The time has come. After much thought and longterm desire, I went on my first backpacking trip! With my dear friend Alex paying a visit from her life in New York City, I planned an adventure to Catalina Island to backpack part of the Trans Catalina Trail. The TCT is a 32-mile trail spanning Catalina Island, weaving through its MANY mountains. With a bit of a time crunch, we decided to tackle 26 miles in 3 days, giving us extra time to relax at each destination.
We set off early Monday morning for the San Jose port to catch a ferry to Avalon on Catalina, the southern-most city of the island. Arriving to the beachfront town, I was instantly charmed. Colorful storefronts and restaurants litter the main street, luring tourists with the daily 'fresh catch'. Still, I was eager to venture into the lesser-known areas.
To get to the trailhead, you have to hike about 2 miles up a long, windy service road. This I was not expecting to be difficult, but the road was very steep and provided no shade as the sun rose to its early morning perch.
Embarking on the trail at 11AM, this was our longest day: 14 miles to Black Jack Campground. The heat was at a consistent temperature of 'hot as F,' but with the breeze we got at such a high altitude, it was bearable. I also wasn't paying attention to my water intake until it was all gone. At mile 4. With a reservoir at mile 9, I tried to not freak out and just keep going. For future hikers, there is a confusing area around mile 8.75 where the trail takes you through a fence. We spent over an hour walking along the fence instead of going through it, losing much needed sunlight.
Weaving through herds of buffalo, we made it to the reservoir before keeling over and shriveling into raisins. We gave our feet a rest, hydrated ourselves back to human beings and continued. Making our way to Black Jack campground around 7PM gave us time to set up camp, eat, and crawl into our cozy tent around 9PM. 'Twas a full day.
The next day was a bit more of a breeze. We slept in, sipped our coffee in our virtually empty campground, and found our peanut butter 20 feet from camp. Turns out the foxes on Catalina are nuts for peanuts and everything else. We didn't know that. We obviously didn't know a lot. We also lost our apples and bagels from said fox. It was infuriating.
Day 2 was an easy 7-mile stretch to Little Harbor Campground, a small beach hideaway on the other side of the island. Wrapping our blisters in duct tape (we learned this tip from a local) we spent the day descending to sea level, which happens to be a lot more painful than going up. The ocean taunting you from all sides as you sweat yourself into submission is the worst part. It's beautiful to look at, but seeing the distance before you is torturous.
We made it to Little Harbor mid-day, giving us the opportunity to soak our burning bodies in the ocean, take naps, and enjoy the sunset. We fell asleep to the crashing of the ocean waves. It was perfect.
We woke up fully rested and ready to conquer the rest of the trail. It was just a 5-mile jaunt to the port at Two Harbors. However, the elevation gain was drastic and gorgeous, and this leg of the trail is almost entirely along the ridge-line of some of Catalina's highest mountains, keeping us at cloud level. We took many breaks on this day, enjoying the scenery and the last of our dried mango.
Seeing Two Harbors appear from the distance was bittersweet. We had finished what we set out to do and we were officially champions, but I definitely felt the twinge of a newly acquired addiction settling into my skin. I had done so many things wrong on this trip, but was happy to have learned from my mistakes and ready to plan my next backpacking excursion. Reaching the end, I felt like I had won a gold medal. Instead of getting a medal, I finished my 26-mile adventure with scabs on my shoulders, blisters on my heels and getting pooped on by some evil tropical bird. Once we reached Two Harbors, I was standing at a trashcan eager to change into flip flops. With 40 pounds on my back, agility is not possible. I heard some screeching from up above and was then immediately covered in bird poop before I could register what was happening. Three cheers for nature!
With that, Alex and I treated ourselves to a beer at the local bar while we waited for our ferry home. Now that I'm under my roof and have had a shower, I'm ready to do that again.