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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Loved the descriptions and pictures. About thirty-five years ago, my family flew a commercial helicopter into Airport in the Sky for a weekend stay at Catalina. The only time I have been to the airport though I have been to Catalina many times. At some point I want to do the Trans-Catalina trek - sounds fun :) FORAYCH - Jeff