Destination: Catalina Island

Recently, Rick and I took a trip to Catalina Island. It's an island off the coast of Southern California. It's 22 miles long and 8 miles wide. We traveled via the Catalina Flyer, which shuttles back and forth from Avalon and Newport Beach. Thanks to Groupon, we went for half off. Typically, a round trip ticket will cost you 70 bucks. 

For breakfast, we had sugar donuts and hot chocolate on the boat... breakfast of champions!

Rick seemed to know every single boat on the water. He likes to tell me stories of his past voyages at sea, catching giant tuna, wahoo and dorado...which make me jealous. After awhile, I just tell him to be quiet.  

The water was flat that morning, so the ride over was quite smooth. After a little over an hour, we arrived at Avalon, which is the main "city" on Catalina Island. Charming houses dotted and lined the hills, appearing sort of mediterranean. 

We got off the boat and headed straight for the tour agency. Rick and I hoped to catch the earliest tour out to see the interior, which I have never seen. I was itching to see a big ol' bison. 

Did you know that Catalina Island was originally owned by the Wrigley family? Yes, the chewing gum. 

In 1972, the family transferred all ownership to the Catalina Island Conservancy. 

We meandered around town before leaving for our tour. Shared a sandwich at Vons Express, which is only half a Vons. The island is so limited on space that they can't hold an entire grocery store. The other half is located on another part of the island. 

We found a bench that overlooked the ocean and decided to have our lunch there. Then, we saw him... the fattest seagull in the world. He waddled over to us, with his rotund belly swaying from side to side, watching us eagerly while we ate our sandwiches. So, Rick decided to make him more fat by giving him some Fritos.

Sea stuff... for first time tourists. 

Really. Where would you put these things anyway? You know they don't match with anything you have in your house. 

Tour time! Good thing about going to Catalina Island on a Friday, in the Fall, is that you don't have to deal with annoying crowds. We shared the tour bus with only 4 other people. Rick and I spent the entire trip hopping from seat to seat. 

The bus driver was an entertaining crack up. I don't remember his name, because I'm horrible. But he told us not to tell anybody he did this, so it all works out. Anyway, since we were such a small group--and because we're special-- we went on a detour to this awesome lookout point. It offered fantastic views of the island below. Too bad it was so cloudy that day. -_-

See? Pretty... 

I was so surprised at the size of the island. I've only visited Avalon in the past, and being the dumb tourist that I was, I sorta thought that was it. Apparently, there's some great deer hunting on Catalina...

Buffalo chips! Is there bison nearby? 

There's one! In the distance. Do you see him? Sorry, I don't have a long telephoto lens. 

Click on photo to enlarge. 

Having a great time!
While we continued along, I saw a couple of buffalo not too far away. Rick and I shouted "buffalo!" It was so cool to see them. 

Story has it that 14 bison were brought to the island for a film. They ended up not making it into the film, but filmmakers decided to leave them on the island. After only a few years, the original 14 proliferated into the hundreds. They caused so much stress on the land that the population had to be reduced. Unlike the goats, the buffalo had it easy. The bison are just captured and ferried out once they pass their carrying capacity on Catalina, to return to the Indian reservation where the original 14 came. The goats were shot down from helicopters. Now, there are no goats on Catalina, because they caused so much soil erosion. So did the pigs. Mind you that none of these animals are native. They were brought over by unknowing travelers. 

Today, the bison has become a symbol for Catalina Island, and are very well protected and loved. Yet, buffalo meat is popular on Catalina menus. The bus driver assured us that all the buffalo meat found on Catalina are shipped in, and that none on the island are harmed. Which doesn't really make sense to us... won't they receive the same fate on the Indian reservations? 

Except this one. 

Up at the airport, we grabbed snacks and souvenirs at the little shop. 

There were hummingbirds everywhere. 
Catalina's ecology reminded me of a combination of Southern California sceneries. In some places, it looked like a familiar California chaparral, with small, low dry bushes and cactus dotting here and there. And at other places, you'll see rolling grasses and plains, much like in San Diego. 

Ahhh... paradise.

On the way back, the same two buffalo we saw earlier were still there. Except they moved a little. All they seem to do is lay around. 

Our bus driver introduced us to two very interesting island characters, Edgar and Allan. As our bus made its way down the mountain, these two ravens followed alongside, from post to post, tree to tree. And the story unfolds as so...

One day, a local resident of Catalina Island opened up his door to find 3 baby ravens sitting on his doorstep. Not knowing what else to do, he decided to raise them himself. He called them Edgar, Allan and Poe. 

Once they were old enough, the man decided that it was best to free them. He took them to a different part of the island and let them go.

When he drove away, the birds followed him, just to make sure that he made it back home okay. 

Today, the ravens have learned that if they follow certain buses, they get a cookie. Our bus driver told us that Poe is gone and dead, but Edgar and Allan still carry on their tradition. Other ravens have also caught on, copying the duo. But the only way to tell between Edgar and Allan from the rest is that they always stop at the post sign that says "Yield to Bus." That day, the two that followed alongside us did, telling us that they were the originals. After they got their cookies, they were off... to wait for another bus. 

After the 2 hour tour, we were starving. So, we had burgers and a couple beers. I aptly got a buffalo burger. 

:-) Always nice to spend time with my favorite person. 

Then, it was time to leave. More people left the island than arrived that day. They were probably overnighters. 

Who knows if I'll ever step onto Avalon again. 




  1. Actually, the Catalina Island Conservancy only owns 88% of the island. The other main owner is the Santa Catalina Island Company which owns land from the East End quarry to Hamilton Cove, along the channel side from Empire landing to Two Harbors, Two Harbors and Catalina Harbor, along the channel side from Two Harbors to Emerald Bay, and a large around El Rancho Escondido.


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