Category Archives: Santa Catalina Island

A Pizzeria with Class

photo-1414490929659-9a12b7e31907As the sunset and the moon rose over Catalina Island our day came closer and closer to an end. We decided we should eat something to tide us over on our ferry ride home. We searched for something small since neither of us were super hunger and came upon a little pizza shop, Original Antonio’s Pizzeria.

IMG_8968The place was actually really neat inside. It had pictures of all different old celebrities on the walls with their autographs and a huge bison head near the front entrance. I would have liked to sit inside and eat, maybe play a few songs on their table top jukeboxes, but my friend wanted some fresh air. We each got a slice of pizza for a little over $3, there were only two options cheese or pepperoni, and while it wasn’t the best pizza, I’ve had worse.

After we ate we headed over to our ferry. It was dark by the time we left and as we pulled away from the dock a pastor came and sat next to us. We spent half the trip having an inspiring talk with him and he just couldn’t be happier with his life. He’s one of those people that always sees the bright side of every situation and trusts that everything will work out just as it is supposed to when it is supposed to. His relationship with “God,” as he puts it, was just astonishing. He asks, he receives and he is extremely grateful for everything he has. It was a great way to end our trip, truly mind-opening.

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Zip Line with an Ocean View

photo-1414490929659-9a12b7e31907The one main thing I wanted to do on my birthday this year was to do the Zip Line Eco Tour at Catalina Island. So the night before my special day I booked my adventure, which had dropped in price from the week before, $109 to $89. I was so excited! I didn’t even care if anyone came with me or what. I was going and that was that!

The following morning my friend and I headed to Catalina Island. We arrived on the island around 7:30 am and had some hours to kill before my tour was ready. At 12pm we were at the Descanso Beach Club and I was ready to go. I gave them my information, got weighed, signed the paper work, and was given my gear. This was it and I couldn’t wait!

Justin and Jake did a quick demonstration of how to zip, making sure we stepped away from the edge, leaned back into our gear, kept one hand on the line, and lifted our feet at the end. Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared at all. Maybe that would change once we got to the heights.

We took a jeep up to the top zip line. Along the way Jake told us a little history about the island and it’s eco system. He spoke about how the island appeared from under the water popping up due to plates scraping against each other, how it is just 22 miles long, and how it remained uninhabited until animals took accidental trips on logs and such and got stranded here. He also spoke about how the island has the smallest foxes in the world. The Catalina Island fox came about because the smaller foxes lived and the bigger ones died off. The bigger ones were unable to find enough food to sustain their body weights while the conditions were ideal for the smaller ones. Many generations of this has caused their adult foxes to currently weigh just 4-6lbs, 25% smaller than those found on the California mainland.

We reached the top of the zip line and paused for a moment to take in the view. We all read the sign that showed us how to speed up, slow down, and different maneuvers we could try along the way. Jake jumped off the ledge head first and glided across the cable to the other end. It was getting real! Our first member of the group, an elderly lady stepped right up, was attached and took off. I thought to myself, ‘Well, if she can do it I can do it.’ Her friend was right behind her and had no problems as well.

The first girl of the large group was up and she was absolutely terrified. She was holding back tears. Justin was so sweet trying to console her, letting her know that it would be ok. All she had to do was step off and lean back. The longer she stood there looking at it the worse it got. She couldn’t do it so he had her sit into the harness, lift her feet and slowly glide out of the tower. Away she went and so did any anxiety.

The rest of the group went except for one of the guys. “Ladies first,” he said and it was my turn. I stepped up, Justin strapped me in and did his 10 count checklist. “Ready to zip!” he said into his walkie. “Zip away!” replied Jake on the other end. I stepped up to the edge, reminding myself to look straight ahead. I felt my hesitation and then I took my step, leaned back and I was off! It took me to about half way down the line before I finally realized that everything was ok. I took a hand off and coasted through the breeze. I approached the end, lifted my knees and was just within foot reach of Jake. I made it! I was so happy. Our last group member and Justin came across the line and we were on to the next.

The next one was the longest and I had enough time to actually look at the view of the ocean over the trees. One hand, switch, try to turn around, pause to look at the view. It was both breathtaking and exhilarating all at the same time. We stopped at this tower to learn more about the island, take some pictures, and get some water.

Jake told us about the bison herd that lives on the island. A small number of bison were brought to the island for filming in a Western movie. Apparently, the film makers under estimated how difficult bison are to keep in a confined area and they accidentally escaped. Rather than trying to round them all up and take them back to the mainland, they spoke with the island owner and asked if he would like to keep them. He  agreed and the film company bought a couple more to round out the herd. They were left to their own devices until the herd grew to about 600 animals, over 400 more than the island can sustain, and the Catalina Island Conservancy decided that they would need to start to control the population. They shipped a number of them to North Dakota, where due to the fact that they were not used to living in cold weather and did not have the proper winter coat anymore the Standing Rock Indian Reservation had to make heated barns for them. The Indian Reservation told the Conservancy that they did not want anymore so they needed to come up with another plan. Every year the conservancy goes out and shoots the female bison with a birth control dose. The few that slip through the cracks keep the population at a total of 150 and the dose only lasts several months so if they ever want to let the bison increase their population they can by just skipping a year of shots.

We moved onto the fastest of the zip lines and the closest to base camp where other zip liners are gearing up. We were encouraged to scream yells of terror or dinosaur roars to the newbies below. We watched Jake jump head first off another platform, with a giant bloodcurdling scream and come to safety on the other side. Our fearful member was up again, but this time she didn’t take the step. She decided to leave the tour to meet up with us again later. We all jumped and screamed, or woo-hooed to defy Jake.

Again safe on the other side with only two zips left, this one was through the trees to show you how fast you were going and to prepare for your picture pose on the last line. I was so focused on my pose that I forgot to take in the view of the trees. I zipped through them so fast I almost missed them. Ok, I did miss them. Gonna have to do another zip line, but through more trees.

The last zip our terrified friend joined us again. She made the jump and we all followed her. Unfortantly my picture didn’t come out that great, but who needs a picture to remember such an amazing adventure? Beautiful views, exhilarating jumps, flying through the air at speeds of 45mph, it was just magnificent! What a great way to spend my birthday!

       

The Lobster Trap

IMG_8972During our day at Catalina Island we had a chance to try The Lobster Trap. Originally we headed to the pier to eat at the fish place there, but they were closed. However, apparently they are owned by the same company and have the same menu so we weren’t missing out on anything.

We were one of the first people to arrive and the place resembled a dive bar. There were lobsters and fish all over the walls, including a huge fish hanging from the ceiling and even a boat in the corner of the restaurant. It was pretty dark with light coming in through the doors, windows, and a small skylight.

We sat next to the window and quickly ordered some food. We were famished. I had the salmon sandwich and my friend had the crab salad. Both were pretty good, exactly what I expected from a seafood place in a seaside town. We didn’t hang around much since we were on a tight schedule, but by the time we finished our food the place was packed.

If you plan on going make sure you get there early and maybe you should see if their lobster lives up to their name. I will be sure to try it next time. We just weren’t in the mood that day.

Sweet Memories of Loved Pets

photo-1414490929659-9a12b7e31907Biking down Wrigley Rd on Santa Catalina Island into Avalon my friend and I stumbled upon a super cute pet cemetery. I know what you are thinking Pet Cemetery! Don’t go in there. And had it been earlier in the year, it might have looked completely different, with dead dried out plants all around. Looking like evil stuff would happen at any minute. But it was the cutest, sweetest, thing I’ve seen in a long time and we almost coasted right past it. We stopped for a bit to explore, see what it was all about and rest for a bit.

There was everything from dogs to cats to fish to snakes to hamsters buried there. It started from the street and had two paths that led toward the back. On one side the wild flowers were starting to creep into and around the plots, which looked super pretty. The other side was all grassy and had a little stone path with a wooden bench to sit and share time there.

The grave stones were super cute too. Some were just crosses with names on them while other were handmade, painted and designed. Some were stones that must have been ordered from companies as well. It’s amazing what people will do to remember a loved pet. Most of them had cute sayings, such as “Will RIP You were a great fish,” “Rozz a good friend,”and “ET a sweet Catalina cat.” I wish Los Angeles had a place like this.

       

Biking in Catalina

photo-1414490929659-9a12b7e31907After arriving in Avalon on Catalina Island and doing a little exploring my friend and I decided to rent some bikes to further check out the outskirts of the town. We went to one of the many rental shops, Catalina Bike Rental, which is right in the center of town, and spoke with the employee. She gave us a map of the town, telling us to stay on the yellow and white roads and to avoid the red ones while we debated renting some mountain bikes or beach cruisers. She informed that we should be able to get everywhere on the beach cruisers except for the one road out toward the Memorial Garden since they were 7-speed bikes. We paid our $15 each and rode away with our beach cruisers.

We rode through the town streets and headed out past the ferry docks to Lover’s Cove, a snorkeling hotspot on the island, which is a short, easy and flat ride or walk. We arrived, the tide was high, and the ocean was so clear you could see all the way to the bottom. We didn’t see many animals, maybe a garibaldi, the california state fish, playing between the rocks under the water and some birds on the rocks in the far distance. (My friend came back a little later in the day and saw a seal playing off the shore for a bit.) After a few minutes of taking in the ocean view we continued on our way to Wrigley Rd. the main yellow road on the east side of the town. Our goal was to check out that side and then cut across the backside of the town and reach Chimes Tower Rd. We had to be on that side of the town around 12pm so it sounded like a good plan and only we hoped we would have enough time to fit it all in.

A few more minutes and we reached the bottom of the hill, or should I say mountain. The road turned back on itself and proceeded to incline at a gradual, but steady rate. About 1/8th of the way up we had to bail. There was no way anyone was about to ride a beach cruiser up that hill. We got off an pushed our bikes up the rest of the hill, wondering if the employee at the bike rental shop had ever tried it and stopping along the way to take a few pictures.

As we continued we started to wonder if there would be time to make it to the top or if we would have to turn back. As we neared what we hoped was the top of the mountain another biker, on a mountain bike, coasting down the hill, told us that we were almost there. We could see the top at what looked like about a 1/4 mile away. It was! And at that point was the most amazing view of Avalon ever! It must be the location where they take the pictures from in all the brochures.

We easily coasted down the hill back into the little town and stopped for some lunch. While we did not have enough time to check out the other side of the town, we did make it to our next adventure on time. That hill was brutal!

Free Birthday Ride on the Catalina Express

IMG_8972My birthday was last week. What better way to spend it then with a free ferry ride to Catalina Island? More specifically Avalon, one of the two ports on the island.

The Catalina Express offers a free ride to Catalina on your birthday, coming back any time within the following 30 days. I booked my ferry ride a few days ahead of time and since I had work the following day I planned to make the most of it, leaving at the earliest ferry and coming back the same day on the latest ferry. I filled out their form, got a registration code in an email and then used that to book my ride. As it got closer I asked a few friends to join me. Most were busy with work since it was midweek, but one was able to join me.

I awoke on my birthday and was super excited for my birthday adventure. My friend had slept over the night before so we packed our bags and drove down to the Long Beach port early in the morning. We got our tickets and I was given a little Happy Birthday pin to wear. We grabbed a muffin from the little shop and some motion sickness pills, which we didn’t end up taking, and headed to board the ferry. I was wished Happy Birthday about 3 times as I boarded the ferry and were on our way to Catalina Island by 6:15am!

We started in the seats on the main level, but before the boat pushed away from the docks we made our way up top and outside. We stayed there for the rest of the journey. How mesmerizing the waves were. I could just sit and watch them all day. I absolutely love being on a boat. I just feel so calm and tranquil. We saw the beautiful sunrise and playful seals, dolphins, and birds glide across the ocean surface. As we got farther from Long Beach and away from the smog we watched the clouds burn off around the island. The view was amazing.

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As we got closer to the island I got my first glimpse of Avalon. It looked just like all the pictures I had seen. A little oceanside town. So fun, playful, and alive. I couldn’t wait to explore the island and see as much as I could in the day.

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