Thought I would give a brief and feeble attempt at a trip report. We just returned from Catalina Island in California for our maiden thru hike on the newly opened Trans Catalina Trail.
The weather was absolutely perfect BUT HOT! In the 80's and low 90's at times on the interior of the island. Getting there entails a boat ride across the channel via Catalina Express charters (figure an adult two-way fare at $66.50), then off to Avalon.
We opted to leave on the earliest boat to spend the day in Avalon snorkeling and kayaking (rentals readily available), a nice sit down lunch and then off to the trail.
The boys grew tired after spending the day in the water so instead of hiking up out of Avalon to the TCT--so we hired a taxi at $59.00 to shuttle us up to a spot about four miles from our first campsite. Good call on that one!
Once you're on the top of the island, hiking is relatively flat with some rollers to Blackjack Campground which provides amazing vistas of both sides of the island, has a consistent breeze and potable water in camp with toilets.
The TCT picks up out of camp toward our next destination Little Harbor a little ways out of camp...a good choice would be to take the more scenic Cottonwood Trail down to Little Harbor but you may elect to veer right and hike up to the historic Catalina "Airport in the sky." We went to the airport for breakfast burritos and supplies. The staff there was amazing; we met up with Juan and his youngest son Jonathan who would later join us at our camp for some snorkeling.
Little Harbor was my personal favorite offering somewhat secluded established campsites, excellent water activities, and good facilities for family camping.
After two days in Little Harbor we continued on Westward to Two Harbors where again the established camp was very nice and the town has two nice restaurants, a convenience store, waterfront activities and serves as a hub to other island destination or back home to the mainland if need be. Good food, more friends made (Gary who runs the shuttle from Two Harbors to the Airport and on to Avalon twice daily).
The "Safari Bus" runs daily at least two or more times along the established camps and for $10.00 per person per way, you can go into town for a meal/beer/supplies/etc.---a great option instead of hiking up and back down the 4- 6 miles or so.
Parson's Landing is the last stop on the westward side of the island and the most remote. Very few campers go there as it is a dry camp. Water/fire wood can be delivered by ranger to you for a nominal fee (and recommended). Parsons is beautiful and offers excellent star gazing as the lights of L.A./Two Harbors/Avalon seem drowned out by the stars themselves.
Back to Two Harbors for our boat home and a hot pay shower!!!
Now the real deal---the trail itself has no water available other than one reservoir we saw near Blackjack and the campsites themselves have faucets at most of the individual campsites and portapals---it can get very hot so plan accordingly. Most legs are about 4-7 miles from one site to another and a fair bit of up and down (not like the Sierra but still arduous enough). The topography is semi arid desert with cactus, chapparal, some shade trees and brush. Nasties include rattlesnakes, poison oak and there are approximately 175 head of wild Buffalo (bison) on the island decendants of the original 14 let loose in 1924 from Hollywood movie shoots. There have been a few reported problems with hikers startling buffalo or just being stupid and ending up injured but these are rare- a quiet and respectful distance is all need be given. We saw about thirty or more head and felt quite comfortable. They roam freely and it is not uncommon for them to wind up in camp with you.
Other criters include the coveted island fox (which nuzzled my feet and side one night in my bivy), squirrels which love to rain palm nuts down on you ALL NIGHT if you pitch your tent under the wonderful shade palms (see pics)---these guys are annoying and scurry about all night and have good aim so try to avoid being directly under a palm.
Overall, the trip was terrific and family friendly BUT the heat can be significant and I must admit we thumbed a ride to Two Harbors some of the way when we were near enough the main road. There are a myriad of dirt roads in the interior used for various purposes and some are prohibited, not a problem if you stay on the TCT.
The island is 22 miles long by about 8 miles at its' widest point, so navigatiion is relatively simple and safe.
One caveat, the trail has only been open about two years now and is poorly marked by all accounts and distances are sometimes off. Permits are needed in the camps and can be had by reserving through the Catalina Island Conservancy and The Atwater Hotel. Fee info:
Nightly camping fees Winter / Spring / Fall mid-week are $12 for adults; $6 for children, weekends $14 for adult; $7 for childern per person per day. Summer rates mid-week $14 for adults; $7 for children, weekends $16 for adult; $8 for childern per person per day. For groups of 20 or more group rates apply, please call: 310-510-2800 ext. 1414.
A great get-away that allows you do have both land and ocean enjoyments. Highly recommend it over 4-7 days depending on your speed and side trips.