16 July 2010

Other web sources about hiking Catalina

I've been looking for other web info about hiking on Catalina.  There's not a lot out there, but I did find some reviews of the Trans-Catalina Trail on yelp...  And here's a picture of Shark Harbor from the Shark Harbor Overlook.  ENJOY.

13 July 2010

Hacking Tower Ridge Road

Date:  10 July 2010
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Thing2
Where:  Middle Ranch - Hacking Tower Ridge Road - Camp Cactus Road
When: 0950-1225
Distance:  4.2 miles (measured on GPS)
Weather:  sunny and clear (!)

No photos for this posting -- we forgot the camera!

We camped at Little Harbor again in our trusty tent camper, this time without Thing1 who is away at summer camp.  It has been a gloomy June and July thus far and today started out no differently.  We woke up on Saturday morning to the scoldings of a Northern shrike outside our door, ate pancakes, then piled in the truck for the trip to Middle Ranch.

We parked by the stables at Middle Ranch, saw some good birds here (black phoebe, northern raven, California quail, mourning dove, house finch, barn swallows), then walked up the road that leads to Thompson Reservoir.  We followed the path around the Reservoir, where we saw a pair of ruddy ducks and two pairs of coots.  One pair of coots also had a chick, ugly and orange-headed.  If you have never seen a coot chick, you have to click on this link.  They are remarkably unattractive.  We also saw barn swallows, acorn woodpeckers, northern ravens, European starlings, and northern mockingbirds here.

We had one pair of binoculars between the three of us and Thing2 finally figured out how to use them properly.  He was so excited about them that he carried them for extended periods of time, stopping to use them whenever he could.  We had to chuckle as he said, "Wow, that cactus looks so close!" and tried to touch it with his fingers while looking through the field glasses.

We walked about 1/3 of the way around the Reservoir to where the trail heads uphill and hit the intersection of the Bulrush Canyon Trail at about 1040.  At this point, the road that we were on was called Hacking Tower Ridge Road.  We were not making good time as we had taken a lot of time to watch coots and to investigate the spillway at the Reservoir, which looks like it might be really exciting on a skateboard or scooter.  Exciting and terrifying...  Anyway, we were really moseying along, not hiking very quickly.

About five minutes past the Bulrush Canyon Trail, we reached the crest of the hill, where we had a lovely view of the windward side of the island.  Here the trail follows the crest.  Although it was sunny where we were, it was still gray and overcast back in Little Harbor!  A red-tailed hawk was riding the thermals over the canyon and an American kestrel was hunting on an adjacent ridge.

Thing2 was entranced by the kestrel hovering and swooping down on its prey, which he watched through the binoculars.

There was a fenced area with enclosures in it on our right as we walked along the ridge and we followed an access road down to it.  There were electric wires along the top of the fence and we thought we heard electricity running through them.  This was odd as there wasn't anything inside the enclosure that needed protecting -- all the pens were empty.  Thing2 really wanted to touch the electric fence and kept asking us what it would feel like if he did.  We told him that it would hurt -- I know this from first-hand experience, having touched electric fences back when I was a curious child.  He finally screwed up his courage and touched it, only to discover that it wasn't electrified.  I think he was disappointed.  The noise that we had heard was humming flags and lines flying in the breeze.

The pens inside the fence had been used to captively breed and foster Catalina Island foxes.  The recovery plan was a rousing success and so there aren't any foxes there now, though the structures still remain.  Today they were being used by a couple of spotted towhees...

Our trail intersected Camp Cactus Road, which we took to the right to head down the ridge to Middle Ranch Road.  It wasn't long before we were back on Middle Ranch Road and walking back toward our truck.  We stopped briefly at Quail Valley, where the Catalina Conservancy has a Catalina Island fox, Tachi, in a naturalized enclosure.  We looked for Tachi -- who made only a brief appearance -- and then ate some goldfish and drank some water.  Soon we convinced Thing2 to hit the road again, and we were back at our truck 15 minutes later.

We saw two hacking stations on this hike.  These hacking stations were used in a bald eagle restoration program completed by the Institute for Wildlife Studies on Catalina.  A hacking station is used to introduce young raptors to new habitats and then to provide them with supplemental food without exposing them to humans.  This supplemental food increases their chances of survival, especially when they are young and inexperienced in hunting.  One hacking station was at the Reservoir and the remains of a second was on the Hacking Tower Ridge Road itself.

Birds seen:  Black phoebe, Northern raven, California quail, Mourning dove, House finch, Barn swallow, Acorn woodpecker, Northern mockingbird, American coot, Ruddy duck, European starling, Orange-crowned warbler, Chipping sparrow, Red-tailed hawk, American kestrel, Pacific slope flycatcher, Spotted towhee, Allen's hummingbird

04 July 2010

Little Harbor to Boskey Dell

Date:  19 June 2010
Who hiked: Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Time: 0900 - 1245 (approximate times)
Distance: 6.25 miles (measured on Google Earth)
Weather: cool, with overcast skies turning sunny

We had so much fun on our last camping trip, that I as soon as we got home, I went to Visitor's Services in Two Harbors and made reservations at Little Harbor for an additional three weekends during  the summer.  Our next campout was scheduled for the weekend that I returned from San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, which was also Father's Day weekend.  Interestingly enough, we had the campsite directly opposite our campsite in May.

Hooking up the camper to the truck, setting up the camper, and then doing it all in reverse went better than the first time...  we'll see if we're actually improving or if this was just luck!

The hike we planned for this weekend was through Boskey Dell, because I had heard that it was one of the most beautiful places on the island.  We decided to hike east-bound on the Trans-Catalina Trail, then cut down to Rancho Escondido, cross the Rancho Escondido road, and then hike down into Boskey Dell.  I was not sure that the Things would be up for a hike of this scale, but decided to purposefully mislead them about the length of this hike so as not to have a rebellion from the under-10 crowd at the beginning.

We walked from our campsite, across the Two Harbors Road, and then up the Trans-Catalina Trail (the old Sheep Chute Road -- see picture to right, which I took later in the day).  The first mile or so is all uphill, but the grade is fairly reasonable and so it is not too difficult.  We had some lovely views of Rancho Escondido, the hacienda, the horse rings, and the vineyards.  The Rusacks (Allison Wrigley Rusack and  her husband Geoff) started a vineyard on Catalina, a small-scale affair centered on Rancho Escondido, at about the same time that we arrived on the island.

While most wildflowers are finished blooming by now, the hills were covered in a blanket of golden flowers (see below).  In the morning the skies were gloomy -- June Gloom is a well-kept secret in usually-sunny SoCal -- but the field glowed with a yellow-orange warmth that cheered my heart.  What did not cheer my heart, however, is Mr. Grumpy Pants (aka Thing2).  He was in fine foul form this morning, grumping about everything.  We chose to rely on a guessing game, rather than food, to raise him from his unpleasant attitude and, once again, it worked like a charm.  He became almost human-like for most of the rest of the hike.

In about 1.6 miles, we reached the intersection of the TC trail and the trail to Rancho Escondido.  The trail went downhill to the Rancho Escondido Road and along the way we were overtaken by a Jeep Ecotour and the driver teased Daniel and Zachary about eating up all the ice cream that they had on the truck.  As we walked, we scared up Catalina quail and their babies, which are past the fluff-ball stage and flying now.  There were Hyla regilla tadpoles in the stream at the bottom of the gulch.   We reached the road in about 0.6 miles, crossed it, and walked the rest of the way (about 0.3 miles) to the bottom of the Canyon.  This area is known as Boskey Dell, which I have heard is a bastardization of "Bosque del...", though what it is the bosque (forest) of, I don't know.  There are some big trees here, mostly eucalyptus (introduced), sycamore, and some oaks.  There were trees riddled with sapsucker holes, sapping dripping down the tree boles.  The trail here follows a creekbed for about a quarter of a mile, then cuts back up to a real road/trail.  Lots of poison oak along the waysides!

We reached a lovely shelter with wooden shingles and a huge stone fireplace at about 3.1 miles.  It seemed a bit magical, actually, this pavilion in the middle of nowhere.  It seemed old -- perhaps it was a throw-back to the old Wrigley days, but we welcomed a chance to hang out and relax.  The boys "relaxed" by climbing a huge oak tree next to the shelter.

We set out again after our short break, and another quarter of a mile (3.4 miles from the start), we made a hairpin turn and began to head uphill.  It got quite steep and the roadbed was soft sandy dirt -- very difficult to walk in and not so fun...  Fortunately, the road quickly flattened out and afforded us a nice view of the valley.

The rest of the hike seemed to go by quickly, perhaps because we stop to look at less and less as the hike wears on.  We reached the  Eagle Roost Road and followed it for a short distance before branching off onto the Cottonwood Dam Trail.  The Cottonwood Dam Trail quickly drops off the face of the earth.  Seriously, it goes straight down into Cottonwood Canyon.  Like vertically.  You could slide your way to the bottom but for the sharp pointy rocks in the road.  I do not recommend hiking this trail in the opposite direction if you can avoid it. At 4.75 miles we were back on the Rancho Escondido Road, where we met up with a woman who was running from the Airport to Two Harbors (a distance of about 7.5 miles) and who thought she was on the Trans-Catalina trail.  We helped her with directions and pointed out the TC trail on the ridge rising out of Little Harbor (which we could see from here) and off she went, jogging along.  We turned down the Rancho Escondido Road, hoping to pick up a trail that would take us back over to the TC trail, close to where we started.  Alas, that was not to be...  we never did find a trail, even though one showed up on GoogleEarth.  I suspect that it was a deer trail that was visible from space, but that was hard to find on groundlevel.  So we stuck with the road.  Even though we were still some ways from our campsite, we could at least see it from here!

Thing 2 was total toast at this point and we were still about a mile from our campground (in a best case scenario).  He sat down in the road and insisted that he was not going to walk any more.  There wasn't any other option other than him walking, so the three of us just kept going.  We actually got out of sight, around a corner, before Thing 2 decided that he would take to his feet again.  We reached Shark Harbor Overlook, where the road to the left takes one to Middle Ranch, and the sharp turn to the right takes you down to Shark Harbor and on to Two Harbors.

It was a relief to have our goal so close, especially given Thing2's reluctance to hike and I was even more relieved when Hubby found a shortcut across a horseshoe bend, then a second shortcut from the road down into Shark Harbor.  At about 5.85 miles, we reached the beach at Shark Harbor and now my legs were tired.  I can only imagine how tired the Thing 2 was at this point!  Thing 1, like usual, was still hiking like a champ.  Another 0.4 mile and we were back in our campsite!

I'm posting this from the mainland, so don't have my field notebook with me.  Will post a list of birds seen as a comment.  But I do remember seeing the orange on an orange-crowned warbler!  It really was quite lovely.

Oh!  And we saw frogs!  Newly transformed Hyla regilla

Oh!  And we saw frogs!!

June Gloom Go Away

I am not a fan of the beautiful weather that we get (nearly) all the time on the island, but this June Gloom gets to me.  From about mid-May until July, the skies are gray and cheerless in the morning.  I have wondered how many vacations have been marred by The Gloom.  Yeah, The Gloom usually burns off by the afternoon, but it just doesn't feel like summer while it lasts.  I would welcome this weather in November or December -- it seems the perfect weather for short winter days.  But in the long days of summer, I want summer weather -- sunshine, puffy clouds, and blue skies!

So my advice to all you vacation planners out there:  come to Catalina in September, August, or October.  Glorious late-summer weather and the water is (almost) above 70 degrees.