My brother is a nut. He thinks it’s perfectly safe to hop on a skinny piece of wood and paddle across twenty-two miles of ocean hoping to land on a spit of sandy beach on a remote Pacific island.
Actually, it isn’t that remote, but it was foggy most of the way. Luckily, the U.S. Department of Defense has a couple of dozen satellites winging around the earth at a height of over twenty thousand kilometers and moving at four kilometers per second. We were counting on those, and good batteries, to guide us through the fog to our destination.
This is the kind of trip that is conjured up over a few beers, and typically de-conjured the next day after looking at it through the lens of sobriety. Apparently my brother never sobered up and I, being a typical guy, didn’t have the brains or guts to back out. I just assumed he would ultimately come to his senses, so I played along clear up to the point of hopping in the kayak on that gorgeous morning of August 8, 2012.
I arrived on the 7th. His wife, Joy, wanted me to go with her to walk the dog. I thought that was nice, but I think her goal was to find out how safe this journey was. She was quite concerned and didn’t really want Phil to go. I told her that I was on her side and would be more than happy to turn around at the slightest problem. I think that I’ve proven to myself everything I need to prove in my life, and doing this trip wasn’t going to add anything to my bucket list.
So, early the next morning we hopped in the kayaks at Cabrillo beach and headed out into the perfectly calm, windless ocean. Rats! I was hoping it would be a little windy and choppy out there to give me an excuse to bail out. I enjoy hanging out in California and drinking beer while barbequeing steaks on the grill. But, my only choice was to paddle like mad all the way across until we hit the beach at Two Harbors. I was actually quite worried for the month or so previous to the trip, so I had done a lot of upper body workouts. Phil kayaks every weekend, so he’s always in great shape, but we don’t have much of an ocean in northeast Indiana. I spent a lot of time carrying dumbells around the house while shadow boxing. In any event, we made it across with no problem! I was very proud of myself, and very relieved. Now the fun could start!
The campground at Two Harbors is pretty cool. It sits on a hillside overlooking the ocean.
The campsites are pretty packed though, but everyone’s there to enjoy the place. A short walk up and down a hill takes you into the “town” of Two Harbors. There’s a store, a restaurant, and a bar. That’s about it. We went there, had supper and a few drinks, then back to the campground and crashed out. What a day!!
The next day we were destined for Little Harbor, which is on the back side of the island. There’s two ways to get there … either paddle around the point or wheel the kayaks across the isthmus followed by a short paddle to the campground. Of course Phil wanted to paddle around. Did I mention that he’s a nut? He loves to kayak! My arms were about shot so I insisted that we take the shortcut.
Once we got out of the back harbor and in the ocean, we hit some rough water. It bounced us around like we were in a washing machine. I sure was glad that we didn’t try to go all the way around!!
Little Harbor is a remote campground on the back side of Catalina Island. The campsites are huge and the location is quite scenic. We spent a couple of days there. Our neighbor, Brett, was there by himself. His buddies bailed out on the trip and so he was by himself. He had all of his scuba diving gear and went out several times. He let me borrow his flippers and showed me where the bat rays and stingrays were. What a thrill! We had a great time there.
Next, we had to work our way over to Avalon. We stopped at a very remote campsite. Catalina Island Conservancy maintains a number of tiny campsites along the coast just for kayakers. They’re not much more than a bit of level ground adjacent to the impenetrable mountainside … just enough room to pitch a couple of tents. There’s not much to do there except look at the ocean, which was actually quite nice for one night.
Next stop was the booming town of Avalon. It’s quite a tourist trap, but it does have motels. We pulled up and hauled our kayaks over to the shipping dock. Phil was having them shipped back and we would take the ferry. Just for excitement, we tried the zip line at Desconso beach. This was a special in the evening so we started out watching the sun set and finished in the dark. There were five ziplines that worked their way down the mountain and ended back at the beach. It was fun.
Back at L.A., we took a tour of the USS Iowa, a battleship from WWII that has been turned into a floating museum. My dad spent WWII aboard the USS New Jersey, which is a sister ship to the Iowa, so it was cool to see what it might have been like for him during the war.
So, after all of that, an evening of food, drinks and the next day a trip home.