Jul 09 2008

Catalina Long Weekend Trip

Published by at 9:42 am under Diving,General,Hiking

I was kinda desperate to get out of the city for 4th of july long weekend and was trying different options but nothing worked. Finally due to last minute cancellations a campground at Catalina was available so i booked it. Bhanik, Amrish and Rajesh (henceforth referred to as BAR :) ) decided to join me on this trip. They were made aware that there was a hike of 12 miles involved on the final day. Here is how the trip went by. 

Pre-Trip Preparations. 

I went to REI to pick up some cookware since i didn’t have any for backpacking. I found something useful Kitchen Cupboard (which i didn’t take completely) and Cooking system (which was very useful). I also picked up some food items and desert for our dinner. 

Headed off to USC to Amrish’s place to pick everyone and after making sure they packed properly we went to Paru’s for dinner. Dinner at Paru’s was awesome as usual and then came back to my place after stopping at Ralphs and finally after packing my stuff i dozed off at about 12.30.


4th July

We had to take 7 am Catalina Express from San Pedro so had to wake up at 4.30 am to get everyone ready and then drive to the terminal. We made it to the terminal at about 6.45, just in time, we reached Avalon at about 8.15 and immediately stored most of the stuff in locker just outside the dock. We decided to take the shuttle bus to BlackJack campground since BAR wanted to take Introduction to Scuba and i was planning to dive along with them. So we got our campsite details, booked the 4 pm bus to Blackjack junction and since the Scuba was going to be at noon we had some time to kill before that. 

Golf Cart to the rescue, We rented a golf cart to go around Avalon and since i was the only person above 25 i was the lone driver. Amrish and Rajesh wanted to drive it but it was supposed to be $850 ticket and I didn’t want to take that chance. We took the scenic route on the island and stopped for sometime in between to take pictures and stuff, an hour well spent. Since it was almost time for BAR scuba lessons we headed off there and I also decided to rent BCD, Regulator etc so that i could also dive. Yes, I would be diving Solo. I have got my certification at Casino point and also have dove there before so I was completely comfortable diving on my own.

View of Avalon from the cart

View of Avalon from top.

Since i wasn’t sure if i could equalize my Ears, I decided to head out and see what happens. The water wasn’t as cold as i am used to, it was about 64F on the surface. I descended down the buoy and wasn’t sure in what direction i was gonna go but i found myself at the Plague. I was surprised at the marine life, It was different than i have seen here before. Plenty of different fishes and I also saw a Bat Ray zoom by. The Kelp Bass were huge, they seemed to have grown in few months. I ended the dive after consuming 1000 psi of air and didn’t go more then 40 feet deep.

Once comfortable with the fact that i could equalize my ears, I got more confident. This time Bhanik and Amrish got ready to go in the water and I followed them 10 mins after they got in. Bhanik had a leak in his tank and Amrish without the hood was having hard time getting comfortable in water. The instructor had to get him out since he wasn’t completely comfortable. Bhanik did a dive to about 12 ft, I followed him for a while and then decided to head off on my own. My camera stopped working too and that was sad since i saw a lot of critters. I didn’t wander too far from the buoy and just decided to explore the reefs and the kelp. As mentioned earlier the Kelp bass were huge and there was a big lobster hiding in the reef. I was down to 600 psi and i decided to end my dive. Amrish, this time with a hood and Rajesh were getting ready to dive, I thought with little air left i could take a look at them but I had too much water in my BCD and hence i decided to call it a day. Amrish and Rajesh stayed in for a long time and i was getting little worried but it seems they dove to about 30 ft. It was already 2.45 pm by the time the dives ended and we had to take the 4 pm bus so we had to hurry up.

Amrish and Myself decided to go and pick up the stuff from the lockers while Bhanik and Rajesh went to get firewood etc. Initially we planned to have dinner directly but then after the dive everyone was hungry so we decided to get something on the go. I finished my burger in less than 2 mins, was i hungry or what. We had two firewood bundles and it was a 1.5 mile hike from the junction to the campground, it would be suicide carrying them so we decided to return one of them. So at Blackjack junction, I decided to carry that firewood bundle and the 1.5 mile hike to campground was gentle uphill climb. It was a killer, specially after all the diving we did. Bhanik decided to carry the firewood after a while and finally we made it to the campground at about 6pm. The sun was brutal all along the way and i got some burns on my hands. Returning that one bundle of firewood and that burger were the smartest decisions of the day.

View from Blackjack Campground Junction

View from Blackjack Campground Junction

We found out site fairly easily and there was already a tent erect out there, I thought it was the one we had rented. I immediately crashed and took a brief nap for more than an hour and was woken by the chatter of ranger. 



Gilligan, the ranger. He was cool and very helpful. He gave us the tent and also propane since we had rented a stove but he didn’t have it on him. He left and we started pitching the tent only to discover that it had one of the poles missing and hence we called the ranger. He was back very soon and handed us another tent, apologizing and stuff. The other tent he gave us, its poles were also messed up but then we managed to combine poles from two tents and have a tent pitched up. The ranger was about to leave and while backing up he slammed into the trash can and made a mess of it. He seemed to be amused by it and he had an extra trash can which he kept there.

It was about time to make dinner and get a fire going. We had chana masala for dinner and cheesecake for dessert. It was good even though i messed up making of the cake. It was a long day with two more long ones ahead and we all slept well.


5th July: Hike to Little Harbor


We had already planned to do 7 mile hike to Little Harbor. I decided to take it easy and not wake up early for the hike. So we all got up at like 9.30, had our breakfast which was coffee and bagel. We started the hike at about 10.30 and it was downhill for the first 3.2 miles till we reached the ranch. The cotton wood trail we took was going to take us all the way to the wrong beach but fortunately for us we met couple of people on the way who told us that we missed the diversion to the ranch. So after correcting ourselves and getting on the right path again we reached beautiful little harbor campground at about 2 pm. Since we didn’t book snorkel rentals in advance, there was nothing to do. No one was interested in Kayaking out there. 

First View of Little Harbor

First View of Little Harbor

Since the hike on the way back was going to be continuos uphill, we decided to take the bus back to Blackjack junction and do the 1.5 mile hike to campground. It was 4 pm bus so we just relaxed at the beach, played some cards and just walked around. We took the 4 pm bus and the hike to Blackjack was lot easier than the previous evening. All of us took showers that evening and it was indeed refreshing. 

Dinner was beans and rice though the pack had some fancy name for it and the dessert was strawberry crumble. I preferred the previous night’s dinner and dessert as well. Since we were planning to get up at 4 am  and leave as early as we could, everyone went to bed early.


6th July: The long hike to Two Harbors


It is 11.8 miles hike from Blackjack campground to Two harbors and we woke up early at 4.30 am to pack everything and leave as early as we could. Breakfast was again coffee along with Bagels and by the time we left the campsite it was 6 am. We had to pack up the tents and clean up everything so it took us a lot of time. The climate was amazing by the time we got at the Blackjack junction it was foggy and the visibility on the road was about 30 feet. It was really a pleasant walk despite the fact that i had about 25-30 pounds on my back, its not that much but still. As we got closer to the airport, yes there is airport on top of catalina island, we saw a heard of wild buffalos which seemed ready to attack us if we got any closer to their young. 

Heard of Wild Buffalo

Herd of Wild Buffalo

Dew Flower

Advantage of Hiking Early.

We took the airport trail loop, there is a sign which says private road no admittance but the trail goes on that road itself. On this trail there was a split which i was tempted to take but we were supposed be on this trail for 1.6 miles and it didn’t seem that we walked for that long. So we continued on this airport loop trail and met someone on the way who confirmed that we were on the right path. We hit another junction, where one of the signs said cross catalina trail and other was small one with EL 1.5 miles. Emerald Landing (EL) trail was the correct one to take and it would be another 1.5 miles before we hit next junction but how wrong we were….

After walking for about half hour we hit another junction and it was very tempting to take that supposedly short cut trail to the left, we met one more person who told us we would be fine on the left but he didn’t seem that sure. The right path would slowly but surely take us on the right path, how ironic :) but we decided to continue on the left steep trail. We continued on it for another half hour or so and hit a dead end. I could see a trail continuing in my head and went on, others weren’t so sure and they were correct, something which i realized after another half hour. Traversing this sloped hill, we hit a ridge line, i kept on going along that ridge with others complaining to me behind and being afraid that we won’t be able to turn back etc.

My sense of adventure/willingness to experiment/over confidence whatever you want to call it got better of me at that time and i kept on going until we saw ocean and guess what it wasn’t two harbors but it was little harbor. how fascinating, jaana tha japan pahuch gaye chin (wanted to go to japan but reached china), its an old hindi song. 

Steep Hill

It all went wrong at this point. Yes I had carried my Fins and Snorkel gear :)

It wasn’t a pleasant feeling at all and with almost an hour lost turning back didn’t seem an option. We contemplated going to little harbor and then taking shuttle to two harbors but we couldn’t speak to a representative and get confirmed tickets on the bus. Also it seemed that we were about 4-5 miles away from two harbors anyway, our boat left at 2.45 pm and it was about 9 – 9.30 so we had plenty of time as well. We decided to get off this hill and on the road which was visible to us at the bottom and take it from there. With no visible trail to get off this mountain i just took the route which was less steep and seemed easier until we reached a small trail. Even though this wasn’t going to take us exactly where we planned on going it would still lead us to the dirt road connecting little harbor and two harbor. 

Once at the bottom of this hill, we had to cross a muddy marshland where we had to trample some of the plants to avoid getting into the mud. Bhanik managed to get one of his feet into the mud and it was messy. He decided to ditch his socks (no we didn’t throw them there, they were dumped in LA) and wear a plastic bag instead of the sock. Once on the dirt road, I wanted to maintain my rhythm and didn’t take a break along with BAR. I told them to hitch a ride in the first vehicle they could find and make it to two harbors, it was going to be a 4 mile hike in the sun on this dirt road. I kept on going at my pace which wasn’t that much at all, about half an hour into this walk i saw Bhanik get a ride and he stopped to get my backpack. I decided not to hand my pack since i would need water etc on the way but got rid of my tent, event though it didn’t seem that much of difference to me i am sure it helped a lot. Rajesh and Amrish also caught up with me by that time but they again decided to take a break after sometime and i kept on going. It wasn’t exactly a pleasant walk in the park but the ocean views all along the final few miles made it worthwhile. I met up with Bhanik at Two harbors at about 12.15 pm, the ranger had refused to give ride to Amrish or Rajesh but they got ride from USC Wrigley dudes and we all were in Two Harbors by 12.30 pm.

Bhanik wanted to snorkel from the start itself and after the hike, Amrish and Rajesh didn’t want to. I rented a wet suit (i was carrying my fins, mask etc) and Bhanik complete snorkeling gear  and we jumped into the water to snorkel for about an hour. There wasn’t much to see on the beach but then when we went to one side which had some kelp, we saw garibaldis, few more fishes. Also spotted a tiny Spanish Shawl (nudibranch) and a sea slug. It was surprising that i managed to free dive with a 3 mm wet suit and no weights. 

The 2.15 pm boat took a long while to unload and departed late and hence our boat also got delayed. We reached San Pedro and after a short drive, we reached Amrish’s place at about 5.15 pm. That was it, our really long long weekend had ended. It was a very nice one too. 


More Pictures

Bhaniks’s Album

Rajesh’s Album

Rest haven’t uploaded their pics, My camera was in water proof case but it stopped working.

www.visitcatalinaisland.com For all information regarding Catalina, ofcourse you can always contact me as well.

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Catalina Long Weekend Trip”

  1. Bhanikon 09 Jul 2008 at 7:53 pm


    Arre tu to writer hai re.. have covered each and every point even in the minutest detail.

    Very good article,

  2. Nayanon 09 Jul 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I should probably put up my old travel articles as well, i used to note every minute details of one day treks. :)

  3. Johnon 23 Aug 2008 at 6:46 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this.

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