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Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 1

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Around Thanksgiving, Barry and I were talking about going up to Standing Rock to help out the water protectors. We went to Joshua Tree the first weekend in December, and by the time we got home from that trip, we were reading articles from the tribes saying that any unnecessary people should head home or avoid coming all together. So we sought out a new plan for the week between Christmas and New Years.

Barry found some posts and videos about the Trans-Catalina Trail. 37+ miles of trail spanning from Avalon, through Blackjack Campground, Little Harbor, Two Harbors, Parson’s Landing, and Starlight Beach. We researched the shit out of the route, the campsites, and the conditions on Catalina Island during this time of year, and decided to go for it.

Nevermind that we’ve only done pretty mellow hikes this year (like the Santa Rosa Plateau), and that was back in JUNE, when the weather was unseasonably cool in the desert. Nevermind that aside from having a standing desk, I’ve done basically nothing for physical activity since we moved to San Diego. I was excited about getting back out in the wilderness, and also concerned that I’d pass out and die 15 minutes into the journey.

Last Tuesday, we took the 6 AM ferry to Avalon from Long Beach and set out on our epic adventure. The video below contains some of the highlights from the first day.

Stats

As captured by my GearFit 2 (so take them with a grain of salt):

Steps: 35,319
“Floors” Climbed: 206
Calories Burned: 3023
Water: 100+ oz on trail, ALL THE WATER at the campground
Bison Spotted: 5+
Peaks Climbed: 5

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More than the Highlight Reel.

I could stop this post here and leave you with highlights only, but you know that’s not my jam.

What you won’t see/hear in this video:

A lot of footage of the actual hiking. I was too busy almost puking, frequently stopping on the uphills, taking baby steps on the downhills, and in general, working through MONTHS if not YEARS of inactivity. Plus, carrying the Karma Grip while learning how to klutz around with trekking poles was NOT happening.

Me having tears in my eyes after 2 of the 5 (no switchbacks) sections to reach the 5 peaks we summited on the FIRST DAY.

Audio of me saying “I can do hard things” and other various mantras over and over and over and over and over and over and over while I simultaneously tried to catch my breath, hold down blueberry crisp Clif bar, and burp to release the extra air I was sucking down with the water from the CamelBack.

Footage of the campground at Blackjack (other than the starry night timelapse at the end) because once we finally got there, we made food, changed clothes, and were in the tent and asleep by 6:30 PM. BECAUSE WE ARE PARTY ANIMALS.

Takeaway #1

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I don’t want to spoil the biggest takeaway I had from this trip right away, but seeing as how it weaves into the rest of the trip, it’s this:

I love my body. 

One more time for the folks in the back – I FUCKING LOVE MY BODY.

If you’re a woman (or know a woman), you know what a massive breakthrough it is to even hint at thinking that, let alone declare it. For all of my life, I’ve always been “bigger” than my friends, than what society prescribes as beautiful here in America. I’ve struggled with this since I was a gymnast, a cheerleader, as a member of the women’s rowing team at KU, and again as a competitive skydiver.

My whole life – my WHOLE DAMN LIFE – I’ve always thought I’ll be happier when I’m skinnier (because it’s always a matter of WHEN I’ll be skinny like a VS model, not IF I’m actually built to look like that).

I’ve avoided social outings in the last two years because if you don’t know my story, only my outer appearance, you might be quick to judge and say “wow, she’s let herself go” because I’m a bit softer than I was when I was a competitive skydiver. Or a cheerleader. Or, you know, 23 and dieting like a crazy person and taking all the supplements and hiring all the trainers and generally not at all healthy but looking hot AF.

But what I’ve known for the better part of two years, despite the weight gain, is that on the inside, I feel better than I’ve ever felt before. I’m stronger, mentally/emotionally/spiritually, than I’ve ever been before. And since hiking is basically glorified walking, I knew in my SOUL I could do this, even if the outside didn’t appear to be able to handle the seemingly momentous task at hand.

Which is a really long way of saying that I know I’m not the only person who’s ever struggled with her weight/body image/etc, but after 15+ miles, 5 peaks, 100+ oz of water, two pinky toe blisters and a couple hot spots on my heels on just the FIRST DAY of this adventure, I fucking love my body.

I love that she carried me and 20-25+ pounds of gear up and down 5 peaks that first day. I love that she told me when to pause for water. I love that she kept going, even when lifting my right leg on steep inclines threatened to agitate a 10+ year old hip flexor injury. I love how my lungs were burning. I love how amazing it felt to lay down after being up late, getting up early, and hiking ALL DAY LONG across close to half of Catalina Island. I love that I could hear her messages, and I loved the rewards when I stopped to listen. Renewed energy, safety from injury, new confidence, and some killer views.

Without further delay, here is the video from our first day on the Trans-Catalina Trail, as we adventured from Avalon to Blackjack Campground.

On the list for me this year, a new MacBook, or maybe an iMac. My current MBP from 2011 was STRUGGLING with the export, so forgive me for some of the jumpy bits/weird transitions. I’m kicking off the dust on the editing skills (a fun focus for me this year), and if I had to go in and make more edits to this and re-export it, I would have chucked the computer across the room by now.

Day 2 update coming soon – thanks for your patience while I adjust back to normal life not on the trail (is trail-lag a thing?) and get back into the swing of things at work.

Have you ever been on a long backpacking trip? Did you have any revelations? Let me know in the comments below!

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • John Fleuchaus

    Well, I’ve never done anything quite as impressive and monumental as what you’ve done. The closest was to hike EVERY trail in the circuit at the Palisades Forest Preserve park out in Western Illinois along the Mississippi River; about 15 miles in all (I think) and all in one day, many along treacherous bluffs and rocky trails. Of course, that was way back while I was still in my early to mid 30’s, so there is that 25 years gap preventing me from doing it again. However, I am on a health/fitness kick and am driving to regain my H.S. weight and rebuild my physical strength and stamina … a work in progress to be hopefully realized by mid-year.

    Revelations? Hmmm, probably, but that was half a lifetime ago … gimme a break! If I recall correctly though, I was quite pleased with myself and it did launch me into a mode of “Do it until you can’t no more; then keep going until there’s nothing left to do”. Of course that mode of operation has been tempered since then, but it has served me quite well through the years.

  • Sydney, LOVED the video! That first day is brutal, but beautiful.