Monday, February 21, 2011

Catalina Island

The second place I checked out during my recent time off from clerkship rotations was Santa Catalina Island. Catalina is one of the Channel Islands, about 22 miles long and about 20 miles off the coast of Los Angeles. As with the Salton Sea, the Channel Islands off of Southern California have intrigued me since grade school. I first heard of these islands in 3rd or 4th grade when I read the children's book Island of the Blue Dolphins. For the last couple of years in medical school every time I've gone to the beach to surf or relax I've seen Catalina Island in the distance. So the last time I was at the beach I decided I would take the ferry out to the Island and then hike to the highest point - Mt. Orizaba.

I got on the ferry at Long Beach at nine in the morning and over an hour later made landfall at the harbor of Avalon, one of two small towns on the island. Avalon is a very compact and interesting town where the majority of inhabitants drive golf carts as their primary vehicle. After getting my hiking permit at the Catalina Conservancy Office I went to track down a bus that would take me about 5 miles into the interior to get to the start of the trail to climb Orizaba. But upon visiting the offices of both bus companies on the island I came to the seemingly devastating conclusion that I would not be climbing Orizaba that day as there were no buses running into the interior. I thought briefly about trying to make it to the summit hiking from Avalon but I knew if I tried such a thing - over 20 miles round trip - it would be dark by the time I hiked back into town and I might miss the last ferry back to Long beach.

The islanders were of a friendly sort though and one older man who saw me looking at my map simply suggested I hike up into the hills around Avalon. As I climbed into the hills above the town I realized that this day would not be a disappointment. I was amazed by the beauty of my surroundings as I hiked along the crest of the island. The Pacific Ocean stretched into the distance with San Clemente Island in the foreground to the southwest and to the northeast was the blue of the San Pedro Channel and the snow-capped mountains of Southern California in the distance. While it was obvious that this island was a much more arid environment than my home in Western Washington I was surprised by the lush growth of a wide variety of shrubs, trees and plants as I hiked around.

Dodecatheon sp. - lots of these at the lower elevations.

Looking to the north - some interesting trees and the southern Californian mainland in the distance.

My initial goal had been Mt. Orizaba, the highest point on the left. Maybe next time.

A green hillside on the southwest side of the island. If you look closely you can see a lot of Prickly Pear cacti (Opuntia) on the hillside.

Looking to the northwest. The town of Avalon in the foreground. In the distance is snow-capped Mt. Baldy, highest point in Los Angeles county.

After hiking for about five hours I found a great place to watch the sun set over the Pacific. I had brought City of God with me so I read an interesting chapter where Augustine recounted various healing miracles he had witnessed during his ministry. The sunset was quite impressive and it was dark by the time I made it back to town - just in time for the 6:15 ferry.

Sunset from Catalina

My ride back to the mainland.


Ed said...

I read about half of City of God my freshman year of college. I do need to finish/reread that book someday.

Matt Perkins said...

I think it would be well worth it. I started reading at "Part II" in the 11th book because that's where he starts drawing out the histories of the City of God and the City of Man. I think the first half of his work deals more with the fall of Rome and criticisms of Christianity - which although I'm sure it would be interesting seemed less interesting to me than the subject matter starting at Book XI about halfway through the work as a whole. Whatever the case may be I think it is an amazing work of theology and should provide much edification to any reader.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure and them! Looks so beautiful and like a fun excursion. My favorite was the Cali sunset, positively stunning! I'm so happy for you, that you got the chance to spend a relaxing day~ hiking and communing with our Lord. To the top of Mt. Orizaba next time for sure. =)
Blessings, A.J.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

Beautiful pictures as always! I love the one of the flowers, you are really skilled with a camera. I remember reading IotBD over and over as a kid...definitely a classic!

Have a good week~


Matt Perkins said...

Thanks A.J. and Scarlet!