Catalina provides the calm, quiet and the rural contrast to the urban 24/7 hum of the city of Los Angeles. The Ying and Yang of urban versus rural environments, if you will. Catalina is world’s away yet still within the confines of Los Angeles County. In reality the island is only approximately 50 miles away from the extreme contrast of pulsating clubs and the craziness of late night parties on Sunset or Hollywood Blvds.
We conveniently stayed at a friends home in El Segundo (blocks from LAX). LAX is our go to airport for International travel. For airport aficionados – there is a great viewing location on Imperial Blvd (the first street south of the airport) across from the Douglass Family Mortuary near a small park.
We lucked out with the weather – the fog stayed offshore for the most part and even the water was surprisingly warm for this time of year. While this was my 4th trip to the island it was the first which included some exploration from the air! After checking into the Pavilion Hotel (conveniently located on the Avalon harbor front and a few minutes walk from where the ferry docks) – we headed to Pebbly Beach in anticipation of our Helicopter ride on Island Express. This company offers a number of sightseeing trips over the island, transportation to and from Long Beach (only 15 minutes) and in our case, they were going to put us down on a remote part of the island – we were then going to hike up and over the spine of the island and drop down into the small town of Two Harbors.
A thin strand of fog lingered tenaciously in the middle of the ocean between the island and mainland. We floated over Catalina’s dramatic, steep and rugged coastline – you can cover a lot of distance quickly in a helicopter and sadly the short ride was soon over. We dropped from the sky carefully onto Empire Landing, a flat dry patch of ground surrounded by the hills.
There we were met by a local, Natalie Foote who has lived on the island her entire life – in Two Harbors, the only other ‘town’ besides Avalon on Catalina. Two Harbors has a population of around 150 people and one school house. Natalie quickly informed us that this years’ class in Two Harbors had a grand total of 4 people!
Natalie is proud of her island and enthusiastically escorted us on our 3.5 mile hike across the interior. What better person to hike with! She knows the island very well, has good knowledge of it’s flora and fauna. She has already paddle boarded the 20 or so miles to the mainland several times and was getting ready for another paddle board race. As we hiked, we gazed upon fantastic views of the blue sea far below. This time of year everything is dry – much of the landscape is covered with low-lying sage and short cactus.
Buffalo Milk is the “drink of the island” (named after the Bison that live here). Upon arriving into Two Harbors we quickly ordered one of these strong alcoholic drinks and enjoyed the views of the harbor and clear water. Most visitors come here by boat – either personal water craft or on the Catalina Express. Many white buoys are in the harbor – available for boats to tie up to.
Yesterday we were aggressively fighting our way south on the 101, west on the 10, south on the 405 and south on the 110 with thousands of other urbanites. Today we are passively relaxing under the shade of a palm tree on the beach – world’s away, yet realistically only minutes away from hectic Los Angeles (by air) – listening to the waves gently push their way onto the shoreline.
What could be better than this???!