!)