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Get Out of Town!
Escape to Catalina
July, 2009 - Issue #57
A weekend in Avalon on Catalina Island will make you forget all about whatever
A weekend in Avalon on Catalina Island will make you forget all about whatever's happening on the mainland.
As I dip my paddle into the calm water off Catalina, I know the mainland is somewhere to my right. But thanks to the morning fog and haze out in the channel, I can't see it. And that's what makes Catalina the perfect get-away. Twenty-six miles of ocean ensure that everyday life is out of sight and out of mind.

Although Catalina is in the 310 area code and part of Los Angeles County, the 76-square-mile island is a world unto its own. Stepping aboard the Catalina Express for an hour-long ferry ride makes that very clear, and forces you to pack light and leave the mainland and its mundane routines behind.

I refocus on my rhythm, trying not to tangle my paddle with April's. We're in a tandem kayak on a two-hour guided tour with Danny, the enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide from Descanso Beach Ocean Sports.

We skim over kelp forests on our way to Frog Rock, just north of Avalon Harbor. The visibility is incredible. Because we're on the lee side of the island, sheltered from the wind and waves, we can see all the way to the bottom in some places. Orange garibaldi, our state fish that is so plentiful in the waters off Catalina, swim among the rocks beneath us.

Before my arms even get tired, we step on to the small pebbly beach at Frog Rock. As if on cue, a bald eagle interrupts Danny's explanation of the island's abundant flora and fauna and alights in a tree high on the cliff above us. It's the female half of a nesting pair who make their home not far from where we're standing.

At our feet is all manner of evidence testifying to rich variety of sea life just offshore. Amidst the rocks are hundreds of shells of varying shapes and sizes deposited by the high tide.
Our next stop reminds us the local waters are home to more than just crustaceans. Exiting the kayak on another stone-covered beach, April steps on what looks to be a large boulder buried among pebbles. She hears a popping sound and feels her feet sinking. She jumps forward and soon a foul stench fills our nostrils.

Danny apologizes profusely and informs us that April inadvertently discovered a decaying whale carcass (or some part of it) that washed ashore and was soon buried beneath the rocks. We hustle quickly down shore to a more pleasant part of the beach and Danny continues explaining Catalina's sea life. Nothing like an object lesson to drive home that whole Circle of Life thing.

After kayaking, it's naptime, so we wander back to our room at the Pavilion Lodge. Located on Crescent Avenue, which fronts Avalon Bay, it puts you within convenient walking distance of just about everything in Avalon. Unlike many hotels in town that are built over storefronts and face the street, the Pavilion Lodge is a courtyard hotel. The rooms are off the street, quiet and overlook a lush garden and lawn area that hosts a daily continental breakfast.

Having worked our arms in the morning, we decide to use our legs in the afternoon. We hit the Hermit Gulch Trail after securing the requisite hiking permit from the Catalina Island Conservancy, the organization charged with managing 88 percent of the island's land. A steady 1.7-mile climb deposits us on East End Road, which winds along a 1,500-foot ridge top. On our left is Avalon, which is dwarfed by the surrounding hills. To the right is the wide open expanse of the Pacific.

And even from this spectacular vantage, we still can't see the mainland.

Eric Harnish lives in Newhall.

Drop Out of Sight on Catalina
Pavilion Lodge
310-510-2500
www.visitcatalinaisland.com

Catalina Express
800-481-3470
www.catalinaexpress.com

Descanso Beach Ocean Sports
310-510-1226
www.kayakcatalinaisland.com
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