Bikepacking on Santa Catalina Island
I hadn’t been to Santa Catalina Island since I was young. So when Bruce asked if I’d join him for an overnighter there, I jumped at the chance. I needed to try out my bikepacking setup, and this would be the perfect chance.
Happening the same weekend was the Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix. They used to have motorcycle races on the island, but 1958 was the last year it was held. We met a racer from the last race in ’58 on our boat ride. Everyone seemed pretty excited to see the motos race on the island again. We decided we’d check out some racing before heading for the inland part of the island.
Red Bull Catalina Grand Prix racers.
After we’d seen enough of the motorcycles we decided it was time to start our trip by getting out of Avalon. Our plan was to cycle from Avalon to Two Harbors, where we’d board our return boat. The island isn’t very long, but it’s hilly, so we had some climbing ahead of us.
Profile of the climb out of Avalon.
The toughest climb is the road out of Avalon, with grades up to 12 percent. On our loaded bikes it didn’t take long before we were shedding layers and stopping to catch our breath. No problem -- around every corner was another photo op and a good excuse to pull over.
And here's a shot of the actual climb.
At the intersection of a couple of roads we heard some voices, and then saw some people flying across a Zip Line! A slight drizzle had been keeping things interesting all morning. However, once the climbing was over we were greeted with sun and blue skies. And still, every corner presented a new photo op, so it was hard to keep the camera holstered.
The ocean views were abundant and magnificent.
We awoke to clear skies on Sunday morning.
My bike-and-tarp camping setup.
After the steep climb out of camp we enjoyed a long descent down to Middle Ranch. Along the way we finally saw one -- a real life bison! In 1924, fourteen bison were brought to the island for the filming of a movie. After production ended, they were left on the island. Seeing one of their descendents was a highlight of the trip.
My penny can stove.
Parts of this ride reminded me of motorcycling through Baja. Dirt roads, few people, and amazing vistas. The only things missing were the taco carts.
The road started to climb again and before long we were granted a view of the far side of the island. We spotted a hawk, or an eagle perhaps, sitting alone on a rock overlooking the ocean. This is a special place, and we knew we were lucky to be here.
Bruce on one of the island's gravel roads.
We eventually made it to Little Harbor and stopped for some snacks. We had a boat to catch in Two Harbors for the return ride home, but to get there we had to climb back to the other side of the island. We arrived with time to spare and, after lunch, we relaxed on the beach, listening to the waves and enjoying a (strong!) beer. We couldn’t have timed it better, as the skies grayed with an approaching storm.
What a weekend.
Beer, bike, and beach. Does it get any better?