03 April 2012

Cat Harbor Overlook

Nuts and Bolts:
Date: 1 April 2012
Who Hiked: Me, Hubby, Things 1 and 2
Route: Trans-Catalina Trail to Cat Harbor Overlook Road
Time: ~1330 - 1530
Weather: sunny and very windy
Distance: 3.9 miles

Elevation Range: 0 - 955 ft, 1452 ft total ascent
Profile coming -- still working the bugs out of the new computer.

This hike is a good out-and-back route for people staying in Two Harbors. The view from the top is phenomenal -- you can see much of the middle and western portion of Catalina. On days with decent visibility, you can see San Clemente Island and (if it's really clear) San Nicolas Island.

Take the Trans-Catalina Trail (the old Banning House Road) uphill more or less the entire way to the Cat Harbor Overlook road. The TCT is steep and steeper, but Cat Harbor Overlook road rolls up-and-down along the ridge. Soon you'll find yourself enjoying the views rather than thinking about the climbs. At the end of the Overlook road, there's a flat area to relax and enjoy the view of Cat Harbor and the back side of the island.

27 March 2012

WMSC Nature Trail

Bird Rock
I have hiked this trail a number of times over the last several years, but have never written a blog entry for it. There are plenty of things to see on this short hike (less than a mile). In particular, this hike is special because (1) it has switchbacks, (2) it gives you a great view of Isthmus Cove, the Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC), and Empire Landing, and (3) it is an awesome place to see wildflowers in the winter and spring.

21 March 2012

A Struggle between Conservation, Education, and Recreation

I just read this story in the LA Times about conflicts between science and tourism on Catalina.

The mission statement of the Conservancy is "to be a responsible steward of our lands through a balance of conservation, education, and recreation." It's a great mission statement until you start defining the word "balance" -- are all three prongs of the mission statement equal? Or are some more important than others?

That's what is driving the current war of words between biologists and other Conservancy management. Biologists like Carlos de la Rosa, who until recently was the Chief Conservation Officer for the Conservancy, believe that the organization is neglecting part of its mission (conservation and education) in favor of recreation. The Conservancy recently announced a 20-year plan that centers on increasing tourism opportunities in Avalon.

If done well, investments in recreation should provide a profit for the Conservancy. Ostensibly these profits are then rolled into conservation and education efforts, but researchers living at the Conservancy headquarters in Middle Ranch are not convinced they'll see a big payoff from efforts to boost tourism in Avalon.

I think the Conservancy has "Zip-line envy".  The Zip-Line Ecotour in Avalon has been wildly successful, turning a profit much sooner than the Santa Catalina Island Company had expected. I haven't taken the tour yet, so I reserve judgement on how "eco" the tour actually is.

Regardless of the educational value of the zip-line, it is commercially successful and I think that the Conservancy is wondering how to get some of that action. Time will tell if this bias is temporary or permanent and if conservation and education reap the benefits of the Conservancy's current focus on recreation.

Flip-Flops and Foster's

I am routinely surprised by the unprepared people I meet on the trail. I'm probably over-prepared for hiking, with extra water, a small first-aid kit, hiking shoes, and a map of where I'm hiking. But I've made the mistake of being under-prepared for hiking (Grand Canyon, 1997) and I'm not making that mistake again.

To illustrate my point:

On our recent hike from the Airport to Two Harbors on the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT), Thing 1 and I met up with a couple who had hiked into Little Harbor from Two Harbors. They looked to be about my age and mentioned that they had been visiting the island for years. They were very nice folks, but I had to roll my eyes when I saw that she was shod in flip-flops and he was killing off a big oilcan of Foster's beer.

Realize this: she walked 11 miles in flip-flops that day. Were they really so comfortable after 11 miles? Wouldn't shoes with, say, arch support have felt better?  Or perhaps shoes with captured heels? I talked to her on the trail a bit -- she told me that her feet were slipping out of her "shoes" as she was climbing the very steep ridge out of Little Harbor. She was lucky that was all that happened.  I've seen some gnarly injuries on the feet of people wearing flip-flops in the field: bloody scrapes, nasty gashes, gruesome toe injuries... Flip-flops: OK for around town, bad for the trail.

I met them as they puzzled over the hiking map posted in the Little Harbor campground. I gathered that they'd started on the TCT from Two Harbors to Little Harbor and got side-tracked onto the road between Two Harbors and Little Harbor. They were wondering how to find the trailhead for the TCT to take it back to Two Harbors. Clearly, they didn't have a map with them. Not a deadly mistake between Two Harbors and Little Harbor, but not a good idea either.

That he thought Foster's beer was appropriate hydration for a 10+ mile hike also blew my mind.

Nice people, but no map and stupid shoes? Doesn't add up to an enjoyable or safe hike to me.

17 March 2012

Trans-Catalina Trail: Airport to Two Harbors

A beautiful Catalina day!
Nuts and Bolts:
Date: 10 March 2012
Who Hiked: Thing 1 and me
Route: Trans-Catalina Trail: Airport to Two Harbors Time: 0945 - 1515 hr
Weather: sunny and warm (low 70s)
Distance: 10.X mi (measured on GPS)

I'll post the elevation profile and accurate distance soon -- the computer I use to download those data from my GPS unit is being rebuilt (get back to work on that Hubby!).

The trail descends from the Airport to Little Harbor over a distance of 5 miles. For the most part, the grade is gentle, with only a few steep sections. The trail to Two Harbors climbs steeply out of Little Harbor, with flattish sections interspersed with thigh-burning uphill sections. About 1.8 miles out of Two Harbors, you begin the steep descent into town.

My Trans-Catalina Trail Plan

I have been planning to through-hike the Trans-Catalina Trail this spring.  A combination of factors have convinced me that I'm better off hiking it in sections. 

(1) I don't have a three-day period to tackle the trek. 

(2) I could hike 1/3 of the trail in one day (between 12 and 15 miles), but I wouldn't be able to move the next morning. Yes, I know that I could train for the hike, but given my sporadic hiking schedule this spring, I'd never get around to it.  

So, I'm dividing the TCT into sections and tackling each separately. I plan to split it into four pieces:  
  • The East End (the Renton Mine section near Avalon);
  • Avalon to the Airport;
  • the Airport to Two Harbors; and
  • Two Harbors to Starlight Beach.  

I doubt that I'll finish them in that order or in those directions, but look for them here over the next six weeks or so!

02 March 2012

Ben Weston Beach Overlook

View of Catalina Harbor in the distance
Ben Weston Beach is to the right
This hike features great views of the backside of Catalina Island and of Ben Weston Canyon and Beach. The first section, to Camp Cactus, is fairly easy but the rest is more difficult. On the whole, I would grade this as a moderately difficult hike.

28 February 2012

Hermit Gulch Trail (the Cub Scout version)

Date: 18 February 2012
Who Hiked: Me, Hubby, Thing 2, and two other Cub Scouts
Route: Hermit Gulch Trail (out and back)
Time: afternoon -- didn't much keep track of time
Weather: sunny, clear, warm (70s)
Distance: probably a bit less than 2 miles roundtrip

Did you know that California public schools celebrate both Lincoln's birthday and President's Day?  Isn't the point of President's Day to roll the whole Lincoln/Washington thing into having one holiday rather than stealing two days from the shortest month of the year?

I vote that we convert Lincoln's birthday to "Darwin Day" -- they were born on the same date after all (yes -- day, month, and year) and then I won't be so annoyed by the whole thing and the kids will still be happy with their two days off during February.

What does this have to do with hiking?  Yeah, I'm getting to that...

Bolsa Chica V

Date:  10 February 2012
When: 0745 - 1100
Where:  Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Huntington Beach

As I've said a number of times on this blog, I love to bird at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. I was there earlier in February and had a banner day...  

Today I parked in the lot off of Warner Avenue and hiked about 3.8 miles along the tidal marsh and then along the canal. I've included a map below.

Two of the best things about this foray into Bolsa Chica was meeting Ramon, a wildlife photographer, and Steve, a docent with the Bolsa Chica Conservancy. Ramon showed me some lovely pictures of a loggerhead shrike and great action shots of American kestrels mating and Steve was a great source of information about where to find birds and other animals on the Conservancy lands. Thanks very much to both of you!

The highlights:
  • a Cinnamon teal! All by itself in the canal, just hanging out.   
  • a Loggerhead shrike perched on the chain-link fence between Bolsa Chica and the adjacent land.
  • A flock of American coots, foraging and loafing in the grass near the Warner Avenue visitor's center.  Coots are common at Bolsa Chica, but this was the first time I'd seen a large flock on land.
  • A Black-chinned hummingbird - a new species for my life list!
  • Some interesting omissions:  Western gull, for example. I don't have it on the list, but I've rarely gone to Bolsa Chica and not seen one...  but I'll trust the list I made in the field...