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Hiking at the Isthmus during the TOSCA Rendezvous – June 2012

posted Jul 8, 2012, 12:16 PM by Donald McLennan   [ updated Jul 8, 2012, 1:15 PM by Laura McLennan ]
Being the fundamentally lazy souls that we are, Don and I set out looking for an easy hike from the Isthmus. The Visitor Center recommended the dirt road that leads toward Parsons Landing. So we set off, wisely stopping to fill our two Nalgene water bottles as we left town. After climbing the short hill just past the beach area, we reached the road and began to amble along. We had great views of Twin Harbor, Fourth of July Cove and Cherry Cove. An even greater treat was a sighting of the rarely seen Catalina Gray Fox, which suddenly darted out right in front of us.

The road goes inland for a good long while as it skirts around Cherry Cove. By the time we reached Lion's Head (at the 3.8 mile marker), Don was getting tired. He looked at the map we'd been given at the Visitor's Center and pointed out that there was a nice "shortcut" over to Cat Harbor, where we'd left our dinghy (our Tartan 3500, Intuition, was anchored there). There was a sign post at the cutoff for this shortcut – "Goat Whiskers Trail". That should have been a clue!

The trail was immediately difficult, heading straight up a steep hill. We kept thinking that at any moment, it would surely level off. Not so. It just got steeper! But, being stubborn and hard-headed, we kept going, refusing to accept defeat. The saving grace was that every once in awhile, the ocean breezes would blow and we would stop to take in the amazing views of the ocean below. One of the most welcome features of Goat Whiskers Trail was a gathering of a few tiny oak trees which provided a shaded arch over the trail. After resting there for a bit, we slogged on, finally reaching what we thought would be the top – the Water Tank Road! We turned left with a new found energy. Imagine our dismay when we realized that instead of being the pinnacle, it was but a wider version of Goat Whiskers Trail! In other words, it, too, went up!

Finally, after traversing one of the steepest hills of the day that seemed to go on forever, we reached a wide-open dirt circle. From there, we could see 360°. It felt like we were on the top of the world! We could see Isthmus Cove, Cat Harbor, the west end of Catalina and the east part of the island which stretched out in front of us. We could even see Bill Solberg's Wind Dancer approaching the west end of the island (which we'd been tracking with the AIS on our iPhone)!

After reveling in our accomplishment at reaching the summit of the trail, we started down. And down and down and down. And lest it be too easy, there were still more "ups" in the trail, teasing us each time we were so sure that the rest of the way was downhill. The "downs" were, in some ways, even more difficult than the "ups", as our aging knees began to scream. But at last, we reached Cat Harbor, just in time to see Wind Dancer reach its mooring.

There is a good write-up of the trail and its various landmarks online that I later found (although the writer hiked in the opposite direction). By the time we reached our dinghy, we had hiked 6.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 3,000 feet. So much for a lazy afternoon stroll. But we thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular scenery along the way and were very proud for having made the effort. It's a part of Catalina that not too many people take the time to see but it is well worth it!

Laura McLennan
s/v Intuition - Tartan 3500