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Trans-Catalina Trail backpacking trip report (February 2015)

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For four days, I hiked the Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) from Avalon to Starlight Beach via the Trans-Catalina Trail and back to Two Harbors via the West End Road, with visits to nearby peaks via side trails.

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My goal for this trip was to test my physical abilities and learn more about myself and my gear. To that end, I constructed an itinerary that covered approximately 15 miles a day on the Trans-Catalina Trail while carrying a typical backpacking load.

The hiking was strenuous, both due to elevation profile and hiking distance and the weather was hot with highs of about 80 F and lows of about 50 F (above average for February). The trail has no tree cover. (I saw evidence of wildfire, so it might have all burned down.) In fact, most of the trail is actually hiking along wide dirt roads made for vehicles. I did like how there is a mile marker at every mile so counting down the trail and keeping an idea of hiking pace is easy to do. (I averaged a slow 2 mph).

All camping is done in designated campgrounds (reservations here). Each campsite has a fire ring, a picnic table, and port-a-potties. Potable water is provided via a spigot in all campgrounds except for Parson’s Landing, where rangers will deliver water to you. Firewood is also delivered to campsites in lockers. Campers pick up a locker key in town the before going to the campground. Critters are very active here so I recommend bringing a hard-sided container (or an Ursack) for food. (I wish the Conservancy provided food lockers.)

All-in-all, I did not enjoy the TCT as much as other backpacking trips I’ve done. The trail was boring, mostly hiking along a gravel road with little vegetation. The road also contributed to the feeling that I wasn’t really getting away from civilization, especially since from most places on the island, I could see either Two Harbors or Avalon. Furthermore, the road is built for 4x4s with diesel engines, so many sections had ridiculously steep up and down grades. I only enjoyed the views after the airport, so the first day was especially boring to me. However, I did enjoy rerouting off trail around a herd of bison.

I like this trail for its length and its safety. Help was never more than a cell phone call away, and bail-out points were everywhere. In that sense, it was a good way to test myself but I don’t think I’d do trail for the views. (I would, however, recommend kayaking and hiking side trails from the boat-in campsites. While I didn’t do this, the views are just as nice and kayaking is easier than backpacking.)

Catalina Island is located off the coast of Los Angeles. The island and its wilderness areas seem to be managed by the Catalina Conservancy, which is a private non-governmental organization. The island has a whole suite of services mostly geared to your typical luxury traveler and weekend outdoors enthusiast, such as gear hauls, shuttle services, fine dining, and luxury hotels.

For some of the resources I used on this hike, see my Pinboard.

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Written by notatypewriter

2015 April 5 at 12:11 am

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