I grabbed the opportunity when I saw 3H was doing a Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) backpacking trip in October, the weekend before my birthday. I read about it on SoCalHiker.net and it is considered a strenuous hike plus carrying a heavy backpack along was no joke. It was an adventure I cannot ignore on taking. Our trek starts at Two Harbors from the north going south to Avalon in two days with an estimated 27 miles of hiking.
West 27 miles off the coast of Southern California is the beautiful island called Santa Catalina. A total of 23 hikers joined the event. I parked my car at Meredith Crane’s home where she gave me an early gift of a hiker’s bracelet. Her husband Steve was so kind to drop us off at the meeting point. We all met at 95 Berth, San Pedro, California to take the Catalina Express ferry for an hour trip to Two Harbors. Ricardo Cruz gave some few words about the trip. He already took care of our camping permits and ferry rides. Everyone was so excited on this trip at the port and even on the boat. The area where Two Harbors is located was originally referred to simply as the Isthmus of Catalina Island. Isthmus means a narrow strip of land with on either side, forming a link between two larger areas of land.
As we reached Two Harbors, Lissinia Aguilar, our leader for this event, got our papers in order. We gathered near the convenience store and restaurant to take a quick break where we did some last minute shopping and got a quick bite before we started our hike to our campsite at Black Jack campground. It is a 12.5 mile hike and little did I or the rest of us knew what was in store for us was really strenuous. There were some steep hills to climb up and down. Hiking poles are definitely a must, especially when carrying a heavy backpack. Some struggled really hard climbing up the hill because of the heat from the sun. We were worried of Maglory Maza but she later on felt fine with the rest of the hike. Another hiker got severe cramps. Ricardo stayed with him while the rest of us headed to Little Harbor.
This part of the section of Catalina Island between Two Harbors and Little Harbor, 5 miles apart, is so beautiful. The ocean views from above feels heavenly. Along the trail was a picnic table with a roof where we took a short break then continued our hike and saw a huge bison at a distance below on our right side. As we descended to Little Harbor, we could see the crystal clear water below and it was so tempting to dive in. When we got down, we rested and ate our lunch and hydrated ourselves. Little Harbor has its own campground too with water source for drinking.
We then heard that Hector Martinez, who got severe cramps earlier, got escorted by the Catalina Island Rangers with an ATV and later on hopped on a pickup truck with Ricardo to meet the rest of us. The paramedic got to him on the hill and was diagnosed with heat exhaustion and over exertion. He had been carrying two bags already, and was wearing lots of layers of clothing, which constricted his movement and inability to hike further causing severe cramps.
Meanwhile, Gil Figueroa, could not resist on jumping in the sea. Four other hikers, Junie Wood, Dave Rucker, Laura Sosa, and Lidia Ordaz, joined him. I talked to Meredith on searching for them at the beach. It did not take me that long when I saw them in the water that I joined them too for just a short time. The water was amazingly cool. As we head back with the others, the truck that carried Ricardo and Hector arrived. Sheriff Chad and Ranger Danny told us that they were bringing Hector directly to Black Jack campground and would later pick him up the next day and drop him at Avalon which was our final destination. Three other hikers, Junie, Dave, and Melevy Sorto, accompanied him to ensure he would be safe, given his condition; he was dehydrated.
The rest of the group had to hike 7 more miles to get to the campground. Luckily, the hardest part of the hike was that hill earlier which we had already passed. One section of the trail heading up towards the airport was blocked by a herd of bison. We had to go around the east side of the “Airport In The Sky” area to continue the hike. That extended our trek from what we estimated it would be to 14.5 miles to the Blackjack campground. There were also some sections of the trail that were a little confusing such as the intersection that reads TCT on both signs. We saw another bison that was around 50 feet away from the trail and we slowly and quietly moved forward and to not spook the bison away.
It was a sigh of relief when we arrived at the campsite; our tents set up, while the sun was going down. Dave shared his Fireball drink with us. At the campsite, our group used a large picnic table with a roof. Ricardo hanged a large lamp on the side. There is drinkable water from a faucet and portable restrooms available at the campsite. We set up our mini stoves to cook our dinner. Most of us had dry food that we add hot water to it. Meredith brought her usual vegan treats. Crystal Gonzalez brought her pastrami. Ramon Ortega shared his tequila. I brought Hostess Ho Hos for everyone as sort of my cake for dessert. While the others on the far side of the camp which we call the cool ones partied and enjoyed the night. After dinner and shots of tequila, I went to my tent and I was knocked down. I woke up around 1 am as I turned my body around when my head was not supported properly plus I heard something moving outside. I was just hoping no bison is going to trample my small tent. Or some snake lurking on the ground. After that, I went back to sleep.
The next morning when I got out of the tent after 5 am, I saw a fresh large poop outside my tent. Hmm! 😀 LoL Luckily it did not smell bad. We had our early breakfast and got ready to continue our hike to Avalon at 7 am. A few hikers remained in the camp to accompany Hector as they waited for the Catalina Island Rangers to pick him up around 10 am.
We continued our TCT hike; a few miles away from Blackjack campground, we encountered another bison on the trail. We stood still thinking the bison would move. When Ricardo and Ramon started to make loud sounds, the bison started to move away and understood us. As we got up the mountains, we saw this time the beauty of the east side of the island. Meanwhile, back at Blackjack campground, Hector and a few hikers were visited by a bison. Luckily it did not chase them around. It probably knew that they were still half asleep from last night’s enjoyment. 😀 LoL
The heat of the sun was starting to get unbearable. It felt the temperature was in the 90s. We passed by a children’s playground that has drinkable water from a faucet. We refilled our bottles and hydration bladders. When we reached and rested at the Hermit Gulch Trail, we decided to split the group into two. The first group, who cannot bear the heat, did a short cut trail going down to Avalon led by Ricardo while the remaining eight hikers continued the Trans-Catalina Trail for another 8 miles was led by Lissinia.
The magnificent eight are Lissinia, Crystal, Ralph Mancia, Lidia Ordaz, Elena Cors, Meredith, Martha Aboyte, and me. As we continued our hike, the trail was so open that whenever we saw shade, we stopped and took cover. There were only a few shaded areas. Meanwhile in Avalon, the early hikers who got there, took the bar scene as early as 11 am. 😀 LoL
Along TCT, we met Ranger Danny on his truck heading up the trail. He made sure that we were safe and gave us cold bottles of water and it was so refreshing. The first group via Hermit Gulch Trail got down and took a shuttle to Avalon harbor while the remaining TCT hikers reached the end of the trail; however we still had to hike down the paved road which increased the mileage to 17.5. We passed by Wrigley’s mansion to Avalon which has some incredible views along the way. A total of 32 miles accumulated in hiking the Trans-Catalina Trail for this 2-day adventure.
We met some of the group at the harbor and had our dinner at Mi Casita Mexican restaurant where we met Normie Chanes and Laura. I had my first experience with a michelada drink mixed with Dos Equis beer. I loved it. After dinner, we strolled along the harbor to find Crystal a TCT shirt but we could not find a single one. Crystal is the only one in our group who completed TCT this year. Meredith and I got our TCT tank tops at Two Harbors the day before. Some of us got ice cream too which was yummy. We also saw the rest at a bar enjoying themselves and just plain having fun.
Since our ferry departs at 7:15 pm, we got in line as early as 6:30 pm since the line tends to get full quickly. We all got up the catamaran boat. Meredith gave me an alcoholic drink for my birthday. My hiking friends sang the birthday song above the boat. It was priceless. Crystal, Normie, Hector, Laura, and I later stayed below deck because it was so cold while the boat was moving fast. We arrived back at San Pedro harbor and said our goodbyes.
Overall, this was an amazing adventure on all of us. Each had their own fun story and this was mine to tell. A great way to celebrate my birthday and I was so happy I did this trip with all my hiking friends. A very special thanks to the Catalina Island Rangers for being so kind on helping us, the 3H Family for setting up this event, and to Lissinia Aguilar for leading the group. I cannot wait for the final part in completing the Trans-Catalina Trail which is the northern section of the island; coming soon in a few months.