Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 1

The alarm went off at 6 am just like a regular workday. I took my time getting ready. Since I stayed in town I could also enjoy a nice hot breakfast before heading out. Pancakes, two eggs, and black coffee hit the spot. I went back to the room and gathered my gear. The hotel gave me a $20 voucher which I used at their Bistro to get another coffee and their “All-Day” lunch kit. I repacked it into my pack and set off. My TCT hike had begun!

For now, the skies were overcast and it was very muggy as well. My shirt was quickly becoming damp but I would take that over a blazing sun any day. I passed through Hermit Gulch and began the first climb of the day. While the Trans-Catalina Trail is only 40 miles long, you have to climb over 9,000 feet along the way. The first climb would take me basically from sea level up to to just over 1,500 feet in 3 miles. 

Along the way, I would stop and turn around and enjoy the view of Avalon and the cruise ship that arrived. As I neared the end of the climb, the sun was starting to burn through the marine layer. At one of the shade shelters along the TCT, I switched into my sunglasses and had a good drink, and continued on. The trail would rise and fall as I kept working my way toward Blackjack campground.

As I approached the small reservoir, a large male bison was working its way down the trail I needed to take. I stopped a safe distance away and grabbed some photos. I then waited, hoping he was heading down to the water for a drink. Thankfully he was, and then I hustled up a section in case he changed his mind.

The TCT would flip flop from single-track to some road walking. I saw some traffic at times, none passed me while I was on the road. At each bench, I stopped and took a well-earned break, knowing I had over a 10-mile day with a full pack. I grabbed a snack and a good drink, saving my “All-day” lunch for when I arrived at the campground.

At mile 9, I took an extended break at the shade shelter. There was one more descent, then the final push into the campground. I plodded up the trail, praying for a switchback. Alas, it was just a straight-up assault on my legs. When I spied the campground in the distance a little spring came back into my step. I found my spot and sat down at the picnic table, and slowly ate my lunch. Once I had some energy, I set up camp. Afterward, I spent some time chatting with a couple from the next spot over. I grabbed a short nap in my tent, and then I decided to see if I might be able to hike out to Mount Orizaba, the high point on the island, but the road to the summit was gated and locked, and I did not feel proper hopping over the barbed wire fence. Off to the north, I could see the “Airport in the Sky”, the first stop for tomorrow, but more importantly, bison burgers! Once back at camp, I made my dinner and turned in. There are no campfires allowed here, so it was an early evening.

Day 2: Blackjack Campground to Little Harbor

I am an avid peak bagger, sometimes backpacker, and former sea kayaker living in San Diego. In 2019, I became the third person to complete the San Diego 100 Peak Challenge. Not stopping with that accomplishment, I set my sights on the harder San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list, which I completed in 2021. In addition, I have conquered several Six-Pack of Peaks challenges (SoCal, San Diego, Central Coast, and Arizona-Winter). Beyond attempting the San Diego Sierra Club 100 Peak list a second time, I am looking forward to exploring new summits and new adventures across the southwest. 

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