I'd heard about the hike to Ballast Point for years. "It's steep," friends said, "but the view is worth it. " They were right on both counts.
Ballast Point rises above Two Harbors, a small settlement about 20 miles northwest of Avalon. Summer and fall are perfect times to visit Two Harbors; catch a Catalina Express boat leaving San Pedro in the morning and return in the late afternoon or early evening.
What's it like? If Avalon is Catalina's party girl, Two Harbors is her sleepy little sister, with only about 300 residents. There's a restaurant, a snack bar, a small market, a place to rent boats and bikes, but not much else.
During the summer the action picks up a bit because there are more private boats in the harbor, but it's still a good place to get away from it all.
If you love the outdoors, you'll love Two Harbors. You can bike, hike, dive, swim, sail and kayak. Or spend the day lounging in a beach chair and then catch Happy Hour (3 to 5pm) at West End Galley.
On this particular day, however, we'd decided to hike to Ballast Point. It was a struggle -- there's a steep ascent with a 900-foot elevation gain in less than a half-mile -- but the pain is over pretty quickly, since the loop trail is only three miles.
And, wow, what a view!
We could see the mainland, plus harbors on both sides of the Island (hence the name Two Harbors) and looking west, we saw the open Pacific Ocean. Next stop, Hawaii, 2,500 miles away.
Back in the tiny town a little later, we plotted our next move, and decided on a bike ride along the coast. There are lots of trails to ride here, but the coast is one of my favorites. It gives you a bird's eye view into many of coves that line the Island.
We got a better look at the coves the next day, when we took a boat ride north, passing kayakers, swimmers and other boaters who were taking advantage of the warm weather and calm water conditions. Some coves house youth camps, others are private, still, others allow boat-in camping.
In Emerald Cove, true to its name, we saw green-tinted waters that were so clear we could see the ocean floor. A spectacular way to spend an afternoon.
Despite its isolation, Two Harbors offers lodging choices, including camping (Two Harbors Enterprises: 877.778.1487); the Banning House Lodge, a B&B (Santa Catalina Island Company, 877.778.8322) and two large rental houses (Catalina Island Vacation Rentals, 866.987.6942).
For further information, contact Two Harbors Visitor Information Services, 310.510.4205.
by Rosemary McClure