Sunday, April 9, 2017

Trans Catalina Trail- The Walk Out

Even though we were officially done with the Trans Catalina Trail, we still had to walk back to Two Harbors to catch our bus to Avalon in order to catch the ferry.  Phew!  This time of year, ferries don't run out of Two Harbors on Tuesdays so that's why we had all the travel legs to get back to Avalon.  We had 7 miles to walk from Parson's Landing to Two Harbors.  Thank goodness we had the option of taking the flat dirt jeep road along the ocean instead back up the steep trail we came from! 

We started walking early at 6am because the bus left Two Harbors at 10:30am and with all the mileage misinformation, we were unsure of the actual mileage.  Better to be early and get a coffee and food than be late and miss the bus! 

We had some nice cloud cover along the walk and how refreshing to walk on flat ground!  It was just an old dirt jeep road that wound it's way along the coastline.  Little coves with fancy private resorts and homes dotted the way.  It felt like we had a pretty fast pace compared to what we had been doing; eager to get back. 

We rolled into Two Harbors at about 9:30am, well ahead of the bus departure.  I immediately thought breakfast sounded good so I got eggs, sausage, potatoes, toast and coffee.  Hungry!  We hung around and availed ourselves of the public flushing toilets and soap a few times. 

We loaded into the "bus" which was actually a van.  I was a little surprised because they call it a "Safari Bus" so I expected one of those open air jeep things that you see at the Wild Animal Park.  In any case, we were happy to have made it onto the bus.  We changed vehicles in Little Harbor and then proceeded on to Avalon.  We saw a big herd of buffalo en route and it was nice to see them at a distance.  They are very big and scary looking.  I am definitely glad we didn't encounter one on the trail up close and personal!

Then we were in Avalon with teaming masses of people.  It looked like a cruise ship had just unleashed their passengers, coupled with spring breakers, and it was chaos.  We had about 3 hours to kill before our ferry so the first order of business was food, of course.  I ate a nice breakfast in Two Harbors but I could always eat again!  We walked into the first place we saw which was a Mexican joint called Coyote Joes.  Baaaad idea.  We had a very mean waitress and the food sucked!  The cheese in my enchilada wasn't even melted and had no flavor but I ate the whole thing anyway.  They got Jacki's order wrong, giving her fish tacos instead of fish and chips so she sent it back.  Then the fish and chips were totally gross so she didn't eat any of it.  They ended up not charging her but they did charge her 50 cents for ice.  I don't recommend it- stay away!  It looked like there were plenty of other good places to eat there.

So then we walked around a bit, got a delicious ice cream cone, and made our way out of the fray to the dock to await the ferry.

One and done on this hike.  I don't think I will go back to Catalina unless it's something my husband wants to see.  I like a more remote experience for backpacking.  It was also one of the most expensive backpacks I've done with all the fees for campgrounds, water, bus, ferry, etc.  I'm glad I did it though.  It's truly beautiful.

Photos can be found on my Instagram @tinahikes

Author of Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491443809&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain
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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Trans Catalina Trail Thru Hike Day 5

Disclaimer: Please don't rely on the mileages I put in this blog for Catalina.  The information we had was inaccurate. 

On Day 5, we had 4.5 miles to go to complete the official Trans Catalina Trail which ends at Starlight Beach.  We were doing a round trip from Parson's Landing so total for the day was 9 miles (supposedly). 

My intention for the day was to walk as slow as possible.  And I did.  We had a steep climb out of Parson's Landing but once we got to the top, the terrain evened out with little bumps and rolls.  The landscape was lush and green and flowers were blooming everywhere.  The trail (dirt jeep road) ran along the ridgeline of the coast the entire way so we had spectacular views of the little coves and harbors that dotted the way.  I savored every moment and thoroughly enjoyed myself. 

The climb down to Starlight Beach was very steep and then a rock scramble down to the beach itself.  We got down to the beach in time sit a bit and eat lunch before the tide started coming in.  Trail completed!  Another awesome thru hike in the books!  Hugs and high fives all round!

The tide started coming in so we scrambled back up and started the long ascent back up to the ridgeline.  We were keeping a nice slow easy pace and all of a sudden Jacki calls out "Rattlesnake!" She was up on it and it rattled it's tail which I guess is unusual for a Catalina rattler.  Apparently they strike without rattling a warning first!  We all held off a few minutes while the snake slithered off into the grass and then we gingerly carried on.

We took a little side trail called Old West Rd (if I remember correctly), which wasn't on any maps and we only knew about it through other hiker's word of mouth.  It was very scenic and worth it.  Plus I think it may have shaved some time/mileage off our walk ;-)

We made it back to Parson's Landing by 3pm and were able to enjoy the beach some more and relax.  What a great day!

Day 6..........The Walk Out.......


Photos can be found on my Instagram @tinahikes

Author of Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491443809&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain
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Friday, April 7, 2017

Trans Catalina Trail Thru Hike Day 4

Disclaimer: Please don't rely on the mileages I put in this blog for Catalina.  The information we had was inaccurate. 

We woke up to heavy condensation on Day 4.  Everything was wet or damp.  I shoved my tent into it's bag with plans to pull it out at lunch to dry it out.  We had about 7 miles to go (theoretically) to get to Parson's Landing.  My biggest fear at that point was lack of water.  We had to pay $20 for 2.5 gallons of water each and the way misinformation was flowing, I envisioned getting to Parson's and not having water.  It's a primitive location with no fresh water so Rangers put water in lockers that you need a key to access.  We would be at Parson's for two nights.

The climb out of Two Harbors was very steep and very humid.  Slow and steady was the order for the day.  We had a lunch break where we dried out our tents. Thankful we did because we would be camping on sand at Parson's and that would have been messy.  The trail sort of leveled out with little ups and downs and, as always, the views were breathtaking.  We were above the marine layer.  Looking back at the Island we had already hiked was pretty awe inspiring.

We came to the  Parson's Landing junction and headed down a steep slope.  Toe and knee busting! Slip sliding all the way down and trying not the fall. We made it into Parson's by 2pm and located the water.  Joy!  Water was in our lockers!  We also got a bundle of firewood each which was a nice treat.

Our campsite was right on the beach. So cool!  We had the afternoon to play and walk around the beach.  It was a peaceful, relaxing time.  We had a fire in the evening to gaze at with the ocean making a beautiful back-drop.

For dinner, I had shepherd's pie by a new company called Nomad Nutrition.  They make paleo fare.  It was SO good and the perfect comfort food.  Very savory and flavorful.  I will definitely be using them again.

Having only two hours of sleep the night before, I was ready to go to bed earlier than usual.  I knocked out within a few minutes of laying my head down with the sound of ocean breaks rolling in the background.

Day 5 destination.....Starlight Beach...The completion of the official trail.............

Photos can be found on my Instagram @tinahikes

Author of Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491443809&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain
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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trans Catalina Trail Thu Hike Day 3

Disclaimer: Please don't rely on the mileages I put in this blog for Catalina.  The information we had was inaccurate. 

We took our time getting up and going on Day 3.  We had "only" about 5.5 miles to go (plus or minus; who knows) from Little Harbor to Two Harbors.  We had a long arduous climb out of Little Harbor, with sections so steep it was hard to keep from tipping backwards at times.  The trail traveled along the ridge of the coastline the majority of the way so we saw sweeping vistas of green cliffs, rocky drop-offs, and ocean views. It was fabulous! 

We knew we were getting closer to Two Harbors the more people we saw.  Many day  hikers passed us by. It was amazing how many didn't have gear or water and thought they were going to hike to Little Harbor and back.  I didn't personally think that was smart or doable but maybe they had skills I didn't know about.  We passed many people on the final stretch into Two Harbors.  One guy asked me if I had seen any werewolves.  LOL!!

Two Harbors is a really pretty beach front town.  I use the word "town" loosely because it's just a couple of streets, a visitor's center, restaurant and general store.  Much nicer vibe than Avalon, in my opinion.  We had business to tend to in Two Harbors so we went to the visitor's center first.  We needed our locker keys for our water at Parson's Landing for the following two nights, we needed a better map, and we needed to get our safari bus tickets printed for our return in a few days.  Micah was very helpful answering our barrage of questions. 

We availed ourselves of the public flushing toilets and then next stop- FOOD! 
Must. Have. Hamburger. Now.  The little restaurant was hoppin' and I patiently waited for my hamburger.  After everyone around me had already eaten their food, the kitchen finally realized they had lost my order- soooooo..... more waiting.  They hooked me up with some onion rings though so the world was right again.

Onward to Two Harbors campground we walked.  The harbor was picture perfect and had a very tropical feel.  We found our campsite and it was right on the bluff overlooking the ocean.  The problem was that the site wasn't big enough for three tents and the winds were high on the edge.  We got on the horn to the visitor's center and our buddy, Micah, put us into a bigger site up the hill.  Thanks, Micah!  This campground had a cold water shower so we partook in a refreshing rinse-off.

As we were relaxing, getting ready to cook food, a group of Boy Scouts started filing into our area.  There was a site just past us that they set up in.  As they streamed past, I exclaimed "Holy  Hell!"  There were easily  20 people in that group.  They ended up being exceedingly polite and quiet so Crisis Averted! 

There was a tent directly across from us with no one around and I thought wouldn't that be crappy if those people showed up at 10pm and hung around the fire?  Guess what happened?  Yep, they rolled in about 10:30pm.  They didn't start up a fire but they sat out there and talked until at least 1:30am.  They were high or something because their conversation was weird.  There was another large group above us that had screaming kids.  So that campground was not my favorite because I only got about 2 hours of sleep and was a grouchy bitch the next morning.

Next day's destination - Parson's Landing....

Photos can be found on my Instagram @tinahikes

Author of Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491443809&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain
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Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Trans Catalina Trail Thru Hike Day 1 & 2

Catalina Island is about 22 miles off the coast of southern California.  As for the length of the actual trail, there are differing reports.  As far as I can tell, the actual trail is theoretically 37 miles; then add another 4.5 (Starlight Beach to Parson's Landing) and then another 7 miles for the road walk from Parson's Landing back to Two Harbors. I think it was probably somewhere between 45 and 50 miles all together. We received conflicting information from rangers, maps and signs so don't take anything I say here as the gospel truth. 

Nancy, Jacki and I took the ferry out of Long Beach and arrived in Avalon late in the day.  Avalon is a bustling little tourist town that is jam packed with people and golf carts.  On Catalina, you must stay in designated camp areas, so our first stop was the Hermit Gulch campground a couple of miles outside of Avalon. We had a super crappy spot but Jacki sweet-talked the ranger into giving us a better spot and he pointed out the trailhead for us.  We asked him quite a few questions to get our facts straight because we were already noticing discrepancies in our information.

We got our camp set up and then sat around relaxing.  The weather was perfect and mosquitos minimal.

The next morning we needed to start early because we figured we had about 16 miles to go from Hermit Gulch to Little Harbor.  I think we ended closer to 18 miles.  Pre-dawn we started climbing.  This trail is essentially straight up and down without switchbacks with significant elevation gain and loss.  It's quite challenging and I didn't give it enough credit going into it. 

With all the rain we've had in the past couple of months, Catalina was lush and green.  The weather was perfect with a nice breeze.  Sometimes we had really humid pockets and that made for hotter hiking but not too bad.  The flowers were popping and the landscape was absolutely gorgeous. We cruised along at a great pace, keeping an eye out for bison.  There is a herd of bison that roam Catalina and they can be temperamental. A hiker was gored just a few days before we started hiking.  We made it to a deserted Black Jack campground without incident and had lunch there. 

We were feeling good after Black Jack and making good time when things went awry.  We missed a turn near the Cottonwood Trail Junction based on some info the ranger had given us the night before.  We continued down a side jeep trail instead.  Jacki had her phone out and kept telling us that we were off track and I kept saying that we were on the right track and to keep going.  Silly me.  We hit Airport Road and realized we needed to walk 2 additional miles straight up to the airport on a paved road.  I was SO pissed at myself. UGH! I heard a car coming and threw my thumb out to hitchhike without even thinking about it.  Jacki threw her thumb out as well and we got a ride.  We totally lucked out with super nice people who had been coming to Catalina for 40 years.  They drove us up to the airport and crisis averted!  Several rangers gave us conflicting information on where to hook back into the trail.  We needed to get on a path called Sheep Chute to get to Little Harbor.  We took the Airport Loop Trail to get onto Sheep Chute and then it was literally all downhill from there.  Later we found out there were several hikers who had made the same mistake on that jeep road.  SHEESH!

It was all worth it when we saw the first views of Little Harbor.  So beautiful!  The water was so clear and aqua blue.  Our campsite was right on the beach front. We couldn't have asked for a better day when things could have gone so very wrong. 

Foxes are abundant on the island and we had a "fox" locker for our food at this campsite, much like a bear locker.  There were a few nights that I could hear an animal breathing outside my tent and I'm pretty sure it was a fox.  The Catalina Island Fox is unique in that it doesn't live anywhere else in the world but on this island.

We had a nice relaxing evening watching the ocean and sunset and then hit the hay early because we were toast.

Next day's destination - Two Harbors....

Photos can be found on my Instagram @tinahikes

Author of Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656089/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1491443809&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain
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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Rabbit Peak Part Tres

At last, on my third attempt, I bagged Rabbit Peak!! Wow, that was so hard!

Ingrid and I headed out to the Anza Borrego Desert after work on a Thursday night.  We were geared up to night hike a couple miles across the desert floor and set-up to start climbing early the next morning.  It was a full moon and we had no problems navigating around the edge of The Lute (a long narrow land formation).  We camped in a wash and Ingrid cowboy camped but I was too nervous about scorpions and tarantulas so I set up my tent. 

Our previous two attempts at this gnarly climb ended in turning back because 1) we didn't bring enough water, and 2) we told loved ones we'd be back at a certain time and we realized we weren't going to make that time so we turned back rather than create a panic.

This is one of the hardest hikes in southern California with an 8300 foot elevation gain over 21 miles.  Much of it is trying to navigate over unforgiving desert terrain.  It was not a hike we were looking forward to but it was one we needed to conquer to get it off our minds.  Thank God we finally did it because I don't think I could go back out there again!

Friday morning we started the climb.  It was hotter than the hinges of Hades on the side of that mountain.  We had a heavy water carry since there's no water out there.  I had 9 liters and Ingrid had 7.  We picked our way up and just kept a steady step, step, breathe, pace.  The landscape was just rocks and various forms of cacti.  Too early for blooming yet but starkly beautiful, nonetheless. 

I had planned to cache some water at a certain point but when we got there, I decided against it because I was sucking down the water like nobody's business and was worried I wasn't going to have enough. Thank goodness I made that decision because I ended up drinking 4 of my 9 liters on the first day.  Ingrid cached 1 liter but she doesn't drink much.

We made it to Villager Peak by 5pm, our destination for Friday night.  Rabbit Peak sits only 3.5 miles from Villager but it would take us all day to make the 7 mile round trip the next day.  There was a storm rolling in from the west and the winds were high and cold.  I didn't sleep at all that night because the wind was blowing my tent all around. 

I went stoveless for the first time to save weight.  It worked out well but there's something to be said for a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a hot meal at night after a long day of hard work.  I had instant grits which rehydrated nicely without heat and tuna for dinners, salami and cheese for lunches, and bars for breakfast.  I still had my coffee but it was cold.  I mixed my Via packets with a packet of hot chocolate, dehydrated milk, and protein powder and it was like my own little iced mocha.  Snacks were dried fruit, nuts, bars, and girl scout cookies :-)  Samoas to be exact.

We rose early on Saturday morning to make our attempt at Rabbit Peak.  I laid in my tent for a few minutes with negative thoughts swirling in my head.  Do I REALLY need to bag Rabbit?  What am I trying to prove?  Can't we just go back down and get a hamburger?  That didn't last long though because I sure as hell didn't want to come back out here again and I knew that I would never stop thinking about it. 

The terrain between Villager and Rabbit is one false peak after another.  And it's really more mountain climbing and rock scrambling than any sane hike.  We had some high winds and the fog rolled in the higher we hiked.  The views out over the Borrego Badlands to the west and the  Salton Sea to the east were breathtaking. 

Finally we made it to the final ascent to Rabbit.  Looking up, it was hard to tell what was in store because it was shrouded in fog.  We could see the definite flat plateau that marked the top but really no clue what was between here and there.  I don't know the grade on this portion but it was friggin' steep.  Straight up boulder crawling.  Really scary.  I didn't track how long it took to do this section - I was just climbing and that was all.  So close and yet so far away.

When we finally crested the top and walked out into that flat meadow with pinyon trees dotted about, I let out a Whoop!  MADE IT!  So happy we made it!  Third time's a charm!

We ate lunch and didn't hang around for long because it was cold.  The fog had us socked in so we really couldn't see much of the view.  So what goes up, must come down.  In many ways, going down is scarier than up because you see what you traversed at a different angle.  Going back down, we were blown away at certain points, exclaiming out loud how we couldn't believe we climbed up that thing!  Steep drop-offs, crumbling and eroded terrain, narrow strips of trail with drop-off on both sides, loose scree and rocks.  I fell twice coming down.  Not bad ones, just feet slipping out and sitting down on my butt.  I had a few run-ins with the agave cacti as well.  Trying to go to the bathroom and sat right into one and stabbed both my butt cheeks.  OUCH!  Another time I was staggering around trying to get my balance in some loose rocks and I fell into one and drew blood on my hands and knees. I was able to catch myself so I didn't get totally impaled.  My knee swelled up though.

We made it back to Villager Peak about 5pm and fell straight into our sleeping bags.  So tired!  There had been talk of hiking all the way back out in the dark but that plan was aborted when we reached Villager and realized how toasted we were.  Ingrid made me the most delicious cup of hot chocolate that really hit the spot (since I was stoveless). 

Sunday morning we packed up our gear and started the hike back out.  We had high winds again and things got super sketchy in certain drop-off areas with the wind blowing us around.  I was so ready to be done and off that mountain.  I started getting excited when I could see the Lute on the distant desert floor.  It kept getting bigger and bigger and then finally we were rounding its corner and  I could see my truck glinting in the distance.  The walk across the desert floor seemed to take forever but finally I was kissing the hood of my truck.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!  Now I don't ever have to think about Rabbit Peak again!

Then we went and got a hamburger, of course! 

My pictures can be found on Instagram under Tina Hikes. 

PS: My new children's book Lola Hikes the Icy  Mountain can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Lola-Hikes-Mountain-Tina-Fernando/dp/1524656097/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1488145335&sr=8-1&keywords=lola+hikes+the+icy+mountain

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Lola Hikes the Icy Mountain

My children's book has been published!  Woot woot!  So exciting!  Ebook, paperback and hard cover copies available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble! 

If you don't know the back story to this book, here it is:

Last summer I thru-hiked the Wonderland Trail, which is a 93 mile trail around Mt. Rainier.  I hiked on behalf of the American Diabetes Association and raised a couple grand for that cause.  I have several relatives with diabetes, including myself.  I consider myself to be a Diabetic Athlete.  When I completed the trail, I called home to check in, and my 3-year old grandson, Little Kahuna, got on the phone and asked, "Lola, are you hiking the icy mountain?"  My grandkids call me Lola instead of Grandma.  Anyway, his question sparked something in me and I knew I had to write a book for him with that as the title.  And here we are!  He is a source of constant joy and inspiration and this book is dedicated to him. 

Amazon:
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