The West Coast (CA,NV,WA,OR), Trip Reports » Popping the Cherry on Catalina Island, CA



my name is mike and I don’t type in complete sentences sometimes or can win any spelling bees, so beer with me. this is my first attempt at a long ride report/blog like entry. I will probably give some information that is decent for new to bike packing people and I think this might be an entertaining yet somewhat coherent story.

the words below will be about me and my first bikepacking trip that occurred 12/27-12/28 2013
the photos were taken with an iphone 4s. my buddies have a lot of great photos on this trip. contact me if you want to see.

I think two years ago a riding buddy was talking to me about bike packing and it really got me interested. Long story short. Money required and proposed routes didn’t get my attention until a few months ago when I saw this catalina overnight trip. I never been there before and the route looked better than previous routes.


80$ Ozark sleeping bag 750 grams (kept me warm without using it as intended as a mummy bag)
32$ 10 L sea to summit compression bag (sleeping bag and clothes inside)
5$ 10 L dry bag (tent, tarp, sleeping pad inside) tent and pad borrowed
5$ tarp  12$ flexible rubber ties
8$ cord and buckles
revelate feedbag, seat bag turned around, verysmall frame bag, camel back. two water bottles (already owned)


Ferry with bike Roundtrip is 80$. a year bike pass is 35$. camping at two harbors is 1$ until the end of feb?

if you don’t want carry any gear except water and snacks. YOU can rent camping gear from two harbors campground in advance. eat along the way. get water along the way.


the rough plan was. take ferry from long beach at 615. get bike pass at 830. get to two harbors before dark. then the next day. get up. ride back to Avalon. take ferry back at 6pm

the ride was a little bit of pavement. and the rest was fireroad. 53 miles total and 7000 feet of climbing. the ride was difficult. the amount of climbing paired with the mileage and my less riding in the winter really hit me. it was probably the hardest two days of riding since Oregon in July. challenging, yet fun and interesting. a learning experience for the body and mind.

the weather probably ranged from 40-77 degrees

day 1 31 miles 4000 feet of climbing. stop at airport for lunch


day 2 22 miles at 3000 feet of climbing.


I only got 3.5 hours of sleep the night before the ride. 730-11. I fought with myself until 145 with trying different ways to fall back asleep(drove my wife crazy for a few hours) and I said forget it at 145. I decided to get up and eat 3 eggs and 5 pieces of bacon. drank some coffee and watched an episode of the walking dead. I was only tired on the drive when we were in anahiem. I figured I would sleep really good that night in the tent. I slept ok.


the boat ride over was nice and comfy. good seats. nice view of the sunrise. nice view of the island. oh man was it a perfect morning. Not so perfect at 3pm when climbing to two harbors camp from little harbor camp. when we got to Avalon, we rode around town looking for a breakfast spot, the building and golf carts tripped me out, we checked out the scuba spot and eventually went to vons for breakfast. (yogurt drink, banana and two string cheese). we then made our way to the conservancy at 830 to get our bike pass. and we were on our way to the airport in the sky.


sunrise in long beach


the ride to the airport was pretty easy except the first 3 miles climbing stagecoach road. it was a 45 minute climb. great ocean views for half of it and a good amount of shade really helped the mental game. after the climb it was a nice gradual up and down to the airport with great views of the interior island to the left and the ocean/mainland to the right. it was cool that we could see the mainland across 20 miles of ocean.

we ate buffalo burgers and refueled at the airport. I recommend the buffalo burger with bacon and blue cheese. this is also a great place to wash up and refill on water/other drinks. they did have a decent selection of microbrewed beer for a decent price but I knew the day was going to be tough so I did not give into temptation.




from the airport we back tracked 2 miles along airport road to cape canyon road that passed by black jack campground. (which looked like a nice tree covered campground) cape canyon started with a decent climb that was slowed down due to a torn sidewall. eventually the sidewall was repaired and we continued to the crazy downhill that cape canyon offered. I don’t think I pedaled for 4 miles. fun yet challenging with the gear. some of the views reminded me of chino hills state park. we all had big smiles on our face all the way to middle ranch road.



view near blackjack campground

when we made it to middle ranch road I was thinking. ok this is cool. but soon enough we were close to the coast. we could see the road dropping to sea level and then climbing back up. it was very daunting. (try not to look, but look so you can plan haha) I just pedaled and kept head down, trying to remain positive. I did and when the view of little harbor campground came into view. we were thrilled.


the worst part of day 1 was the climb from little harbor to two harbors. I think it was 4 mile climb that really sucked everything out of me. I was hot, sweat everywhere, pissed, hating life, seemed like it would never end, “said this is going to suck tomorrow” which it did but not as bad as I thought when I was thinking then lol.
me and alex had some cheer leaders at certain points of the climb but they were not hot so they didn’t help much. I don’t think I have ever been in granny gear for so long.
at one point a couple was walking the opposite way. kind of strange since they had flip flops on and were 3 miles from town and had 3 miles to go to camp. tangents I know.
eventually we ended the climb and could see two harbors. it was all down hill from there. we went into town, checked in and found out that camping was cheaper than expected. the lady was really nice and really hooked us up. No not in that way. we walked our bikes back to camp and set up before dark.

the camp was really close to the beach and I couldn’t ask for better condtions.



we went back to town for dinner(non camping food, like steak, fish and chips, etc) and supplies for the next day. had a nice camp fire and was harassed by a fox, loud boat party and backpackers with a guitar but we eventually got our beast sleep. I had a nightcap that consisted of OLD RASPUTEN.

the food and drinks at two harbors are pricey. 4$ big Gatorade 2$ snickers. etc that sandwhich and fries wasn’t bad priced at 14$.
the store at two harbors does have a good amount of supplies for camping/cooking. goodselection of beer just double the normal price. singles, bombers and 6packs.
I think the rasputens were 3.50 each.




started at 3am. dark chocolate with coconut. 6am. bacon jerkey and almonds. we didn’t started riding until 8 because my set up takes a while to setup. next time I go I will have quick and easy set up. I felt the pressure of the guys waiting to get going. alex took off a little early and I was surprised to see him only a mile up the road.


finished jerkey at little harbor campground

mentally I was not looking forward to riding back to Avalon and physically I wasn’t ready either. I sat on my bike and man it hurt. even with chammy butter.
it was a two mile climb out of camp. after a mile I was in it to win it. something clicked and the pain went away. eventually we made it to the top and I knew it was downhill until little harbor campground (4 miles) that was a really fun downhill that lift my spirits and I think others too.  tangent. the gas company truck passed me really fast. I didn’t enjoy the dust. he slowed down for everyone else though ha

we ran into two other bikes packers at little harbor. a couple on hybrid bikes. I didn’t talk to them. alex and jeff did. I guess the ranger was delivering water since it was turned off. that campground looks like a cool spot if you bring enough food and water. im glad I filled a Gatorade bottle at camp from the night before. the next couple miles were painful from little harbor to middle ranch. it was like. climb up a hill. descend back to sea level and then climb a hill. then descend, etc etc etc,

we made it to the cool looking barn, shack that we passed yesterday. I had to get a few photos.





cool photo of alex

soon after that we rode pass a fox exhibit that was closed but we did see a fox

at this point I said wow. today is better, you get more reward for tall the climbing. from what I remember. it was climb a big hill. get sweaty and hate life. then descend. cool off and love life. it was a nice feeling. great views of the coast.

soon after that we were at the merger of cape canyon and middle ranch road where a eagle exhibit is.


from the eagles to airport road was a nice gradual fire road climb until the last quarter mile. granny gear in the sun. since I knew water refill was soon I started dumping water on my head to cool down. I knew that was my last hill of the day. me and alex were in a good amount of pain. I think it pain was from the lack of chammy butter. TMI. I could not continue to the extra 11 mile loop around Avalon. bad thing was after that climb we still had to climb to the park for water. luckily it was a gradual up and down road climb. this time views of ocean on the left.



1st time backpacking thumbs up. shadow of bags


a thought that occurred to me several times on the trip back to Avalon was wow the roads are busier today. tourism. weekends. Island Tours. etc. we saw many tour buses and vans and jeeps. I wonder what the people thought when  they saw us struggling up the road with all our gear.


once we got to the park. we took a break. washed up. refilled water and layed down on the ground. it was a nice rest. probably could of stayed there for hours. at that point me and alex decided to bail out and take the easy way back to Avalon. jeff and mark continued to the 11 mile loop around to Avalon. I guess it was a tough ride and I was glad we didn’t attempt after hearing about the journey.


me and alex made it back to town. hit up the showers. I had a nice cold starbucks coffee in a bottle. so good. after shower we went to luau larrys for pizza and a beer. what a perfect way to end the trip. the pizza was ok. the green flash ipa was outstanding as usual. 5.75$ for pint.

since we got to town a little earlier we got to leave town a few hours earlier for 5 dollars more. worth it. we were all tired.
funny how a lot of people cut in front of me in line, didn’t care much. I just popped the headphones in my ears and stared at ocean.
we watched a pelican beg for fisherman food. I listened to music in line and on the boat back to longbeach and occasionally looking up for some hot tamales while I thought of the experience we had.


id like to pack clothes that are more suited for weather. I brought thermals that I did not use. they were heavy and bulky.
id like to have a set of sleeping socks. id like to have camp sandals or shoes next time.
A MAJOR thing id like to have is one of the REVELATE seat bags. like the PIKA. it will make loading up so much easier on day TWO.
id like a nice hot cup of coffee to start day two.

I also want to do routes and trips that include places I haven’t been before or rode before just like this catalina trip.

photos below are from alex and jeff


that is me in Avalon ready to start the journey


this is end of journey. walking to boat. I didn’t notice the brewery haha


view close to our campsite


little harbor



top of climb from avalon


this is where you pick up your bike pass in avalon


climbing out of camp


last climb on middle ranch road trying to make it up to airport road. im mashing


jeff and mark cruising near two harbors camp


Thanks for reading. I think there is a plan to do this again in February of 2014.

the groups below are who I usually ride with. check them out.

Meadowview Mountain Goats

Donovan’s Cycling Services


Comments (7)

AlexJanuary 4th, 2014 at 11:27 pm

nice write up. It was a fun trip!

TimJanuary 5th, 2014 at 10:34 am

Nice job Mike. You really captured the feel of the ride. I might need to hit that up sometime.

JRAJanuary 6th, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I like Old Rasputin…

Did anyone ever ask for or check your pass?

MikeJanuary 13th, 2014 at 9:48 pm

Way to go, team! Nice ride and report.

Wifers and I spent a few days out there and had a blast. Thanks for the flashback…

Pat K.March 1st, 2014 at 12:35 pm

Great write up & pics.

HunterMarch 19th, 2014 at 4:39 pm

Thanks for the ride report triggered a last minute bikepacking trip went a different way then yours from airport but would like to try your way.
My trip blog

MikeJune 14th, 2014 at 5:22 pm

I would buy a pass. The rangers were patrolling when we rode. The same ranger talked to us twice on the same day. The store in two harbors has a good selection of beer and food. Get there before they close.

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