By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 6/20/2019
Posted: 3/16/2009
Topics/Keywords: #California #Photography #SantaCatalinaIsland #Travel #TwoHarbors Page Views: 3236
The whole family goes ocean kayaking off Santa Catalina island.

So here we are on Catalina Island, and I am hardly a novice camper, but last night was something out of a medieval torture manual.

The problem was that Michael and I didn't have any kind of padding for our sleeping bags. We had brought the air mattress that I keep in one of the pre-packed camping crates we brought; and it's a good one, too, one you'd be pleased to offer guests in your home to sleep on. In fact, to me it's more comfortable than our very expensive bed at home. But the pump for it runs on 12-volt electricity from the car, and we had neither car nor electricity at our campsite.

Our campsite at Two Harbors

Jenny got pads yesterday for herself, Mary and Zach, just before the Guest Services hut closed. I figured I wouldn't need pads, because (from the pictures) our site is on sand; and I know from experience that sand makes an excellent and soft mattress.

However, the sand that makes up our site hasn't been loose sand for several million years. It's now sandstone, and not soft at all.

Even so, I figured—with some mixed feelings—that I, personally, have built-in padding adequate to do the trick. I also decided, on Michael's behalf, that so did he.

I was wrong, on both counts.

So I now have bruises on both hips from simply trying to sleep on one side, then the other.

Two Harbors General Store

Therefore, when we all walked into town after breakfast, Michael and I went into the Two Harbors General Store and bought a hand-operator air pump for $30—about twice what it would have cost at Wal-Mart, but I didn't care.

Rest Rooms, Showers, Laundry, Porta-Potti Disposal

The town of Two Harbors is nestled between two actual harbors. It "faces" the East; the California coastline can be seen, dimly, through the sea mist. A yacht club takes up the "back" harbor, facing the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean. In between is the isthmus that connects the two mountainous regions of Santa Catalina. On this isthmus you'll find a nice restaurant—just one, but it's a nice one and I hear the food there is good—also a snack bar open for breakfast and lunch (the restaurant is only open for dinner). There's the general store, hot showers and public toilets, the snorkeling/SCUBA/kayaking concession, Guest Services, and the pier. On the hills to the southeast are homes of permanent residents and rental properties. Vehicles are not permitted in the town itself; there are a few but they are kept to the periphery.

And, everywhere, there are flowers.

Decorative flowers in Two Harbors

While Michael and I were buying the air pump, Jenny headed straight for the kayak concession and made arrangements for today's sea adventure. I had originally planned to rent a 2-person kayak for 8 hours. But now, between being stiff from my torturous night on the rock and it's being cooler than I expected, two hours seemed adequate. In fact, one would do.

(I should mention that I brought an underwater film camera with me and when the photos come back I'll add them as appropriate and update this section. But, meanwhile, here are the shots Mary took as we took the boats out.)

Bird Island

I wanted us to paddle out to Bird Island, a funny little spot of land between our campsite and the California coast. The fact that most of its surface consists of bird droppings didn't discourage me; it was a place to go. But Jenny was afraid we wouldn't be able to paddle that far and back within our hour, especially when, a few minutes after paddling out we had to return because my seat wasn't secured properly and kept sliding down into the bottom of the boat.

So instead we paddled out along the coast, past our campsite and and several caves that excited Zachary. The water was amazingly clear and we could see all kinds of intriguing plant life and even the occasional fish.

After we returned the kayaks, Michael set out on a photographic journey to get pictures of all the various flowers that grew so abundantly. I'm sure he knows exactly what kind of flower each is; to me, there are "daisies" and "roses" and "flowers".

Zach and Big Papa (me)

Finally ready to return to camp, Zachary urged us to take the "short cut" instead of climbing the steep hill. It turned out his "short cut" involved either clambering over rocks or wading up to my waist in the somewhat cool ocean water. I chose the latter; and it did give an opportunity to get some interesting shots of the boulders and rocks strewn along the shore.

Jenny preferred the boulder route with Zachary; Michael took an in-between pastiche of the two. (Mary simply went up the hill, she being the only one who had not gotten wet already in a kayak, anyway.)

Jenny and Zach Paul and Zach (at top of rock) Paul, a-wadin'.

Finally we reached the campsite. Zachary's short cut had taken about twice as long as the trail, though I did enjoy taking it very much…once.

The moment I was there, though, I unwrapped the new air pump and began inflating the mattress while Michael took our other stuff out of the tent. We also moved it to the other side of the picnic table and on the edge of the bluff and positioned it so that the door opened onto the harbor. We then added the air mattress, tossed in the pillows and sleeping bags (which we actually use as big comforters rather than actual, zipped bags) and tried it out. For about two hours. It was utter luxury, true heaven on earth; and we napped until Zachary came to tell us dinner was ready. When I opened my eyes this is what I saw:

A womb with a view: My tent on the bluff.

Now, that's camping!

It was also to be my last night on the island. No, I hadn't been "voted off". But tomorrow (Tuesday) was my planned day to return home so I could go to work on Wednesday. Everyone else would be able to stay until Friday, but not me.

Still…I had a wonderful night on my air mattress and beneath my warm, soft sleeping bags to look forward to…so, no point in dwelling on tomorrow!