Hiking and yoga adventures on the Trans Catalina Trail


Here’s Adam Araujo’s first-time perspective on our Catalina Island Hiking & Yoga Retreat! Thank you so much, Adam, for coming along as helper on this one! Adam blogs in a funny, irreverant voice about hiking, recovery, and life adventures at Absolute Clownshoes. If you would like to share a post about your experience on one of our retreats, please contact us! -Carrie

Blog author smiling outside the Catalina Express Ferry boat

Guest post by Adam Araujo, multiple-time BLA retreat guest, helper, and friend!

Day 1 for my trip brought PWM>EWR>LAX where I was picked up by Carrie and Zachary of Bigger Life Adventures. We are friends now of a few years and this is my retreat #2.5 having been to Baja (Rosarito, Mexico), Arizona (Rim 2 Rim in the Grand Canyon), as well as staking a place for a footprint near Lincoln, NH for a retreat this coming September in the White Mountains.

So we’ve hiked together. This is a bit of info which will come in handy later. They’ve also seen me expose my inner child – what remains of my innocence, what I have left for fears – so. They know me and they knew this would be a good fit. A bit about Bigger Life Adventures: Carrie and Zach are partners in every sense and they bring a sense of harmony and collaboration to every conversation and experience – they’re funny, smart, curious and generally wonderful hosts, be that at their home near the Grand Canyon or anywhere on the road. The retreats which I’ve participated in have included yoga (Carrie’s a yogi and Ayurvedic practitioner- a wealth of knowledge on Eastern healing and wellness), vegan cooking (by Zach. Fekkin OOTW I tell you what), and physical challenges designed to get you out of your normal routine and embracing some novelty.

In Mexico I learned how to surf. In Arizona I learned how to build (assemble) a Mongolian ger (not part of the retreat, just helping out at their property)! Here on Catalina Island I gave myself permission to just BE. I helped with chores (camping for 4 days for 9 people is a lot of gear, cooking, firewood, food, etc.) though that sure didn’t feel like it cost me anything – and I let my guard down and exhaled for what feels like the first time in almost a year.

Carrie and Zach grabbed me at LAX – we checked in at Golden Sands Hotel (Long Beach I think?) and went out for groceries and dinner. I jumped in the (frigid) pool and took a fancy-ass bath in the fancy-ass tub before I committed to a week with no shower. Found Natures Bakery Peach & Apricot as well as a Tobasco variant that is surely from Earth 33. Food is good but pricey (same as Maine really) but we also hit a farmers market for some super dope pupusas and plantains, headed back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 2: up earlyish, checked out, met in the lot. Drove to the ferry port. Met the folks: Dustin & Katelyn the newlyweds – Linda – Megan – Rachael – Rome all travelers on their own journeys and I think everyone had been on a retreat before as well. Ferry was 75 mins – choppy af – and a fun ride. Came into Avalon, checked gear with our gear-toting dudes and started the 10.7 mile hike to Blackjack Campground. Was BLOWN AWAY by the scenery and leaned heavily on my cell for pics and some vids. Here’s a few:

 

Day 3: Day two on the island was an early start from Blackjack Campground – hiked 8.2 miles total to Little Harbor with a stop at “the Airport in the Sky” for lunch – more amazing views and just breathtaking scenery.

On the deck of Catalina Island "Airport in the Sky"

Panorama from our morning snack stop at the airport cafe!

The first day was a ton of lavender, sage, and rosemary so the fragrance was something else. Desert-ish terrain but super green for this time of year – hardpack everywhere. Tons of little beetles, cactus, these ridiculous ground squirrels who really are evolving into chinchillas, elusive buffalo, little lizards that would race off as soon as they felt you coming, and not-shy foxes that would get super close trying to steal any unattended snacks.

Let’s talk gear real quick. Airlines have different policies so I made sure United would allow me a carry-on and an under-seat item. I downsized from my Big Agnes 2-man tent so I could get all my shit on the plane without checking a bag, picking up an Outdoor Research bivi – it’s 3/4 seasons and cost me about $300. Had a 0° mummybag and that wouldn’t do so I grabbed a 55°bag long bag from same manufacturer, plus an inflatable Big Agnes sleeping mat and Nemo pillow.

The bivi has two stake-loops and one tore off the first night – nbd – the mattress pad fits to the end of the bivi and with the bag in there it weighs itself down okay – but really needs a stake on both ends for support. I dropped my battery bank in the corner and this worked. My bivi was initially rejected by the group – they called it a coffin – this would morph over the following several days to “womb,” “womb-tomb,” “birth-canal” and my favorite “chrysalis.” As bivis go, this wasn’t bad. Left the outer lining mostly open to vent/circulate fresh air and so I could see the stars. Takes some getting used to to stay on the mattress in there and 55° BARELY covered it but we did just fine. One might go so far as to suggest “foxy n fine!” It’s less than a pound by itself and barely 3 with the mat and the pillow and the bag – so #ultralight!

I am SO looking forward to a Pemi loop with this bad boy as well as a revisit to the Presis with a more lax itinerary. And we had a gear-haul so retrospectively I could have checked the bag and gone bigger on the tent – but this was the acid test and we passed. Everyone else had a tent. lol. I will say that I was able to set up and strike quicker than most, but Rachael gave me a solid run by her second time setting her tent up – was her first time tenting/backpacking and she, also, crushed it.Dustin and Katelyn shared a tent space as did Carrie and Zach, with Megan, Rome, Rachael and myself all sleeping solo. Lots of Big Agnes stuff and tons of REI gear. We all had our own devices and battery banks.Rome actually performed cellphone surgery while we were drinking kombuchas during a break at Two Harbors – so while we were camping. And we were backpacking. So I wouldn’t say we were roughing it too much. Fuck. If you tasted what Zach produced for dinner you’d swear you were on some vegan culinary tour because it was *that* good.

Day 4: This was a big day. Stretch and hit the road at 8am – 6 miles before lunch at Two Harbors. After lunch we had @1800’ vert in the first 3 miles – so *that was a push.
And we saw the height of the land this day too at Silver Peak (signed the book in the box) – and here, friends and neighbors, is where the fact that Carrie and Zach know me came in handy, as instead of backing down the trail from the summit and taking the 3 or so miles to Parsons Landing, yours truly in my fashion took the long way around. I kept on and found West End Trail that looped its way back around island to the landing. Not sure what everyone else got (approximately 13 miles?) but I had 17.2 and 4400′ by the time I got to camp. I *also got to scramble through a washout that looked like an earthquake had split the trail – this like a mile from camp too so for a second I was what the fucking myself before I just jumped in.

This was a challenging day for hydration – lots of talking to myself and solo trekking hoping that I would be trusted to find the group and not completely ruin the record of no whammies on the Catalina trips? Remember when I said them knowing me made a difference? Yeah if this wasn’t me it might have been handled differently.#GotClout

ALSO ALSO the only bison of the journey was seen first thing this morning – I snagged a shot – they’re hit-or-miss as they have pretty much free range of the islands though I wonder if they hazard the isthmus at all – weird to not see a bunch of them, we guessed they’re on holiday in Sweden or perhaps they went on strike – with the lone scab making an appearance to satisfy the looky-loos.

Day 5: (Day 4 on Catalina)

Sunday – we got up at Parsons Landing for 7.7 miles back to Two Harbors. Here again I found my own route and earned the trail name “Boomerang” because I keep coming back. Guess I’ll take it. Anyhow I made the 7.7 into 9.2, not exactly sure hour but I’m no TimeLord so I’m guessing I just took the wrong turn.

When we got into town we paused for snacks before continuing to the campsite and then I went back with Rachael for a kayaking adventure and an amazing 3.2 minute coin-op hot shower that was.. it was incredible.

While I’m at it – HUGE shout out to the Catalina Island Conservancy for the work they do. They have to track the bison and give them birth control to keep the island from herding out – so this means that every bison has a name! And I’m not sure who cleans the shitters on the island but…my hat is tipped in your direction, Sir or Madame.
The island is like 60 folks in the off season – I chatted up an employee at the Two Harbors General Store (mighta dropped $150 on snacks…) and she said it’s a dream working out there, her 5th season, and she loves it. Hard to find any fault with her reasoning.

I got 46.32 miles total on Strava (trail is 37.57). Figure I ran about half of them – I’m gonna crunch numbers as that’s my thing but overall it was hard but not impossible – desperately beautiful, and a fantastic time.

10/10 would recommend.

Gorgeous beach panorama at Two Harbors, Catalina.

Gorgeous beach at Two Harbors, Catalina.

Only 3 spots left for the next one – April 24-28, 2025! Registration includes a guided training plan so you’ll be fit and ready for the challenge!