Trans Catalina Trail Day 1: In and Out and Rain

The California Rain

The weeks leading up to the trail, California was getting hit with some of the rainiest weather they’ve seen in years. Considering the Trans-Catalina Trail traverses an island, I was worried. Coastal wind and rain can really put a damper on trail conditions and safety. The trail is made up of mostly sand and dirt, so it becomes clay-like during rainy weather. This clay can be very slippery and start to clump up on your shoes. Not to mention, rain generally brings colder weather, especially with the wind coming off of the ocean.

The Trans-Catalina Trail had even been ‘closed’ for a period of time in early January due to the weather. My friend in the LA area had warned me of the rainy season, but this was weather that even the locals couldn’t have predicted. We kept an eye on it and were just hoping for the best the week of. I mean we were traveling across the country, so cancelling the trip was going to be difficult, to say the least.

In-and-Out, Obviously

After a quick 6 1/2 hour flight, Mountain Berry and I got off the plane in LA, fresh faced and ready for our adventure (jk we looked like complete shit, but you know what I mean). I have a friend in LA who was gracious enough to let us drop some things off at her house while we hike (thanks Jackie!), so we were able to pack our backpacks in luggage and check it onto the plane. We quickly made our way to her house, rolled up to the nearest In-and-Out, where we proceeded to eat an entire meal, but also get a burger to pack out. We changed, made a quick stop to pick up some beers to pack out, and set off for the ferry.

Rough Seas

When we landed in LA, the weather seemed fine, but as we were about to get onto the ferry, the cold and rain that we had been hearing about, started to set in. Because of our flight arrival time, we needed to take the later afternoon ferry from San Pedro on the coast. This meant that instead of a shorter ferry ride straight to Avalon, we took a longer ferry ride that stopped at Two Harbors first. Not thinking much of it, we enjoyed our time talking to the ship crew about all things Boston, hiking, and the beautiful Santa Catalina Island.

We even met a pair of hikers from Kentucky on our stop in Two Harbors who had just finished the trail. We listened intently as the two shared their experience with us. They hiked the TCT the year before as well so they were pros at this trail, and we were all ears. Unfortunately for them, they spent the majority of time on trail that weekend before, in the rain, which we were also concerned about. They assured us that even with the rain, we were going to have an unforgettable adventure.

Catalina Express – San Pedro, California

Stepping foot on the Island

When we finally landed in Avalon (over 2 hours after our original departure), it was cold, rainy, and dark. As New England gals, we also made the bold choice to wear shorts on trail, thinking it would be much warmer than anything we were used to at this time of year back east. The amount of people commenting on our attire made us quickly rethink our decision. We stepped off of the boat and immediately ran to the warm public bathroom by the docks. We quickly threw on our rain Packas before any of our gear could get wet. Mountain Berry and I took a bathroom selfie and were on our way!

Packa fashion feat. Runway and Mntn Berry

We walked in the dark towards Hermit’s Gulch campground, which was just a little over a mile away. All of the campsites on the Trans-Catalina Trail require a reservation. These reservations are made ahead of time through the Catalina Island Conservancy. It being the off season, we were the only ones staying at this campground. Most thru hikers tend to bypass this one.

this was as disgusting as it looks

We ate our very cold and soggy In-and-Out burgers and made do with the rainy situation we were in. The rain, mixed with the hard ground, made it challenging to set up our tents in the dark. We considered even sleeping in one of the many open cabins, as we were the only ones at the campground. Annoyingly, my good conscience wouldn’t let me. I mean this is what backpacking is all about right? The good and the bad; the highs and the lows; the sunshine and the rain. It can’t all be perfect and that’s what makes it a challenge. We sucked it up and went to sleep in anticipation for the hike to come.

But, I had hope that our first real day on trail would make it all worth it. And it didn’t disappoint.

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