Take a Walk on The Wild Side. Getaway Tips: Catalina’s West End

A few people have asked me what I’d recommend for a couples’ 2 to 3 night camping trip in Catalina. For nature lover’s with limited time, I suggest you skip touristy (though charming) Avalon and head straight for Catalina’s “Wildland” gems.  Most Catalina aficionados concur that the 2 most beautiful spots on the island (not that you can really go wrong anywhere) are Little Harbor Campground and Parson’s Landing Campground. I’ll focus this post on them.

If you like this sort of thing, you’ll love those 2 spots.

 

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Heading down to picturesque Parson’s Landing

MAP 

How you plan your getaway comes down to your preferred balance of activity to relaxation.

If you want to see both Little Harbor and Parson’s Landing, the easiest way to do it is to take the San Pedro ferry direct to Two Harbors. Once there, you are equidistant to Parson’s Landing and Little Harbor – this gives you the most flexibility and the most relaxation and recreation options. You can grab a bite and set out for either destination as a day hike / bike or an overnight at one or both of them. You can also catch a shuttle one or both ways.

When you visit Two Harbors,  enjoy a meal at Doug’s Harbor Sands – the only restaurant / bar in town. I recommend the Mahe and a Buffalo Milk or two for dessert. Buffalo Milk is a delicious libation named after the island’s iconic buffalo (think alcoholic chocolate milkshake). I’d post a picture of one, but I drank them so fast I forgot to take one.

Otherwise, you could stay over in Little Harbor night 1 and then work your way West to Two Harbors and Parson’s Landing. On a quick boondoggle, perhaps you take the Safari Bus back to Two Harbors or Avalon. (Arrange in advance.)

Staying Overnight in Two Harbors

Two Harbors Campground (42 tent sites & 3 Group sites) about a 1/4 from “town” on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. Outdoor cold water showers & portapotties.

In “town”, the Camping Cabins  offer simple comforts on a budget ($50-70 a night) They are available November through March only.

Note: There are coin operated hot water showers in Two Harbors.

After roughing it for a day or two, I always like to throw in a little luxury. See why the rustic Banning House Lodge in Two Harbors is my Top Pick .

Two Harbors Things to Do:  Diving, snorkeling, swimming, stand-up-paddling, kayaking, fishing, exploring and relaxing. So yes, you can have tons of fun just hanging in gorgeous Two Harbors. Did I mention the Buffalo Milk? (Yeah, I did.)

Two Harbors Visitors Services 310-510-4205

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Parson’s Landing 

 Head from Two Harbors to Parson’s Landing (via West End Road – easy fire road ~7 miles & or the Trans Catalina Trail – hard single track ~11 miles) and camp out there. Note there is no running water at this campsite.  You can hike from here to Starlight Beach (the Western most point of the island), but be prepared for 20 miles round trip as Starlight Beach is day use only.

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DISTANCES

Avalon to the airport ~10 miles

Avalon to Little Harbor ~15 miles

Avalon to Two Harbors ~23 miles (MTB route – ~3,284 elevation gain)

Little Harbor to Two Harbors ~7 miles by fire road or shorter by single track, expect a fair amount of climbing in either direction

Two Harbors to Parson’s Landing ~7 easy miles West End Road or ~11 via a challenging portion of the Trans Catalina Trail (hikers only) Note: Parson’s Landing Campgraound has no running water.

Two Harbors to Starlight Beach  ~17 to ~21 miles depending on your route (see above)

Two Harbors to the airport ~13 Miles

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Logistics – Getting to Two Harbors

Catch the Catalina Express from San Pedro to go direct to Two Harbors ~$75 ea round trip.

Or treat yourself to a Helicopter ride, starting at ~$135 one way depending upon your departure point. It’s a quick way to spend $135, but it is a dazzling ~15+ minutes. (One way is enough, unless you’re in a hurry and have $ to burn.)

If you have a boat, you’ve got it made to explore your way.

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Hiking permits are free and you can get them online.

Mountain biking? Get the scoop on the $35 pass and bike rentals.

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Long Haul Options From Avalon

If you start in Avalon, you can take the island’s Safari Bus to Little Harbor,  Two Harbors, or Parson’s Landing,  but you are limited by their schedule. Mountain biking or hiking is possible too, but only if you’re up for ~23 somewhat tortuous miles (especially if you’re going to be carrying a pack) see my Catalina mtb. adventure post 1 & 3). There is a new Catalina Back Country Concierge that offers gear haul and other services, but they may not be open on weekdays in the off season – – at least they weren’t when we called them.

Another option is to stay in Little Harbor the first night and save the final 7 miles to Two Harbors for Day 2…

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Caution

So many fantastic options, so little time. Be safe and have a blast!

I’ve been all over the island, the terrain can be challenging and most of it is completely exposed. (Carry plenty of water and sunscreen.) Keep ~150 yards from Buffalo. (They don’t like bikers.) Stay on designated trails and fire roads. Taking that short cut through brush may be tempting, but my brother will tell you, it’s not worth it. He got bitten by a rattlesnake there doing just that and had to be airlifted off the island. He’s fine now, but it was a bit sketchy during his two weeks in ICU…And no, I wasn’t on that trip.

Let me know if you have questions and do tell me what you did on your Catalina getaway!

What’s better than going to a national park? Getting in free! 3 free days left in 2018.

Mark your calendar and start planning your next adventure! Take advantage of these free entrance days:

  • April 21: First day of National Park Week
  • September 22: National Public Lands Day
  • November 11: Veterans Day

Pick a park, any of the 400 parks.

Here are some other freebies & deals that you may not be aware of :

  • Free Annual Pass for active U.S. Military
  • Free Annual 4th Grade Pass (How cool for kids!)
  • Senior Pass ($80 Lifetime pass or $20 Annual pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over.) Get it in person at your closest Federal Recreation Area or you’ll have to pay an additional $10 for processing the application online or by mail.)

Did you know that an annual pass for $80 will get you into all kinds of cool territory, including:

(National park entrance fees run from $3-$30 a shot so the annual pass makes sense after you add up a couple of visits.)

So tell me, what explorations do you have in store for 2018?  Happy trails!

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Gift ideas for your adventure traveler

Waxing nostalgic…When I was a kid, my Mother used to hand my brother and me the Sears Christmas Wish Book. She’d give us both magic markers and tell us to mark everything we wanted Santa to bring us for x-mas. We spent hours mesmerized by the glossy, colorful 600 page tome, poring over 200 plus pages each bursting toys galore. Even after we knew that Mom was Santa, there was still a certain sense of excitement every year as we huddled together over those dazzling pages.trying not to circle every toy. It was so hard to decide. Once the presents were delivered, we were always confused. We didn’t recall  circling Yahtzee, or Rack-O…Later, we realized it was just one of our Mother’s schemes to keep us occupied for endless hours.

sears-wishbook

Today, do parents send their kids to the web to create their wish list shopping carts? For fun, I went window shopping online at Amazon and “circled” some items. I’ll start with some stocking stuffers and keep adding as I browse and hear back from you. What’s the best travel adventure gift you’ve ever received? And what’s on your wish list this year?

Stocking stuffers

$5 and under

mad-libsThe Mad Libs WORST CASE SCENARIO Survival Handbook: Travel Fun for all ages on a road trip, in the tent, or by the campfire. : )

 

mosquito-netMosquito Head Net

Sure wish I had this when I was hiking in Yosemite. The face flies were so brutal I nearly turned back. Other hikers did. Luckily, once you get above 8k feet they drop off. This could be the best $2 bucks you’ll ever spend.

$10-$20

survival-bracelet_TECH-P 5 in 1 Multifunctional Paracord Bracelet with Compass Flint Fire Starter Scraper Whistle Your mom would want you to have this survival bracelet.

 

lifestrawLifeStraw Personal Water Filter Your mom would want you to have this one too. Warning, this does not does not filter out viruses, but is good in a pinch.

bandanaKalily Headband Bandana 16-in-1 sports & casual headwear with UV protection.Be sporty and stylish, even with sleeping bag head.

ultra-lightweight-foldable-backpckFoldable, Ultra Lightweight Packable Backpack

Handy for travel and day hikes

headlampWaterproof Headlamp with rechargeable batteries, AC charger and car charger 

bear-sprayBear Spray

I prefer the one without the holster. Ideally, you should have it on the ready and carry it in your hand.

sleeping-bag-net

Mosquito Net for 1 sleeping bag  I really enjoy camping out under the starts without a tent. Unfortunately, so do the bugs. Here’s a solution.

 

Other ideas

Gift certificates to their favorite outdoor store

Airline tickets or points

State Park Passes

 

 

These boots weren’t made for hiking

To be fair, I’m not sure how many miles I have on these Hi-Tec day hikers. But one thing’s clear, there’s been way too many. My last trip to Idaho and Montana really did them in. Truth be told, I can be a bit of a bargain shopper so these probably came from Big 5  a couple of years ago…Looks like I got what I paid for. Next up, I’ve got a pair of Salomon day hikers to try.  I’ll let you know how they do.

What’s your favorite pair of tried and true hiking boots? 

Believe it or not: all pics are from my Samsung Galaxy S6 Android

(The picture above is not a petroglyph or an alien, it’s my creepy shadow taking a pic with my Samsung.)

Many people have been asking and are surprised to learn that I take all my pics & videos on my Samsung  Galaxy S6 Android. No, not the one that blows up, but the one that shoots pictures, you’ll want to blow up. I’m not a photographer and have never taken any classes. I love photography, but thought it would be too technical a skill for me to learn. (I’m better at just doing vs following instructions.) With my camera phone,  I get to shoot awesome pictures without carrying heavy camera gear. I love it because it makes a total amateur like me look pretty darn good. I also take advantage of the google photo editing tools and confess to having an affinity for the “pop” button. Is that cheating? Probably by classic photography standards it is, but don’t they have all kinds of magical lenses and tricks up their sleeves too?

So, what kind of camera do you use? And do you think it’s cheating to “pop” the pics?