26 Miles Across the Sea, Santa Catalina...

Trip Start May 01, 2013
Trip End May 01, 2014

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 179 - Catalina Island.  It has been a dream of mine for a long time to go to Catalina.  Finally got my wish.  Even in the four years we lived here, we never got over there!  It was definitely worth the wait.  Nick's cousins Mike and Elly joined us and we made a full day of it.  Left at 6:00 a.m. to get down to San Pedro to take the Ferry at 9:00.  You never know with the traffic how long it might take, and we didn't want to miss the Ferry.  The trip over is an  hour and 10 minutes.  It was a smooth crossing, but still overcast, until we arrived and, like magic on so many of our excursions these past months, the sun came out and we had a spectacular day ahead of us.

We decided to take a bus tour of the interior of the island and it was the right thing to do.  We didn't need to start until 11:30, so we walked around the town of Avalon for the time before the bus ride and just enjoyed looking in the shop windows, getting a coffee (well, I had to have the ice cream) and enjoying the harbor and all the scenery and of course, people watching.

There are two towns on Catalina - the largest and most populated is Avalon and the other is on the other side of the island and that is Two Harbors.

 Back in the day of the Hollywood Royalty, Catalina was a get-a-way for them and they came frequently and some had homes here.  There is a reference to Zane Grey, the author, John Wayne and Errol Flynn, Marilyn Monroe, Bing Crosby, Mickey Rooney, Laurel and hardy, Charlie Chaplin and Paulette Goddard, Humphrey Bogart and of course, the sad story of Natalie Wood's tragic death more than 30 years ago!  I cannot believe it was that long ago. But the family that put Santa Catalina Island on the map were the Wrigley Family - that's right baseball and chewing gum!   They owned most and still own some of this island.  In fact, the 3rd generation is putting a winery in where they once had a horse farm.

Catalina being that it is built on the hillside makes the most of the land facing the sea.  Many homes are built on top of the hills and others are "stepped" into the hills and up they go to the top.  All can be had for a million or more.  The most expensive is now for sale for a cool $7.5M...any takers?  The most popular form of transportation is the golf cart.  Cars are at a premium and only 800 are allowed on the island.  You must register your CAR (no plurals) and if for some reason your car leaves the island or "dies" on the Island there is a 40 YEAR waiting list for a car to come back on the Island!  Actually, that's good thinking on the part of the leaders otherwise the place would be over run. If you wish to be able to drive into the interior you have to pay $300 a year for a permit to drive over the inland roads.  If you go once, that's pretty pricey!  Mostly the tour busses are the only ones that use the old stage coach road (that's right up the small windy road to 1,300' with drop offs on one side that could give you a thrill as you slide down all the way to the sea!  They have planted Eucalyptus trees to help keep you on the road?  Never heard of fences?  Guess not!  If you would like to hike up and camp, you can do so by registering with authorities for no fee.  They have picnic areas along the way and one with a wonderful playground, but I can't see a family of 4 pushing a baby carriage and pulling a toddler along the steep roads for a swing on swing!  

Our tour took us up to the airport at 1300'.  They had to scrape off 3 hilltops to have enough for a 3,000' runway.  As luck would have it, there was an air show coming the next day for the weekend.  Although, when we got up to the airport, some of the stunt planes were already there and a local TV crew were interviewing one of the pilots.  We actually saw one or two land.  After a short stop, we sat and watched a herd of buffalo below us.  There are 1500 on the Island, left by a movie crew in 1924!  Other than the bison there are fox and shrew, squirrels, and snakes! Once there were pigs and goats roaming the island, but through great diligence, they have been eradicated!  Both were extremely destructive to the landscape. Our other stop was at Middle Ranch and Little Harbor Overlook.  Our guide has lived on Catalina for 35 years and was a wealth of knowledge.  He had even been in a couple of movies as an extra.  He told of several that were filmed on the island, but hey I'm old, can't remember which ones.

Some history of Catalina (admit it, you HAVE missed this):
1989 -  The Tuna Club - the first big game sport fishing club in the world was established in Avalon and is still active today. 
1919 - The first regularly scheduled commercial airline service in American History, Chaplin Air (brother of Charlie) makes its debut.  *currently no commercial airlines services Catalina.  Mostly privately owned planes and helicopters.  But think about it, if you fly IN you have to drive DOWN!!!
1920 - The largest cafeteria in the world, seating 1,500 people at one time opens in the Atwater Hotel. (Just shows you how popular a place this was back in the day).

1921 - California's largest diesel-powerred generator fires up in Catalina.

1921 - 1951 - Chicago Cubs (owned by Wrigley) comes to Catalina for Spring Training.

1929 - The Avalon Theatre - the world's first theatre offering sound and silent movies opens.
Also in 1929 - Catalina's Bird Park is built and becomes the largest aviary in the world.

Still standing in all it's glory (though sadly not used at this time) is the former Casino and Dance Hall.  Apparently they do open it for special occasions, but generally the only way to see it is by tour or they still operate a Museum on the basement level and movies on the first. 

So, now you can decide if this is the get-a-way for you!! 

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Pamela on

You know Sandy, even being born and raised on the West Coast, I never visited Catalina either. It looks nothing like I visualized. I thought it would be more like Coronado Island. Its so big and desolate. Is that because of the over grazing, lack of water/irrigation, or what? I guess LA is desert like.

jerrygolfboyer on

Looks like you traced our footprints from last Fall --- including the retro bus.

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