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. 

Click to enlarge elevation profile

This is an easy trailhead for non-residents to get to. You can walk up from Avalon, either by walking up the road out of town or by hiking out of Avalon Canyon on Hermit Gulch trail, then catching the Divide Road. Alternatively, you can take the Wildlands Express, which leaves from downtown Avalon and will drop you off at this trailhead. See my post about Getting Around for more information.

Thing 2 enjoying his rest stop.
We skirted the gate at the trailhead on Airport Road and began walking toward Black Jack and Orizaba. This road is wide and not very steep. We stopped once for Thing 2 to have a rest, something that I think he needed psychologically, but not physically. We continued past the turn off for Black Jack Campground, the road down to Middle Ranch, and the Trans-Catalina Trail toward the Airport.

At the base of the steep part of the climb to the top of Orizaba, there was a gate. A sign on the gate said to keep the gate closed at all times. Since it did not say to stay out, we climbed over and continued on our way up the mountain. The Things were a bit uncertain that we were supposed to do this. We saw two hikers ahead of us on the Mt. Orizaba road, whom we had been following all afternoon, which reassured the boys that climbing over the gate was OK.

This section of the hike is the only steep section -- and it's really steep. But it was over quickly and we arrived at the top around 1045. The view from the top was underwhelming, though we could see Little Harbor and Shark Harbor, Rancho Escondido, and the Airport. In the other direction, we could see some of the fire roads in the hills above Avalon.

View toward Little and Shark Harbor from the top of Mt. Orizaba
We chatted with our fellow hikers, two principals from schools on the mainland, who were reassured that climbing over the gate was OK because they saw that we had done it! They had hiked up from Hermit Gulch Campground in Avalon that morning.

At the top!
We ate a snack, took some pictures, and chatted with our new trail friends. Mount Orizaba is studded with towers and air traffic monitoring equipment. Not very picturesque. Perhaps a day with better visibility would make the scenery more impressive.

Around 1120, we walked back down to Black Jack Campground to have lunch. Black Jack is very peaceful and very different from other campgrounds on the island, being surrounded by pine trees. The Things talked Hubby into pushing them on the tire swing while I snoozed on a bench, soothed by the smell of pine trees and the sounds of Acorn woodpeckers and Chipping sparrows.

Around 1300, we packed up our lunch things and took to the trail. Within about 45 minutes we were back at our truck!

This was a good hike, though none of us thought the views from the top of Mt. Orizaba were all that great. Black Jack is a great place to stop, either for a quickly lunch or to camp overnight (which we've done with Scouts).

Birds: Say's phoebe, Northern raven, Northern mockingbird, House finch, Barn swallow, Acorn woodpecker, Bewick's wren, Western meadowlark, California quail, unidentified hummingbird, Chipping sparrow, Spotted towhee


  1. Lori - you and Bill lead an exciting life. I enjoyed reading your blog about the latest hike and will go back and read the other ones. Hope everyone is well. We're still sweltering in the high 90's -- it's going to be 100 this weekend, yesterday was 101. Having a real summer! When will you go to Illinois again?
    Aunt Bev

  2. Thanks Lori! I'm gonna make it out to Catalina at least once this year. And do a hike. And hopefully catch up with you all!!! Cheers


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