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.

 

20171212_111237.jpg
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 quickie? 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

___________________________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________

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

_______________________________________________________________________________

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.

_________________________________________________________________________________

Hiking permits are free and you can get them online.

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

___________________________________________________________________________________

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…

_______________________________________________________________________________

 

 

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!

Tokyo Photo Post and Top Picks Prince Hotel & Hamashiba Sushi, Minato

Had the good fortune to travel to Japan on business and to stay in the luxurious Prince Hotel, Minato, Tokyo. My bathroom and room had tremendous view of Tokyo tower (aka Eiffel Tower knock off). I have never been in such a large or luxurious bathroom – huge walk in shower, deep jacuzzi bathtub and enough room left over for a small dance party. Seriously, the bathroom seemed more spacious and outfitted than the room itself. In case you haven’t heard, the Japanese have a thing for outfitted toilets (heated seats, warm water spritz wash (biddett & hot air dry, etc…) and deep soaking tubs. We Westerners could certainly learn a thing or two from Japan and improve our WC experience…

 

While I was in town for business meetings, I still managed to sneak in a couple strolls and a quick run around the area to take in a few of the nearby scenic highlights.

20160413_07191620160413_071938_00120160413_07173720160413_07293120160413_07165620160413_07530520160413_07282120160413_07143620160413_07142020160413_072753 (1)

As my Japanese grand finale, I indulged in a sushi dinner at Hamashiba restaurant in the hotel. Forget everything you’ve heard about hotel restaurants – this one is superb. The sushi is outstanding, by far the best I’ve had and no doubt, will ever have. The maguro / tuna was absolutely exquisite and it was a treat and once in a lifetime experience to watch the master sushi chefs at work. Was it expensive? Duh. Was it worth it? Absolutely! (The company didn’t pick up this one.)

 

 

 

Sayonara!

20160412_051625
Garden and City views from my room at The Prince

 

20160412_080255
Oh, and it looks like the sole homeless person in all of Japan was sleeping under my window at The Prince.

Stay tuned for adventures in Kyoto and Hakone…Arigato.

Bangkok: Wat Pho, Grand Palace, Wat Arun

Not a city girl so only 1 day in Bangkok before I take off for the mountains of Chang Mai. My day’s agenda in Bangkok is Wat Pho, The Grand Palace and Wat Arun. After a not so refreshing 5 hours of sleep and a buffet breakfast at my hotel, I hit pavement for the 5k stroll to Wat Pho.

While walking provides great perspective of the area, I quickly learned that it does not provide the best experience here.

Impressions:

It’s SWELTERING here! 96 degrees plus “big league” humidity. (The pool at my hotel is bath temperature.)

The sidewalks are crowded minefields of obstacles, uneven pavement and unpredictable curb heights. Must be very alert, which is tough when you’re sleep deprived. The air quality is poor  – heavy with vehicle exhaust, industrial and cooking fumes.

It was fascinating to be up with the locals, getting a glimpse into their morning routines as they opened up their storefronts, walked to school in their blue skirts and pigtails, or to their jobs in various work attire. (Strange, just realized schoolgirls present, but no school boys.) There are thin feral cats running amok, experts at dodging the traffic and darting here and there.

shop
A typical storefront and living quarters as well…

Wat Pho is one of the oldest, largest temples in Bangkok and also one of the most significant temples. Best known for its 51 yard long Reclining Buddha which is composed of a brick core, plaster covering and gold leaf finish. The buildings are spectacular as well with their ornate, detail of typical Thai temple architecture.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Having read all about the various tourist scams in Thailand, I wasn’t entirely surprised when a helpful, friendly Thai man struck up a convo and told my travel buddy and I that the palace wouldn’t be open until 1:30 PM due to Songkran, the New Year Holiday underway and a special Buddhist ceremony. It seemed plausible though. It was a holiday. He took out a map and described other attractions where his friend could take us instead. (Typical scenario where a tourist gets hijacked and financially extorted for the day.) There were many religious groups dressed in black around, which supported his story and he had no trouble looking us in the eyes as he pitched us. The palace compound is surrounded by a high wall  so it’s difficult to ascertain what is going on unless you walk around the perimeter, which we did. Guess what? It was open. So we dodged our first scam bullet.  The Grand Palace was a bit of a mob scene. Too hot and crowded for this semi-agoraphobic so I made a quick escape and headed for Wat Arun instead.

 

Next we picked up a Chao Phraya Tourist Boat Day Pass and headed to Wat Arun. As reported by others, the Tourist Boat is a great way to see the area. It’s only about $5 and you can hop on and hop off as many as 13 stops in different districts. Plus you get a little breeze on the boat. Tip: The boat runs every half hour, but you must stand on the dock and wave it in if it is not dropping passengers. Lesson learned. (They don’t mention it when you buy your ticket.

The iconic Khmer style tower of Wat Arun (temple of dawn)was under construction, but it was still worth a stop as you can see. The 76 meters high tower is decorated by thousands of tiny seashells and porcelain, I’ve added some pics from the boat ride and various other stops, including the a flower market. i don’t think it’s the famous one (Pak Klong Tald), but it was spectacular in it’s own right.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After 6 hours of walking around on 5 hours a sleep, I saluted the day with an early margie. Returned to the hotel, solved some tech issues with the blog and got a quick gym workout in. (Bike & some weight.) With plans to bike and trek in Chang Mai, I need to make sure I can workout in these conditions. The gym was minimally air conditioned at best so it simulated real conditions…

Avalanche Creek Trail to the Lake, Glacier National Park

The Going to the Sun Road was closed at Avalanche for the season so hiking options were a bit limited. Started at the Trail of the Cedars, where a wooden walkway leads through dense old growth.forest, the ground plush with almost iridescent green moss and a spectacular view of roaring avalanche creek. All this in a half mile or so and wheelchair friendly.

The rest of the Trail of the Cedars was closed, but I continued up along Avalanche Creek to Avalanche Lake. This easy, couple mile trail (4.5 miles roundtrip with 730 feet elevation gain) winds along Avalanche Creek and then up to the lake, and is one of the most popular in the park. One of the advantages of hiking in the off-season, and in the rain, is having it almost all to yourself.

Spokane Quickie

First impressions: Fantastic fall foliage, clean, bike-friendly city, easy to navigate, nice parks, incredible vistas, great centennial trail, rainy.

Arrived at the small airport at noon, rented a car, and headed directly to Spoke ‘N Sport. Pete set us up on a couple hybrids for our quick tour of Spokane. Just a half hour after landing, we’re pedaling through Riverfront Park, meandering by Gonzaga University where the fall’s display was in its full glory.

20161029_132941

Despite the brisk, wet weather, there were many runners (one stud without a shirt), bikers, and skateboarders about. In addition to nature’s displays, the city also features many outdoor art sculptures.

20161029_145551
Monroe Street Bridge, built in 1911

A little history:

Built in 1911, the 896 foot Monroe Street Bridge spans the Spokane River, which flows at 7,946 cubic feet per second here. The Spokane River is a tributary of the Columbia River, approximately 111 miles long, in northern Idaho and eastern Washington. At one time, Spokane was internationally known for its fishing, including Chinook, steelhead and coho salmon and, above the falls, a huge population of cutthroat trout. Sadly, those days are long gone.The Little Falls Dam, built in 1911 had only had a rudimentary fish ladder and the Long Lake Dam built in 1915 didn’t have one at all. In 1939, the Grand Coulee Dam blocked the Columbia, which sealed the salmon off from the entire Spokane River and thus destroyed a dietary staple and way of life of the Spokane Indians and many other tribe’s.

20161029_141651
Another lovely view of the Spokane River from the Riverfront Park bike trail

We managed to get in some great views of Spokane Falls, Riverfront Park and cruise an upscale neighborhood on Summit Road before the rain became more insistent.

20161029_150623 (1)
Moose sighting along Spokane’s Riverfront Park Bike Trail

Very enjoyable afternoon spent in Spokane. Would like to return and explore some more and do the Centennial bike trail to Coeur d’alene and back.

Coeur d’alene was next on the agenda, but the overly-manicured waterfront park, upscale shops and restaurants didn’t appeal in the pouring rain. We kept driving and happened upon the charming gem of Sandpoint, Idaho, where we spent the night.

Day 2 No guts, no glory.

I resigned my corporate position last Friday. Today is Tuesday, Day 2 of not “working for the man” as they say. I’m taking the plunge, much as I did into a couple of refreshing alpine lakes last month on a hiking trip in Mammoth.

Day 1 was quiet, I spent hours on internet researching various destinations, following my mind’s whims across the globe and closer to home. Montana has always called to me and I’ve heard great things about Idaho so perhaps I’ll start with a trip there before the weather changes too drastically…

Today, I had the luxury of swimming with the Master’s group during the lunch hour and enjoyed a post workout Jacuzzi. (Normally, I would be with the morning crew at 5:45 AM,  forgoing the Jacuzzi, and with the masses on the freeway fighting traffic by 7:20.) Enjoying my improved quality of life already. I spent the afternoon getting this site up and running. Definitely a work in progress, but I’ve made progress and hey, it’s only Day 2.

Do you have a day 2 in your future? Share it with us.