Catalina Getaway

In addition to the Huntington Gardens, another great place to take visitors (or if you need a local getaway) is Catalina! The beautiful island is just an hour ride away, but it feels worlds away. Leave the smog behind and just relax at the fun beach town of Avalon. We recently took our parents visiting from out of town here, and had a great time.

For our Catalina getaway, we took the Catalina Express out of the Port of San Pedro. I’ve used them before and it’s an excellent line. They have parking (for a fee) and it’s not too far outside of Los Angeles. We also tend to take the ferry out early, which means avoiding rush hour traffic. This ferry just redid it’s offices and is now very luxurious, with clean bathrooms and food options. I highly recommend this company.

Anticipation building, as we get closer to our arrival.

Arriving at paradise.

Catalina has strict rules, making it difficult to bring a car out to the island. Golf carts are their form of transportation and you can rent them on the island. We didn’t really find this necessary, as we stayed within Avalon (the biggest town) the entire time.

The Pier.

This is a popular cruise ship stopping point, but that’s not why I included this picture. See that parasailing person high above the ship? That was us about two hours after this photo was taken. We got a good groupon deal for parasailing and our parents agreed. I don’t have photos from the boat (as I was worried about splashing and ruining my camera). But yes, this was my second time parasailing and my parents first time. We all really enjoyed it.

This reminds me so much of Hawaii. When packing for your trip to Catalina, be sure to include beach stuff, as well as water shoes (or at least flip flops) because the beaches are rocky. My feet were aching. We brought our own snorkeling gear and got to see many colorful and large fish. There are places to rent gear if you don’t already own the gear.

It’s hard to believe this paradise is only an hour ferry ride away!

It’s time to head back to Los Angeles, as our day-getaway came to an end.

Bye, bye Catalina!

This last photo was taken as we reached San Pedro. I find these vessels so fascinating. Each of those colorful boxes, when off loaded, becomes a giant truck. The coordination in must take to move and track each of these shipments is mind boggling to me. I really could spend all day watching how these companies work.

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Catalina Recap

I promised to tell you about my weekend adventure and so here it is. Friday night I hit up Tony’s with my good friend Lindsey. The bartender recognizes me because a)I go there a lot b)We have the same last name (hint: the answer is both). We make it an early night because I still have to pack and buy food for camping the next day.

5am the next morning, my alarm goes off. I pack like a crazy person and leave to pick up my sister 6am, so we can be in San Pedro at 7am. We leave for Two Harbors (Catalina) at 8:30, on the most vomit inducing boat ride I’ve taken in a while. I manage to keep everything down, and I’m one of the lucky ones. The weather was beautiful, perfect mix of warm sun and cool breeze. I bump into a friend I met while on a rafting trip over a year ago. He and I are facebook friends and every weekend he fills his time with adventures. He is one of the most inspiring people I know. He makes me feel so lazy, and makes me want to do more of everything. Basically, him being with me on the ferry confirmed that this was going to be a hard, fun, adventure.

We stop and grab a bit to eat at the only restaurant in town and then we hit the trails. Our backpacks are heavy and weigh us down, but that’s part of the challenge. We do 30 minutes uphill (my sister manning the map) before I realize something is wrong, and we should be heading in a different direction. Sure enough, we’ve been on the wrong trail and we have to go back into town. We find the right trail, and at this point it’s 1pm. We are exhausted from the steep wrong trail, and now we have to not only start the right trail but also do it faster if we want to get there at a decent hour. The hike begin so steep. Everytime we turn a corner or reach the top of a hill, we are met with another even steeper hill. The first 2 hours was the hardest, climbing higher and higher. We bump into a couple who warn us of several buffalo playing on the trail ahead. We never ended up seeing the Buffalo, but they had to be close because so many people saw them.

We finish the hike and end up at Little Harbor which is so beautiful and hidden. There is something so amazing about all of your belongings sitting on your back. You just feel so connected to the earth not needing any luxuries. When we set up camp (at a super private giant waterfront campsite all to ourselves) we realize the tent we borrowed from friends is missing the stakes. This type of tent relies on the tension from the stakes to stay up, which means we’ve been carrying a useless piece of fabric around with us all day. My sister improvises and finds some dried wooden husks. I find a rock with a flat side to use as a hammer, and then we both start digging holes for our fake stakes. It works, and we are in business.

After setting up the site, we explore the different connecting coves. We see cliff divers and giant crashing waves. It felt like being in Santorini again. Something magical about it. At sunset, all of the other campers come to the highest cliffs and watch the sun drop into the ocean. We head back to camp and decide to start out fire. We brought a box of matches and firewood and we FAILED miserably. No one can ever accuse me ¬†commiting arson, because I can’t even get wood to take a flame! Erica and I tried everything, but the sunset dew had coated the wood and without any lighter fluid or kindling, we were useless. We ended up lighting a marshmellow on fire and sharing the saddest s’more ever. The darker it got the colder it got so we decided to slip into our tiny tent. We ended up laughing and joking until we both fell asleep.

The next morning we got up to explore some more. The bus to pick us up and drive us to the Catalina Airport and then on to Avalon was coming at 12:30p. We hop on the old school bus that comes to get us (please note we reserved the ferry ride, campsite, firewood, and bus ride ahead of time) and we live out a terrifying 15 minutes driving to the airport. It’s all uphill on unpaved barely existing roads. There are buffalo all along the way. I can not stress this enough: TAKE THIS BUS. It’s $30, but worth every penny to not carry all your gear up so many miles of uphill madness. Once at the airport we have time to explore before the next shuttle. I actually got pretty close to the planes that they have sitting out (all tiny of course). We take the shuttle to Avalon where suddenly society comes back. Up until now the only people you see are extreme hikers. No real civilization.. you just feel so removed from real life.

Once in Avalon we have only an hour to drop our bags by the docks and head to the parasailing shop. I bought a group-on a while back, so for $60 Erica and I both parasailed together. After skydiving, this was nothing. In fact there was nothing really scary about it. The beautiful views, fun boat ride, and experience of parasailing was all incredible, and only $30 (each)! Get this group-on if it ever comes up again. You won’t regret it.

After parasailing, we treat ourselves to Buffalo’s Milk (a cocktail), chips and guacamole, and a mexican dish while looking out at the water. Great food and a good price. It just felt good not to eat snacks.

We caught the 7pm ferry back home. And like that our trip was done. Oh and I can’t forget to mention the awesome couple I met on the boat ride back. I picked a seat in the splash zone of the boat in front of this couple. They ¬†had three generations with them and said this was their first time back to Catalina in over 20 years. Such kind sweet people. They made me feel really good about life.

So just like that, the trip was done. I was home showering and colapsing on my bed. Other than the false-start and the fact that I can not start a camp fire for the life of me, it was definitely a success. Erica and I had a blast. Go to Catalina. Ferry’s offer special birthday deals and this time of year is off season but still great weather, so you get the beautiful trip without the high cost.