Catalina Adventures 2012

08.2.12


Can't Miss Catalina

It’s less than 30 miles away by ferry, but an overnight trip to Catalina Island can make you feel as if you’ve crossed the ocean for a great escape. From zipping through darkness and paddling among a kingdom of wildlife, to trekking where few hikers go, Catalina’s got you covered for an outstanding island adventure.


Night Zip Line Catalina

Zippity Do!

Yip, yodel, yell…that’s for daytime canopy tours. Try yikes, yowza, and hell yeah! You won’t believe how your heart can pound until you’ve zip-lined across a coastal canyon at speeds of up to 45 miles per hour in complete darkness. Test your courage on Catalina’s Night Zip Line Eco Tour—the first of its kind in California. Tour pros will gear you up with a harness, reflective bands, and a helmet equipped with a headlamp. All you have to do is step up to the first platform, grip the bar, tuck your legs, and cannonball into the darkness. Feel like Peter Pan as you blast hundreds of feet above Descanso Canyon. Reach the next platform and get ready for another flight—this two-hour thriller includes five lines totaling 3,600 feet. High-tech solar lighting illuminates each platform, creating islands of light that float over the flora. Otherwise, scenery is lit by the starry sky and even halos of moonlight. Along the route, guides share trivia on the unique features and biodiversity of Catalina Island, including the various creatures that come out at night. You won’t see them, but you might just hear them. All of the zip lines are unique: The second flight is the longest, spanning 1,050 feet—enough time for your eyes to adjust to the night and spy dark waves rolling toward the beach at the canyon’s bottom. The third line is the steepest, the fourth whizzes through trees, and the finale bounces close to the ground—an über-exhilarating experience. This after-hours rendezvous is all about nocturnal instincts.

The Night Zip Line Eco Tour begins at the Descanso Beach Club on the northwest end of Avalon just past the Casino (map). The tour begins nightly at 8:30 p.m. and lasts about two hours. Reservations are highly recommended and can be made online or by phone at 800-626-1496 for $120 per person. While daytime tours are fully booked for much of the summer, there are still openings for night tours. Photo courtesy of Santa Catalina Island Co.

Catalina Hike

Island Topper

Hiking on Catalina is an excellent way to get a lay of the land—and the sea—at no cost. And the views from the top of the Garden-to-Summit Loop? Priceless! The highpoint of this 4.5-mile (round-trip) journey looks down the island canyons for high-style ocean views. Start from Hermit Gulch Campground, tucked about 1.5 miles from Avalon Harbor. Hermit Gulch Trail puts you straight to work with 1,250 feet of elevation gain over the first 1.7 miles. The higher you climb, the bigger the views, including a soaring perspective of the seaside hamlet of Avalon. Top out and turn south down the island’s main backcountry artery for a ridge-top hop along the Trans-Catalina Trail. It’s all downhill from here, and that’s a good thing: keep your head on a swivel to enjoy round-the-compass ocean views. To the east, the deep blue channel separates Catalina from the mainland, where you can make out the peaks of the Santa Ana Mountains. Gaze west and take in the tropical turquoise water beneath steep coastal cliffs. In the distance, miles of slow rolling waves come in from the horizon. Leave the ridge and hike down Garden-to-Summit Trail to reach Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Gardens. Since you’ll be entering the gardens through the back door, you won’t have to pay an entrance fee. Climb the steps of the memorial dedicated to William Wrigley, former owner of Catalina Island (as well as the Chicago Cubs), and finish by strolling through an eclectic collection of plants in the botanical gardens—including the Deodar cedar (from the Himalayas) and the island redberry (endemic to Catalina).

BEER AND TACO BONUS: Afterward, stop at the Sandtrap (501 Avalon Canyon Rd, 1 mile from Hermit Gulch Campground) and get your hands on some delicious $1 tacos (top them yourself at the fixings bar). Beers run $2 to $4, and margaritas are $5. This happy hour special runs from 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily.

Make your way to the trailhead at the far west end of Hermit Gulch Campground near the end of Avalon Canyon Rd, 1.4 miles from the harbor (map). Hike 1.7 miles to the top of Hermit Gulch Trail and turn left on Trans-Catalina Trail. The road winds downhill for 0.9 miles to the top of Garden-to-Summit Trail. Turn left and hike down to the Wrigley Memorial at the back of the botanical gardens. Stroll through the gardens to the front entrance, located at the end of Avalon Canyon Rd, just past Hermit Gulch Campground. You may walk between Avalon and the trail or take the Avalon Trolley to and from Hermit Gulch Campground and the Botanical Gardens for $2 per person each way. Pick it up from the 3rd Street station in the Island Tour Plaza near the Catalina Island Conservancy at 125 Claressa Ave. You will need to pick up a hiking permit from the conservancy or print one before hiking. If you decide to hike the loop in reverse, there is a $7 entrance fee for the botanical gardens.

Kayak Catalina

Cat Paddle

The water surrounding Catalina Island could be dubbed SoCal’s Galapagos: a saltwater mecca brimming with abundant sea life and bird life: garibaldi, zebra fish, leopard sharks, stingrays, sea lions, dolphins, and maybe even a bald eagle. The best vessel for getting up close to such a metropolis of wildlife is a kayak. Take a two-hour guided tour (or rent your own kayak) and paddle 1.25 miles up the coast from Descanso Beach to Frog Rock. Stick to shallows and scan the underwater forest of giant bladder kelp, one of the fastest growing plants on earth. It’s easy to spot the bright splashes of orange belonging to the garibaldi. Paddling northwest from Avalon, you’ll face Long Point, the part of Catalina Island that sits closest to the mainland. And there’s no way to miss Frog Rock, a 20-foot tall, tan boulder jutting out from the shoreline like a frog ready to leap into water. The cobblestone beach just beyond the rock is a good place to pull up your kayak for a quick break. Walk along the water’s edge and see how many turban shells and hermit crabs you can find (if you’re on the tour, your guide will provide a bottle of water and a snack, along with plenty of keen insights on wildlife in these parts). The waves on this sheltered side of the island are gentle, making for beginner-friendly fare. Paddle up for a wild time!

WHERE TO STAY: For a classic Catalina experience, the Hotel Atwater (125 Sumner Avenue, half a block from Avalon Harbor) offers rustic and simple rooms with dark wood furnishings. The halls of the hotel could double as a photography exhibit, decked with archival images of early island tourists that were collected when the hotel opened in the 1920s. Camper’s can stay at Avalon’s only campground, Hermit Gulch Campground. There are 40 sites, which may be reserved, as well as tent cabins. Tents, sleeping bags, lanterns and stoves can be rented from the campground.

The Journey to Frog Rock kayak tour begins from the Descanso Beach Club at the northwest end of Avalon, just past the Casino (map). To make a reservation call, 310-510-1226. Tours depart daily at 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 3:00 p.m. The tour lasts about two hours and costs $48 per person. Kayaks can also be rented without a guide for $22 per hour, $40 for a half day, or $52 for a whole day.

Vegas, Baby!

The Tour de France, The Tour of California, Viva Bike Vegas…?! Start practicing your Elvis impersonation, you're about to roll big! Team In Training's (TNT) newest cycling event is in full gear for September: the RTC 2012 Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo is the only ride that takes you through Sin City and Las Vegas Valley—from the famed Strip to the edge of Hoover Dam and the vistas of Red Rock Canyon. It doesn't matter if you're new to biking or a cycling veteran, Viva Bike Vegas—in partnership with Interbike—is for anyone who likes meeting other enthusiasts, mixing the great outdoors with famous city attractions, and helping an amazing cause. Join TNT and your ride will be part of a dedicated effort to keep blood cancers on a losing streak. TNT's certified coaches provide personalized programs to fit your goals. Benefit from group workouts, forums on nutrition and fitness, detailed training calendars, and the camaraderie of friends. It's time to put a new spin on Sin City. Register now: Viva Bike Vegas, baby!

Gran Fun-do! Find out more about Viva Bike Vegas or any of the TNT events by clicking on the link or calling 310-342-5842!

The Viva Bike Vegas Gran Fondo has three distances: 17 miles, 72 miles, and 118 miles. See all of TNT's upcoming events.

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