Finally, concluding our 2 part series, the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) backpacking trip with the, Hiking for Health and Happiness (3H) family group on March 31, 2017 in the beautiful island of Santa Catalina. A 3-day adventure we can never forget. Lissinia Aguilar and Ralph Mancia took the leads for this event with Ricardo Cruz, Maglory Maza, Sergio Cruz, and Dora Cruz as our coordinators and our support team.
Last year in October, we tackled 33 miles from Two Harbors to Avalon. It was an awesome adventure. For more detailed story of that trip, click on this link: https://jmpventures.wordpress.com/2016/10/20/trans-catalina-trail-part-one-10082016-to-10092016/
This time around, we tackled the remaining part of the TCT starting from Two Harbors to Parsons Landing and Starlight Beach plus bonus hikes to and from Little Harbor.
On Friday morning, I carpooled with Meredith Crane, Laura Hernandez, and Gerardo Perez at 6 am and ate breakfast before heading to our meeting point at 95 Berth, San Pedro, California and met the rest of the hikers there. There were a total of 16 amazing backpackers for this event. We took the ferry to Two Harbors with a stop at Avalon and finally docking at Isthmus Cove.
Lissinia got our papers in order as we gathered near the Harbor Reef restaurant and took a quick break and some group photos. The leads decided to take the easier route first since we had another 9-mile hike to Starlight Beach from the campsite at Parsons Landing. We started hiking towards Catalina Harbor on the dirt road and turned right on West Banning House Road where the road quickly changed to 4th of July Cove that went around the Fourth of July Yacht Club and that is where we saw the beauty of Two Harbors as we were hiking up.
The dirt road changed to Cherry Cove where we went around the Camp Cherry Valley San Gabriel. Some of us saw a harmless snake crossing the road. The dirt road changed its name again to Howland Landing, a part of West End Road, which we also went around Catalina Island Camps. As we continued on West End Road, we saw the amazing views of Emerald Bay. Bypassing Camp Emerald Bay, we hiked all the way to Parsons Landing. That is a total of 8 miles from Two Harbors. We found our campsite, and at the same time, the water and wood we purchased arrived and was delivered to us.
We got no time to lose before the sun sets in a few hours, and we still need to hike 9 more miles to Starlight Beach; we set-up our tents quickly. Of the 16 backpackers, 11 of us continued to the Starlight Beach. I thought it was going to be an easy trek, but the West End Road got lots of steep hills. We connected to the TCT almost at the end to reach the Starlight Beach. Accessing the beach was a steep descent. The beach setting is in a cove with rocky cliffs and has huge rocks in the sand and is posted for day-use only. It was anticlimactic when we got there because it was a big drop off the cliff and the sun was setting on the other side of the tip of the island. Although, there was a path that leads to the beach, we decided not to go down for safety reasons and ultimately just enjoying the scenery and had our group photo taken.
We started heading back up the steep hills and we already knew that what comes down, must come up and vice versa. We brought our headlamps as it got really dark on the trail. Most of us were already having problems with our blisters. On our last mile back to Parsons Landing, Ricardo gave the three of us, Meredith, Gerardo, and me, to go ahead, while they accompanied the remaining pack. The three of us got back down to our campsite at 9:05 pm while the rest came down past 9:30 pm. The ones who remained at the campsite earlier started the campfire. Since we were starving, we heated up our dinner. At the same time, we shared laughs and stories at the picnic table. Before the night ended, we said our good-nights as we were so tired.
The next morning, we were alive and ready for the new day. While having breakfast, most of us noticed that the sea level rises up closer to Bella Martinez and James Bong’s tent last night. After we had breakfast, Doctor Ricardo patched up three of us, Laura H., Lizzy Dee, and me, who had severe blisters below our feet with moleskin and tape around it. I was not used to having so many blisters. We wondered why. The conclusion was that there was so much moisture on our feet and we were hiking on a flat dirt road with our heavy backpacks. In future hikes, I recommend buying moleskin and tape and including extra socks in our daypacks. We took more group photos after that.
The coordinators and leads decided to separate the backpackers into two groups. One group of 8 will take the same route we took yesterday and the other group of 8 will take the TCT which Lissinia mentioned earlier as the scenic route, but more challenging due to elevation.
So I decided to go with the group taking the TCT even with my blisters. No pain, no gain. The pain only acts up when hiking down. At an early start, we got sidetracked by a quarter of a mile up, but immediately found the correct trail. It was a steep 3-mile hike up on the Fenceline Road as it got warm quickly before connecting to a Silver Peak Trail junction at the top. We took breaks in between and a long one at the top. Luckily, there was a cool breeze as we rested for a while. We thought we were at the highest peak of Santa Catalina on Howland Peak at 1,776 feet, but that honor goes to Mt. Orizaba at 2,097 feet, more than 5 miles east of Little Harbor. We continued our hike on a flat dirt road of Silver Peak Trail for another 3.7 miles before descending to Catalina Harbor and that is where my blisters acted up again. Gerardo ran all the way to Harbor Reef restaurant where he met the other group. The rest of us took our time and admire the view of the harbor.
We met the rest of the group eating lunch while some of us got a bottle of cold beer. While on the patio, the three ladies, Melevy Sorto, Laura H., and Lizzy, due to their blisters, got reservations for a van at 2:30 pm, to take them directly to the campsite at Little Harbor. I decided to go with them because of my blisters and so did our El Presidente, Ralph Mancia and Vice Presidente Gerardo got in the action. 😀 Ralph had cramps and Gerardo was just so tired. Both happened from ascending the steep hills earlier. The cost of the van per person is $25 and tips for including the other backpacks inside. After lunch, we had to say goodbye to our amigo, Jose Beltran. He had to go home early because he had another engagement going on the next day.
At 2:30 pm, we got our backpacks loaded in the van and said goodbyes to the remaining 9 hikers who still need to hike 5+ miles to Little Harbor. In the van, on the Isthmus Road, we saw a huge herd of bison on our left side. Sadly, it was to far away. We were surprise when the driver of the van mentioned that he remembers about the incident that happened last year with our group. I guess we were so popular that weekend. 😀 As we were arriving at Little Harbor, the driver even pointed out to us where the Ranger who helped us last year lives. We were dropped at our campsite which was far away from the beach.
As we settled in by setting up our tents. Ralph, Gerardo, and Lizzy continued setting up the other tents, while Nurse Melevy tendered Laura H. and my blisters. I was such a baby when it came my turn for Melevy to popped those blisters. 😀 Gerardo and Lizzy left the camp and went to the beach, while we cleaned up and rested. I was so bummed that I could not go in the water and swim that day. Going near the beach would make me drool. Maybe next time. 😀 Melevy learned a new dance while cleaning up herself as she followed the way the neighbor was cleaning up himself. We now call it the Melevy Dance as Ralph saw her while he was talking to our neighbors. 😀
Around 5:30 pm, from our campsite, we saw someone high above the hills running down fast and just a few feet away was another person. Ralph says he saw the first one wearing a red hat. So he and Melevy went to see who they were and it was Sergio then Maglory arrived a few minutes later. Melevy gave them water. Sergio told us that Dora got injured while jumping from the bench at the lookout hut. Sergio brought water and some medical supplies to bring back up. At 6 pm, the rest of the group arrived. They quickly approached our neighbor friends from Tijuana, Mexico because one of them is a doctor and the other a nurse. Luckily, they said it was not severe or really bad. Dora needs to be checked up once she gets back to the mainland.
We had dinner and later on we got to our tents and sleep. What I did not expect was that it was colder there which the beach was a little further away than last night camp on the beach at Parsons Landing. The tents got wet because of condensation and we were situated near a vegetation area. My sleeping bag needs to be changed. The next morning, we learned that the two Lauras, Laura H. and Laura Castillo, got wet inside the tent that they shared because of the condensation. Laura H. vowed to buy a better kind of tent. We ate breakfast and later, we packed up our tents and stuff to our backpacks.
With Ralph’s connections with the driver, we were able to call him back to pick up Dora, Sergio, Laura H., and Lizzy with our backpacks at 11 am. The rest of the 11 backpackers started the hike before 9 am using the Lower Jensen Hunting Road which is part of the TCT. The view is always spectacular and feels like you are in heaven when you are on those hills. It only took us more than a couple of hours on the trail before reaching Two Harbors.
We set our bags aside and ordered lunch at the Harbor Reef restaurant and met the other four who took the van. A few minutes later, we all moved near to the entrance of the Two Harbors General Store with their approval because the bartender from the bar warned some of the ladies not to bring outside drinks to their patio. Ricardo, Sergio, James, and others ordered more beer, chips, and avocado from the store and it was an awesome party. Bella and Ralph did a very good performance of Melevy’s Dance. Our ferry leaves at 4 pm and we got lots of hours to relax and enjoy. After many, many, many beer intake and lots of laughs with the group, we headed to the pier and went aboard the ferry to take us back to San Pedro. While aboard the ferry, the laugh continues with playing cards, taking photos of our wrapped blisters, and more. We had an awesome time in Santa Catalina island. Some finished the event with 33 miles and a few did 39 miles total hiked. Only four of us completed the 2 part series of the Trans-Catalina Trail and they are Lissinia, Ralph, Meredith, and myself. The island has lots of trails. We all hope to be back there soon for more adventures and explore them.