07 December 2011

Catalina Island from the Sky

A friend of mine just sent me a link to a video of Catalina from the air.  It's a beautiful world we live in, my friends.

04 December 2011

Bolsa Chica #4

Date:  4 December 2011
When: 0830 - 0945
Where:  Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach

I try to go birding at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve every time I go over town. [As an aside -- "over town" means the mainland, "to town" means Avalon, and (often) "downtown" means Two Harbors.] I was over town getting some Christmas shopping done and didn't get to the birding thing until Sunday morning...

28 November 2011

Ben Weston Beach for Thanksgiving

We had fabulous weather over Thanksgiving this year and decided to work off some turkey and stuffing by hiking.  Thing 2 had requested a hike to Ben Weston Beach, so we set off on the Saturday afternoon after Turkey Day.

This hike is an easy out-and-back flat path to one of the loveliest beaches on Catalina. 

Peek of Ben Weston Beach from the road.
The trail follows the canyon floor.
(Photo from 2008)

03 November 2011

Hermit Gulch to Lone Tree (er, Shrub)

The Palisades
My motivation in my 24 hike challenge is waning and I know that I need something to get me going again. Today I took advantage of an opportunity to hike on the East End.

I hiked from Avalon on the Hermit Gulch Trail to Lone Tree overlooking the Palisades.  I recommend the first part of the hike (Hermit Gulch Trail), but the Lone Tree leg was mediocre. Overall though this is a good hike to get you up and out of Avalon, with fabulous views of the town, the mainland (visibility permitting), and San Clemente Island. Because of its eastern exposure, it is probably best to hike this trail later in the day, especially in the warmer months of the year.

24 October 2011

Big Springs Loop Redux

Date: 26 September 2011
Who Hiked: Me
Route: Big Springs Loop
Time: 1000 to 1300
Estimated Distance: 5 miles
Weather: cool and overcast

This is a fun hike that is not too challenging and offers a lot of things to see: beautiful views, water habitats, island vegetation, and a cat-tail filled spring.  While it is not easy to get to -- you can walk up from Two Harbors or Little Harbor, or drive from either, it is worth the effort.

20 August 2011

What have I been doing? This...

Where have I been in August?

(Original post updated on 30 August with new pics!)

Robert C. Seamans
 I've been working for the Sea Education Association program "Oceanography of the Southern California Bight".  The first 10 days were on board a 134-ft brigantine tall ship, the Robert C. Seamans. We sailed from San Francisco to Catalina Island. I was a deckhand -- handling lines, cleaning, and completing hourly weather and boat checks.

Once we arrived on Catalina Island, I transitioned to being the instructor for the marine ecology course -- we've had a great time exploring the near-shore environments on Catalina.

On Monday the class is over -- very sad. But it means that I should be back to hiking soon!

Meanwhile, here's a GoogleEarth image of where we sailed.  Each sailboat represents our semi-daily location (at either 0000 hr or 1200 hr) between 4 August and 13 August.

Sunset over Santa Barbara Island

Moonrise over Catalina

21 July 2011

The Top of the Island

Black Jack Campground with Mount Orizaba in the background
Date:  16 July 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Where:  Airport Road to Mt. Orizaba (and back)
When: 0940 - 1345
Weather:  70s, partly cloudy

Distance:  5.6 miles (measured on GPS)
Elevation range: (Coming soon)

Necessity is the mother of invention.
We went camping at Little Harbor last weekend for the first time this year. Our tent camper reprimanded us for neglecting it by getting a flat tire on the way to the campground. And, being out of practice, we forgot a few key items -- a large pot for cooking spaghetti, a colander, and the coffee filter. We were able to solve all of these issues, the most important of which was clearly that of infusing our bodies with caffeine on Saturday morning.

The Things had voted for a hike up the tallest mountain on Catalina, Mt. Orizaba (elevation 2103 ft). This surprised me because such a hike obviously involves going uphill, something they usually balk at. Or at least complain about while in the process of doing.

But we got up Saturday morning, managed to imbibe the minimum required amount of coffee, then hopped in the truck to drive to the trailhead for our hike. We chose to hike from the Black Jack Campground turn off on Airport Road to the top of Orizaba. 

13 July 2011

Cape Canyon Reservoir

Bison at Cape Canyon Reservoir

Date:  11 July 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Things 1 and 2
Where:  Cape Canyon Road (out and back)
Click to enlarge elevation profile
When: 1045-1435
Weather:  starting overcast, clearing to mostly cloudy and warm (70s)

Distance:  6.8 miles (measured on GPS)
Elevation range: just over 400 ft, but felt less because of distance

After too many days parked in front of the television, watching cyclists crash at the Tour de France, I decided it was time for a hike. Monday was a rest day at the Tour, so I set my sights on Cape Canyon for Monday morning.

The hike is long, but flat. There is not much shade, but we saw a lot of wildlife and a lot of wildflowers blooming. And because it's an out-and-back route, you can adjust the length to suit your tastes, time, or ability.

12 July 2011

Mount Monadnock Kicks My Butt

Where: Mount Monadnock, NH
Date:  27 June 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2

VACATION! Hubby's family hails from New England and many members still live there. We spent most of our time in the Boston area, visiting Revolutionary War and Colonial-era sites. Thing 1 was a great tour guide, having just finished 5th grade, when California school children learn about American history.

Thing 2, Hubby, Thing 1 on the trail
We walked all through Boston, experienced Plimoth Plantation, learned about whaling, biked on Cape Cod, and then traveled to New Hampshire for a family reunion. A day of meat (lots of meat) and beer was followed by a hike to Mt. Monadnock -- reportedly the most hiked mountain in the world. One guy even hiked it every day for EIGHT years!

15 June 2011

Quiet time for the Hiking Diary

Swallowtail and Opuntia
Hey Readers (all 6 of you):

Things are likely to be quiet around here for the next couple of weeks -- we're going on vacation!  That's right, on Friday we are Boston-bound.  We are slated for a 13-day immersion in American history, from the Pilgrims to the whalers.  Two hundred and fifty years in just a fortnight.

I hope to get in a hike in New Hampshire -- so look for that posting here... Otherwise all the family vacation fun you could ever want to read will be available at Hubby's blog, Life in Two Harbors.

View toward Little Harbor from the Trans-Catalina Trail
What's on the horizon for July?

  • recommended hikes and logistics for a weekend at Parson's Landing
  • more about getting around Catalina -- a one-stop post for information about how to navigate the island by land
  • camping at Little Harbor with the family, with the requisite hiking involved
  • Cape Canyon hiking

And, for my local readers, where should I hike next?  East End?  Please suggest destinations in the comments -- I'll do the two most popular ones in July!

08 June 2011

Salton Sea NWR

We visited the Salton Sea NWR way back in April.  Read out our trip, lost car topper and all, at Hubby's blog -- Life in Two Harbors.

I advise you to stop in at the Visitor's Center first.  The person there was very helpful and suggested a driving route that helped us to see a lot of birds -- including more than 20 burrowing owls and the barn owl hanging out in a palm tree at the Center itself.

30 May 2011

Goat Whiskers Trail (again)

Date: 26 May 2011
Click to enlarge elevation profile
Who Hiked: Me
Route: Goat Whiskers Trail -Water Tank Road - TransCatalina Trail
Time: 0920 - 1315
Weather: sunny with some clouds, 60s to 70s, breezy

Distance: 6.9 miles (measured on GPS)
Elevation range: 0 ft - 1284 ft

This hike offers some lovely views of the West End of Catalina, both of the ocean and the near-side coves and of interior valleys. There are some lovely oak groves that attract resident and migrant birds. On clear days, you get great looks at the mainland and San Clemente Island. The ascents and descents are fairly steep, but not unusually so for Catalina trails.

I hiked some parts of this route previously. You can read about them here and here.

23 May 2011

WWII Sunday

Elevation Profile of Road to Camp Cactus

Date: 22 May 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2, SuperC
Where:  Camp Cactus
When: 1255 - 1420
Weather:  overcast at first, turning mostly sunny; temps in 70s
Distance: 2.9 miles (measured on GPS)
Elevation Range: 480 - 780 ft
See end of post for a zoomed-out view of location.

Today the family plus a 10-year old friend (SuperC) took a short hike to Camp Cactus. We had first seen these buildings during our Bullrush Canyon hike. We didn't know anything about the site then; later I learned that it had been a radar facility during World War II.

18 May 2011

Rain? Really?

I know I won't get any sympathy from my midwestern and eastern family and friends, but I'm ready to be done with rain.

It has rained here three out of the last four days...

And I want to go hiking.

But rain on on Catalina = mud on Catalina.  Really thick, slippery mud.  Making hiking treacherous and certainly a lot less fun.

I'm hoping to hike tomorrow to Cape Canyon Reservoir...  keep your fingers crossed for a sunny afternoon to dry out the roads and trails!

11 May 2011

Bolsa Chica #3

Where: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach
When: 11 May 2011, ~1010 to ~ 1145
Who:  me, Dr. Centrocercus, Mrs. Centrocercus, Dr. Quiscalus

I was so pleased to see some old friends this week: my PhD advisor (Dr. Centrocercus), his wife (Mrs. Centrocercus), and a friend/colleague from grad school (Dr. Quiscalus).  They are in town to go on a birdwatching cruise from Long Beach to Vancouver.

All are birdwatchers (an understatement for the two Drs...) and we had a morning together, so I decided to take them to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

06 May 2011

West End Catalina Fire

Those of you in SoCal have probably heard about the recent fire on the west end of Catalina.

I wrote an article for The Catalina Islander about the fire. What I submitted is below.  I've inserted some of my pictures in the text -- some of these ran in the paper as well.

Fire Pushed Back from Banning House Lodge
6 May 2011
by Lori Nelson

A fire broke out on the hillside below the Banning House Lodge near Catalina Harbor in the afternoon on May 2. By the next morning, the fire had scorched 117 acres, narrowly missing the 101-year-old Banning House Lodge.

West End Tour

Date:  5 May 2011
Click to enlarge elevation profile
Who hiked:  Me
Where:  Boushay Road - Silver Peak - Trans-Catalina Trail
When: 0915-1440
Weather:  sunny, clear, lt breeze; temps in low/mid 70s

Distance:  9.3 miles (measured on GPS)
Elevation range: 59 ft (trailhead) - 1708 ft (Silver Peak)

Visitors to the island can access the trailhead by getting a shoreboat to and from Emerald Bay.  There is a campground at Parsons Landing, which is about a mile from Emerald Bay. Check out my "how to get around" post here.  Click here for camping information.

The fun part of today:  new GPS (Garmin GPSmap 60CSx).  The map of the hike is generated using that data.  I am also fiddling with an altitude profile -- look for that in the coming days.

I drove from the house out the West End Road (an adventure in itself) toward Emerald Bay.  The goal was to hike up the Boushay Trail, pick up Silver Peak Trail, drop down toward Starlight Beach, and come back via Parsons Landing on the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT).  A quick look at trail maps indicated it should be around nine miles.

02 May 2011

Calcite Mine Hike

Date:  24 April 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Where:  Calcite Mine, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
When: 1130-1400
Distance:  4.2 miles (from "101 Hikes in Southern California")
Weather:  sunny, clear, windy; temps in low/mid 80s

Do you like sand in your lunch?  Turns out, neither do we.

30 April 2011

Borrego Palms Canyon

Ocotillo in bloom
Date:  23 April 2011
Who hiked:  Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Where:  Borrego Palm Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
When: 1300-1700
Distance:  5.5 miles (according to GPS)
Weather:  sunny, clear, windy; temps in low/mid 80s

The Things had their spring break this week, so we decided to see the desert in the spring.  Our destination?  Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Bolsa Chica #2

GBH at Bolsa Chica

Bad pic of a reddish egret, taken through my binocs
Where: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach
When: 16 March 2011, 0830-1030

I was on the mainland last month and decided to bird at Bolsa Chica.  I walked a similar route to my previous post, so won't go over that again.

The most exciting find was a reddish egret...

20 April 2011

Twelve Months: Twenty-four Hikes

I've been contemplating how to motivate myself to increase my hiking mileage.  I've been reading a lot about how public announcements of resolutions make people more likely to follow through with them.  So here it goes:

Over the next twelve months (April 2011 - April 2012), I will hike 24 times.

That's right, my "spring resolution" is to average two hikes every month. Sounds easy enough.

But then, I remember that I also have to supervise homework for two boys, get both of them to and from Scouts in Avalon, nurture my freelance writing career, continue to pursue a part-time job in science, keep healthy food in our house, make sure we have semi-clean clothes to wear, and not let the Catalina dust bury everything we own.  I have help with this stuff, but still.  It's a tough gig.

So wish me luck and stay tuned for MORE HIKING in 2011-12!!

18 April 2011

Shout it out: "I AM A DAY HIKER!"

Tom Mangan, of Two-Heel Drive, has a great post affirming the value of day hiking.  Check it out at his blog.

I am a day hiker, not a backpacker. For years, I've thought that "backpacker" is what I should aspire to be.  That is "real" hiking.  But over time, I've come to accept that I'm not going to make the transition from hiker to backpacker.  And I'm good with that.

I'm lucky to be a hiker at all.

26 January 2011

Parsons Landing toward Starlight Beach

Date:  23 January 2011
Who hiked:  Hubby and I
Where:  Parsons Landing toward Starlight Beach and back
When: 1120 - 1430
Distance:  5.75 miles (measured on GoogleEarth)
Weather:  sunny and clear, temps in low 70s

View of Parsons Landing from atop the waterfall
On Saturday night, Hubby and I ran into a friend, Mrs. Great Dane, who has a son the same age as Thing1.  She invited both Things to their home (farther out on the west end of Catalina) for Sunday afternoon.  Hubby and I viewed this as a prime opportunity for us to do some hiking together sans Things and took her up on her kind offer.

Sunday morning we motivated the kids to finish their Sunday jobs with the promise of a day with Great Dane boy and their new Great Dane puppy.  It was not a tough sell.  We set out for the West End, along the treacherous West End Road, dropped the Things off at Camp Great Dane, then proceeded to the bargate before Parsons Landing.  Our plan was to hike along the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT) between Parsons Landing and Starlight Beach.  We didn't intend to reach Starlight, though we were curious to see how far we could get before we needed to turn back. 

The trail was very nice, with steep uphill portions at the beginning (and even some switchbacks!) that flatten out after rounding Stony Point.  From here, the trail follows the eastern edge of Catalina with lovely views of the water and the western end of the island. 

Lemonade berry flowers
It is a beautiful time on the island, with lemonadeberry in bloom and toyon in fruit.  There are some wildflowers, but not many yet.

I have blogged about Parsons Landing before and won't belabor that portion of the hike here.  We hiked on the road, taking the fork that leads uphill (away from the beach).  In about 0.6 mi, we reached the Trans Catalina Trail (TCT).  After about 0.4 mi, the trail snakes up the face of the hill and leads to the top of a seasonal waterfall in about 0.5 mi.  The creek bed is a good place to look for amethysts and I found a nice one.  From the top of the waterfall, it's only about 0.2 mi to Stony Point, where the trail flattens out.

View of Black Point from our lunch stop
After Stony Point there are only occasional climbs, most of the walking is nice and flat.  And lovely.  We found a picturesque place for lunch and took a breather.  Then we continued until we were above Black Point (about a mile from Stony Point) where we turned around and retraced our steps.

On our return, we decided to take a side trail that forked off the main trail just beyond the seasonal waterfall.  The trail was obviously less used -- shrubs encroached on the path and grass grew at our feet.  We followed this footpath for about 0.2 mi to a makeshift bridge crossing a stream (complete with running water), and then the trail led us downhill.  There were old timbers of a hunting lodge here, which had been used by pig hunters during the boar eradication program of the 1990s.  

We picked up the road again a short while later, and crossed the TCT in about a quarter mile to continue to the beach at Parsons Landing (a distance of about 0.4 miles).  After a brief stop in the port-a-potty, we walked back to the road via the trail between Parsons Landing (about 0.5 mi) and the road that we had used on our previous hike here.

We are looking forward to hiking this with the Things -- they will really like the flat bits.  Perhaps for an overnight to Starlight Beach?

Birds:  Catalina quail (large coveys), Northern ravens, Red-tailed hawk, Western gulls, Orange-crowned warblers (heard), Spotted towhees (heard), Bewicks wren (heard)