I have a confession: I lied to you. In my last post, Thru-Hiking to Heal: Catalina Inception,
I told you that I was going to be sharing my Catalina adventures with you last month and I only got out a sliver of what I want to share with you. What happened?! Honestly, I just wasn’t focused or motivated to write – so I didn’t. I’ve been thoroughly enjoying my time with my husband these past few months, soaking in these last weeks together before he returns to work. We spent a lot of time the last two months looking for a new addition to our family. Something I could nurture the fuck out of once Joel goes back to work. It happened. This past weekend we adopted an 11-month old husky mix. We got to bring her home a couple days ago and we love her so much already. It’s exactly what we needed after all the heartache we experienced last year. My wholehearted family, it is my pleasure to introduce Zelda. Check out her Instagram page and give her a follow to watch her adventures here: Zelda’s Rescued Life.
As challenging as 2017 was, it also provided some amazing opportunities for personal growth. Learning to lean into my emotions and allowing nature to act as my therapy office provided the space I needed to heal. While I was fortunate to experience some amazing adventures this past year (mountain peaks, alpine lakes, breathtaking waterfalls, hot springs, and lava tunnels just to name a few), the trip I took with Joel to Catalina Island was the most healing and challenging adventure of the year. The trip brought us closer than ever before and we’ve been riding that wave ever since. I came back with a lightness, the weight of guilt and fear was gone, I let it go. It was as if that chapter of my life had finished, and I was finally ready to write the next. I guess the new year has that effect.
My hope is that by sharing our incredible journey (in three parts, I have so much to share), it inspires you to take a journey of your own. Maybe you too need some healing or a chance to reset.
59 miles by car, 22 miles by ferry, 11+ miles by foot. All in a day’s work.
The alarm blared. It was 4 o’clock in the morning. We jumped out of bed with the excitement of a child on Christmas morning. We quickly threw on the clothes we had neatly laid out the night before, finished our morning routine as quickly as humanly possible and loaded our bags into the trunk of my mom’s car (Shout out to my mom for also waking up ridiculously early to drive us to our port. Seriously, she’s amazing). Sleepy yet exhilarated, we left the comfort of my parents’ house, energy drink in hand, fought typical Southern California traffic to make our way to our first stop: Newport Beach. We made it with time to spare before our ferry boarded, so we found a little cafe nearby to partake in my favorite meal of the day – breakfast. Afterwards we grabbed our gear, said goodbye to my mom and walked over to the Catalina Flyer ticket counter. As we were walking, the sun rose through the clouds and set the sky on fire. It was going to be a gorgeous day, the perfect kind of day for an adventure.
The 22-mile ferry ride from Newport to Catalina took about an hour. We enjoyed the views and cool ocean breeze from the top deck. As we approached the island, we were struck with awe. The city of Avalon came into view as I imagine Greece to look from the distance. The houses and buildings all painted in white which provided a beautiful contrast to the green and brown hills which rose above the little island town. Once we disembarked, our first mission was to get our hiking permits at The Catalina Conservatory.
Once we found the quaint Conservatory office, we were greeted by a cheerful woman who warned us about “aggressive foxes” and told us we didn’t need a hiking permit because we already had campsite reservations (this was just our experiences, hiking permits are required on the island). Ready to hit the trail, we purchased a $3 paper map, thanked the woman for her hospitality and advice, and began our journey.
The Trans-Catalina Trail (TCT) literally begins at the Catalina Conservatory. The first mile was spent hiking through town, passing tourist on segways and golf carts. A half mile further we reached a campground at the edge of Avalon, called Hermit Gulch. Although we didn’t camp here, we took advantage of our final opportunity to use a flushing toilet, wash our hands with running water, and mentally prepare for the remaining 10-miles we still had to hike to get to our campsite at Black Jack Campground.
In preparation for this trip I read about other bloggers/adventurers who completed the trek. I must have skimmed over the part that warned that the trail might actually kill you. The elevation gained and lost that first day was rough – physically and mentally. A
few hours in we were already starting to feel the consequences of carrying a quarter of our body weight on our backs all while climbing up and down, up and down again, and again, and again. That single-track trail was merciless. Not to mention the 40+ mph winds and constant exposure to the sun. I found myself repeating: One foot in front of the other, you got this, almost there. The verbal affirmations totally helped keep my spirits up while every part of my body was screaming. The last four miles (specifically mile eight) brought me to tears. At one point we reached a landing which revealed the topography of the island. It was then I realized the entire island was this demanding – I got so frustrated, I threw my bag off, stomped away and ugly cried for about 10 solid seconds. But, I had to snap out of it, we had to get to the campground. I took a few deep breaths, wiped the tears and snot from my face, humbly walked back to my bag before hoisting it back on. One foot in front of the other, you got this, almost there.
We took breaks often to sip on water and take in the scenery. That first stretch, as strenuous as it was, also provided some of my favorite views. We reached points with ocean views in nearly every direction. The island offers several shorter trails throughout the island, which all lead to Instagram-worthy vistas (all are clearly marked on the map).
We reached Black Jack campground just as the sun was setting behind the trees (no ocean views here). The very first thing we did after finding our campsite was drop our packs to asses the damage. Our shoulders were sore, but not yet bruised. Our feet throbbed, yet were free of blisters. Our backs, hips and knees ached, but it was nothing a little yoga (Biofreeze, CBD capsules, and rest) couldn’t restore. Yeah, we felt beat up physically, but emotionally, we were solid. We had already mind-over-mattered the fuck out of our first long day and we felt like warriors.
Black Jack Campground had the most amenities (available to us) of all three campgrounds we stayed at. Although, the campsites are on the small side and are fairly close together, we didn’t care as we shared the entire campground with one other couple. Each campsite comes equipped with a Bear Box, fire ring and picnic table. The campground offers outdoor showers, BBQ pits, large bathrooms with vault toilets (and hand sanitizer!!!!), port-a-potties, large communal tables, and lockers.
We spent the least amount of time at this campground, falling asleep promptly after dinner around 7 o’clock and leaving the following morning around 9 o’clock. Although our time was brief, we sure appreciated the opportunity for rest and the tranquility Black Jack Campground provided. It was the perfect break we needed to muster up the strength to carry on the next day.
Next week, I’ll be posting part 2 and 3 of our Catalina Island journey. I’ll be sharing more about the TCT, our experiences with wildlife, beach camping, plus a whole lot more.
Until then, I want to know: what adventure is 2018 pulling you toward? What adventures from 2017 were your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!