04 August 2009


With the exception of the Ben Weston hike on 26 July, all of the hikes that I've described in this blog were completed before I began "A Hiking Diary of Catalina". Every hike is labeled with a date of for the hike and you'll notice that some of them date back to March... well, the backlog of hikes is gone and I won't post any new items until I've completed a few more hikes!

Look for an update soon from a short hike Hubby and I took at the Wrigley Marine Science Center! Thanks for reading!

03 August 2009

Airport Loop Trail

Date: 5 June 2009

Who hiked:  me

Hike route:  Loop beginning and ending at the Airport in the Sky

Time:  about 11:20 AM to 1:00 PM

Estimated distance: about 2.1 miles

Weather:  overcast and cool 

I decided to do this hike on my way to Avalon for a grocery-buying trip.  Catalina's Airport in the Sky is on top of a mountain, flattened for just this purpose (see photo of flat-topped mountain?  that's the Airport!).  I parked at the Airport and walked across the road to the trailhead. There is a sign near the start of the trail indicating that there is an old soapstone quarry only a short walk (about 0.2 miles) down the trail.   It's a short walk down the slope to a T-junction, but there was no sign indicating which way to the quarry.  I thought that it would be interesting to see the quarry earlier in my hike rather than later, so I guessed that the quarry was to the right.

I was wrong about the quarry.  The trail took me to the west of the Airport, then crossed the Rancho Escondido Road and turned north.  There is some nice geology here -- interesting crystal formations in rocks, volcanic rocks containing vesicles where gasses escaped during their formation.  Good lichens too.  And a fair number of Uta stansburiana, a common ground lizard on the island.  In the bushes, there were chipping sparrows singing away.  The trail generally hugs the contours of the mountain on which the Airport is located, so it's a nice flat walk.  

I passed a pond shortly after the trail turned east.  It was at the bottom of the slope; using my binoculars, I spied several bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) in the pond, so I went down to get a closer look.  These were the first bullfrogs I've seen on the island.  An introduced species, little is known about their effect on native animals.  I was keen to see some frogs, even if they were "bad".

Cattails lined one part of the pond but the edges were mostly open.  There was evidence that bison and deer use it -- water is a precious commodity on the island for everyone.  I saw hummingbirds -- probably Allen's hummingbirds, since that's the most common species on the island -- hovering over the water trying to catch insects to feed their young.  At least one pair of killdeer were also at the pond and they would fly, then land a short distance away from me, as I walked around the pond.  I looked around a bit for a nest, but had no luck.  No surprise there -- killdeer nests are hard to find and the movements of the parents do nothing to help the seeker!  Also at this pond I saw and heard a common yellowthroat.  At first listen I always mistake the witchety-witchety of yellowthroats for songs of Carolina wrens -- at least a Carolina wren with a sore throat.  Which is silly for me to do on Catalina -- there aren't any Carolina wrens on the island!   Yellowthroats are one of my favorite warblers... ever since my first glimpse of one in the reeds that surround Lake Mattamuskeet, a fabulous birding spot on the coastal plain of North Carolina.  I was just learning to watch birds and this was one of the first species I had identified on my own.  Not that a bird with a bright yellow throat and a black mask is so hard to ID!

I headed back up the hill to the trail after satisfying my curiosity about the pond.  It's tough to keep to the proper trail on this hike because there are so many animal tracks in this area.  The animal tracks and the cloud cover on the image made it hard to trace my route in Google Earth too, so the map I've included with this hike is my best guess.

The trail continued east and soon I reached a second pond.  There was a female mallard and five chicks on this pond.  The mother quickly led her brood to the safer end of the pond, away from me.  More killdeer were beside this pond and a black phoebe perched on some emergent vegetation.  It was fun also to watch barn swallows swooping over the pond, catching insects and taking drinks.

Here the trail is particularly hard to follow-- there are a lot of animal tracks, especially past the pond where there is a water tank.  It was empty today, but is probably used to supply water to bison later in the dry season when water becomes scarce at ponds.  I walked up a slight slope, then to the Old Airport Road, which wraps around the northeast end of the airport. From the road I saw some great island bush poppies and watched an airplane zoom in low overhead for a landing on the airport's only runway.  

In a short distance, the Old Airport Road meets up with the new Airport Road.  I crossed here and headed south.  Again here the trail can be a bit tough to follow, though it is lined with rocks for much of its distance.  I crossed a small creek at the bottom of a hill, then headed up a bit to the quarry.  Only about 2 miles later than I expected, but find it I did!  The quarry is small, with several unfinished bowls (or ollas) sticking half in and half out of the rock face.  I walked up the hill, which is steep but short, and back to the T-junction.  I headed back to the Airport in the Sky and ate lunch.  I highly recommend their bison burgers, which one can eat on the patio overlooking Black Jack Peak and Mount Orizaba .  Today it was a bit chilly, so I ate inside facing the picture window of the cafe, then I continued on my way to Avalon and the Von's!

Other birds seen:  House finches, Northern ravens, Catalina quail (and babies! -- it's that time of year), Mourning doves, European starlings, Northern mockingbirds

Mammals seen:  Beechey's ground squirrel, mule deer

01 August 2009

Following the Old Coach Road

Sunday, 14 March 2009

Who hiked:  me

Hike route: Trailhead across road from West End Bison Corral on Little Harbor Road, ends in Two Harbors

Time:  approximately 2.5 hours

Estimated distance: ~4 miles, according to the Catalina Island Conservancy map

Temp:  low 70s, overcast

I did this hike before I started thinking about my hiking blog, so I don't have as much information from the hike as I normally would. 

I began this hike right after we had finished with our aid station for the Catalina Island Marathon.  Boy, the walkers and runners in that race have some guts... that is one tough race!

I started the hike at around 9:00 AM. Hubby and the Things drove me to the trailhead, which is directly across from the Bison Corral.  The trail heads up from here, past the microwave tower, through a gate, then down the other side into Two Harbors.  I also hiked the 0.9 mi spur trail (Cat Harbor Overlook) that goes out to an -- yes, you guessed it -- overlook at the mouth of Cat Harbor.

The Bison Corral is a good place to see shrikes, though I did not see any on this day.  About one-third of the way up the trail I did see a Catalina Island fox, which would turn to look at me, then run a bit further up the trail, then turn to look at me again.  It did this a few times, then crept off into the underbrush.  The trip up was a bit tough, but not too bad.  I stopped a couple of times for breathers...  The trail that goes up and over the ridge (excluding the spur trail to the Point) is an old road.  A hundred years ago, tourists would travel from Little Harbor to Two Harbors in stagecoaches along the Little Harbor Road.  At that time, the road then turned up this mountain and then down the other side into Two Harbors.  It must have been really exciting to be in a stagecoach drawn by six horses, careening down the Old Coach Road into town!

At the ridge, there is an intersection with the Trans-Catalina Trail.  It is a bit confusing here about where one should go, and I walked a bit toward Little Harbor along this new trail.  I figured out my mistake quickly, however, and reoriented myself toward Two Harbors without much time lost.  I walked back toward the microwave tower, turned on the left fork (northwest) instead of heading up toward the tower, and proceeded along the ridgetop.  I passed through a gate for the fence that transects the island here, then walked toward Ballast Point.  To go straight to Two Harbors, one merely turns right at the next fork and walks down, down, down the mountain and into town.  I decided to walk out to the Point, so I headed up the small rise along the Cat Harbor Overlook trail.  I've hiked this part of the trail several times; it is a ridge of small rolling crests.  None of them would be particularly challenging but for the fact that one has just hiked straight up to reach this point!  But I walked out to the Point and sat down to take in the view for a while.  

I don't see the point in hiking if one is not going to stop and look at things, regardless of if those things are birds, insects, plants, or views.  Sometimes I don't make very good time because of my penchant for stopping, as Hubby has reminded me on more than one occasion, but I do enjoy myself much more than I would if hiking was merely how I got from here to there.  Besides, thinking about what kind of time I'm making on the trail makes if feel competitive, and I don't need that!

I retraced my steps along the ridge to resume the trail down into Two Harbors.  It is more or less straight down, past a settling pond for sewage treatment and a perennially green patch of eucalyptus and shrubs that are watered with the sewage effluent.  This is a great place for hummers, though one can mostly only hear them as they squeak and whirr about scolding and chasing each other through the grove.  About the time my knees were threatening to give out from the relentless downward slope, I was at the Banning House.  I then walked past the Little Red Schoolhouse, the playground, and up the small hill (which felt much bigger now) and to my home for lunch.

Not a bad way to spend a morning.