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Trans-Catalina Trail: Day 4

When we went to bed in Little Harbor on Day 3, we knew it was going to rain. The wood delivery guy was telling people all over the campgrounds to move to higher ground (if possible) so we didn’t get washed out and soaked.  We had beautiful conditions on the Trans-Catalina Trail our first two days, a gloriously lazy beach day on Day 3, and Day 4 would start pretty early when the rain kicked in at 12:30 AM.

The next segment took us from Little Harbor to Two Harbors. At the end of Day 2, once we arrived at Little Harbor, we agreed that we’d play it by ear. I was confident that the day off would give us a chance to recharge, but I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Like the trek from Blackjack to Little Harbor, this leg to Two Harbors was rumored to be a pretty easy day of slight elevation gain and then a loooot of downhills. Depending on who you ask or what sign you looked at, it was only four or five miles until we got to Two Harbors, so we were looking forward to an easy day.

Except nothing is easy when your shoes turn into Lady Gaga boots because of all the mud.

Hey everyone, come and see how good I look!

Hey everyone, come and see how good I look!

We changed clothes in the wet tent, then packed up everything in the (near pouring) rain. We were up at site 15, a bit higher than the rest of the campground, so we decided let’s at least go to the trail head, see how we make out, and then if we need to catch a ride to Two Harbors, we can.

After slip-sliding down to the trail head, the clouds parted for a bit and the rain stopped. I took off my rain gear, readjusted my pack, and we started on our way to Two Harbors. At this point, we had pretty much decided that Parson’s was out – but we’d wait to get to the visitors center in Two Harbors before we officially made that call.

Clouds parted ways pretty quickly between when we got packed up to when we made it to the lower part of the campground.

Clouds parted ways pretty quickly between when we got packed up to when we made it to the lower part of the campground.


Stats from Day 4

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

Steps: 26,710
“Floors” Climbed: 118
Calories Burned: 2954
Water: 100+ oz on trail, ALL THE WATER at the campground
Bison Spotted: zero, but we saw a fox!!
Peaks Climbed: one massive, ridiculous, borderline-rock-climbing peak

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. Obviously you’re seeing a trend here. This time, with the threat of rain, I had my phone tucked away for the entire hike, but we managed to get a couple nice panoramic shots at the “top” of the INSANELY HUGE AND STEEP MOUNTAIN THAT NOBODY MENTIONED.

Me waking up at 12:34 AM desperately needing to pee. And again at 4-something AM. And again at 5:30 AM.  I mean, COME ON. First of all, our tent is TINY so there’s no way I can do this without waking up Barry. Two, it’s POURING RAIN and we are in a puddle of mud and on a hill and putting on my shoes half in the tent, half out of the tent, in the rain, where it’s slippery, was HILARIOUS. I was super nervous about trudging 4-5 miles through the mud, but I sucked it up.

A peek into my brain and mental state before we hit the trail, while we were on it, and after we got to Two Harbors. I guess that’s what this post is for, but the mental chatter was something like this: “If we are probably not going to make it to Parson’s, we should definitely do this. Other people are doing this today, right? The trail is passable, I’m assuming? Then again, the live-in campground host said that people probably wouldn’t try to drive in this, so who are we to try to hike it? But I don’t want to quit. I feel pretty good. But I don’t want to rip my leg out of the socket either by getting stuck in mud. But I definitely don’t want to quit. It’s a short hike, and we can take our time. OKAY HERE WE GO. JESUS CHRIST WHERE IS THE DOWNHILL PEOPLE WERE TALKING ABOUT? THIS IS THE BIGGEST PEAK I’VE EVER SEEN ON THIS ISLAND AND THERE ARE NO SWITCHBACKS AND HOLY SHIT THE TRAIL IS COLLAPSING ON THE SIDE OF THIS MOUNTAIN AND I’M GOING TO CRY BECAUSE I’M AFRAID OF HEIGHTS EVEN THOUGH I WAS A COMPETITIVE SKYDIVER. Okay, we made it to the top of that, WAIT WHAT THE HELL IS THIS OTHER PEAK THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY INVISIBLE? Okay, I got this. I’m leading the way up the side of this mammoth. NAILED IT. Okay now it’s muddy and time to go downhill for forever. I SEE THE HARBORS! THERE ARE TWO! IT’S STARTING TO RAIN. SHIT. Yessss we made it! Oops, wrong way, campground is the other direction. Oh snap, look at these nice people who are staying in a “camping cabin” with free hot showers, YUP WE ARE DOING THAT BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS WET.”

Footage of our campsite because we decided to skip the camping in the rain thing and opted for a camping cabin (think bunkhouse), and showers instead. The campsite was up a muddy trail, away from the town a bit, and I had no interest in any more anything except for real food, a shower, and some of this Buffalo Milk stuff everyone keeps raving about.

Takeaway #3

After assessing the knee situation (Barry) and the blister situation (me), we decided to go for it, and as soon as we got through the first switchbacks up to the “road” (they’re playing fast and loose with the term “road” on Catalina Island), I was like DUDE I AM SO GLAD I DIDN’T OPT TO GET A RIDE.

AKA I can do hard things. And I didn’t quit.

When it comes to physical things, I have a tendency to quit, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m scared of what happens if I continue to push. I think back to when I was on the rowing team at KU – when I first strained my hip flexor. I wanted DESPERATELY to keep going, but I was also really concerned about what was going on with my leg. So I spent most of the spring season being a cheerleader for the rowing team, while working with the athletic trainers to get me healed up.

I think back to when I was a competitive skydiver. There was one training camp in particular where I had a gnarly opening, and I landed and just cried, not because it hurt (it did), but because I was scared it would happen again and it would irritate my back (which I broke on a landing in 2011). Or worse, open like that again, whip my neck around, and knock me unconscious. I stopped jumping during that camp after that jump.

So when I think about physical things, and my tendency to play it safe, I categorize that as quitting (mostly because my skydiving coach gave me shit for taking the precaution, but that’s another story for another day). And in all reality, all the things I quit brought me to this moment, standing at a trailhead, making the decision to NOT quit this time.

I didn’t quit. I kept going. I didn’t quit the first day when I could barely breathe and thought I was going to puke. I didn’t quit the second day when I could literally feel the skin on my heel ripping. And I didn’t quit on this day, when the trails were in a horrible condition (unless you like skiing on mud), the clouds never went away, the winds were pretty strong (and chilly), and I very easily could have said “you know what, I’d like to play it safe here, let’s get a ride.”

All of that is to say, I didn’t quit because I love my body and I was being mentally carried by three little words (“proud of you!”). See how these all tie in so nicely to one another?


Once we started walking in the right direction in Two Harbors, we meandered our way to the visitor’s center. In talking to the gal there, she said they were going to make the call about Parson’s Landing at 8 AM the following day. There are two routes you can take to get there, the beach route and the mountain route, and depending on the rain situation, one or both might be closed.

When I heard that, I was extra pumped that we didn’t quit, because the hike from Little Harbor to Two Harbors could be the last we see of the Trans-Catalina Trail, depending on the weather.

So, we booked the camping cabin, dropped our stuff off, and headed into the showers, just as the rain started up again. After we got cleaned up, we chatted with our new neighbors for a bit (the couple that told us we were going the wrong direction), then headed down to the bar to grab a burger and some Buffalo Milk.

So here it is, Day 4 on the Trans-Catalina Trail!

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