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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

TCT Day 3: Little Harbor to Two Harbors

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

Today I am midway through my hike and have a few survey marks to look for as I head toward Two Harbors.

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I encourage you to follow my journey as it unfolded, enjoying the articles chronologically; however, for ease, these links allow you to jump between specific days. All links open in a new window so you won't lose your location.

TCT Day 3 Statistics

Date: January 24, 2023

Distance: 6.32 Miles

Total Elapsed Time: 5h 05m

Total Moving Time: 4h 10m

Highest Elevation: 1,213 Feet

Elevation Gain: 1,381 Feet

Trailhead: Little Harbor Campground

Happy Hump Day! 🤣 Usually reserved for Wednesdays, today is day three of my five-day hike of the TCT, so yes, it's officially Hump Day. 🐪 After completing my morning breakfast routine, striking camp, and re-packing my gear, I explored the Whales Tail, a rock peninsula separating Little Harbor from Shark Harbor. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the views were stunning; the colors of the water were mesmerizing. I spent 30 minutes on the rock just taking it all in; you could call it a morning meditation, but I just wanted to BE there, quiet my mind, and dial into my senses. I just let the feel of the sun, the smells, and the sounds of the water wash over me. It may sound a little "woo-woo" to you, but I don't believe you can truly understand it until you've experienced it. For me, it is part of the joy of solo hiking.

Reluctantly, I returned to camp to gear up and begin today's journey to Two Harbors, making a mental note to camp at Shark Harbor Campground if I were ever to do the TCT again. There are only three campsites, and one is on the beach, so if you enjoy the solitude and quiet campsites, this may be as close as you could get to it in Little Harbor.

The elevation profile for today's section looked easy enough, with a total vertical gain of just under 1,400 feet. I left camp at 10:00 a.m. following the same trail that I came in on last night. It wasn't until I looped around the end of the campground that I realized I could have followed the access road cutting through the camp, saving a half-mile 🤦🏻‍♂️ but no biggie; in the grand scheme of things, it's all part of the walk.

Climbing away from Little Harbor, I kept looking back and taking pictures; the views were just that cool.

WHITE BLUFF RESET (PID: DY2983) Could Not Find

Type of Marker: DS - Triangulation Station Disc

Setting: 9 - Set in prefabricated concrete post imbedded in the ground

Stamping: WHITE BLUFF 1879

Monumented: 1876 by the US Coast Survey

Reset: 1934 by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey

This mark was about a mile up the trail after I left Little Harbor Campground. To make this recovery, I went about 50 feet off the TCT, dropped my pack on the hillside, descended one hill, and climbed up the other side to the bluff. Unfortunately, I could not find any trace of the station disc or the reference marks. Based on the coordinates, my GPS showed it was 12 feet beyond the bluff's edge. The coordinates could have been off, but it could have been there, and the bluff simply eroded over the years. Disappointed to have expended the extra effort to make this detour and come up empty-handed, I returned to my pack and continued on the TCT to my next target.

The first photo above is from the TCT as White Bluff first came into view; I hiked up to a spot parallel to it before hiking across. The second photo was taken on the Bluff where I should have found the mark, looking back toward Little Harbor.

I had to cross a small stream at the bottom, and looking back up, I could barely make out my pack on the hillside. In the second photo, I zoomed in 3X; I couldn't determine where my pack was in the final shot from White Bluff! 🤣

Looking Ahead Toward Goat Benchmark

Both pictures below look north from White Bluff, showing the coastline and the next climb I must tackle. In the second shot, you can barely distinguish the edge of massive erosion; Alex, a hiker I met at Black Jack campground, warned me that a dangerous section of the trail was on the edge of a massive sinkhole.

Returning to the main trail, I continued to mile marker 20 and the "sinkhole" Alex warned me about. To be fair, it was impressive and reminded me of a section of the Villager Peak Trail in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. The trail DOES skirt right on the edge of the drop-off; however, walking parallel to the trail about 10 feet to the right would be easy if you had issues with being too close to the edge; I didn't and stayed on the trail 🙃

The climb has been gradual, but I still have a mile and a half of "up" to reach my high point for the day and the second survey mark on my list. I may have audibly groaned a little when I crested the next hill; that final climb looked steep.

The climb WAS steep and followed the ridge on the west side of the island, I'm a die-hard fan of trekking poles, so I have them with me all the time; they were highly beneficial on this climb. One thing I noted about the TCT is the decided absence of switchbacks; whether by chance or design, it makes the climbing and descending much more challenging.


Type of Marker: DS - Triangulation Station Disc

Setting: 7 - Set on top of a concrete monument

Stamping: GOAT 1875

Monumented: 1875 by the US Coast Survey

Reset: 1933 by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey

Finally, at the top, I spotted a reference mark on a rock at the trail's edge. Following the directional arrow, I quickly found the station mark GOAT RESET on a concrete monument in a bunch of cacti; the second reference mark was several feet away to the west.

After documenting my recovery, I had a small snack and resumed my trek. Naturally, the trail dipped down and climbed back up to a lone picnic table and shelter before beginning the 2.5-mile descent to Two Harbors.

Looking Back To The Peak With GOAT RESET

TOWER (PID: DY2984) Surprise Proximity Recovery

Type of Marker: 45 - Microwave Tower

Setting: N/A

Stamping: N/A

First Observed: Unknown

It was only luck that I took a picture of this tower; it was about three-quarters of a mile further down the trail from GOAT RESET, and it was at a point where the TCT turned and began descending toward Two Harbors. Maybe I was excited for a milestone where the trail began to go downhill! Whatever the reason, I had the photo. When I returned home and entered GOAT RESET into my database, I noticed that this tower was a reference point for GOAT and had a PID assigned, SCORE! 👏🏻😊

Excerpt from GOAT RESET Data Sheet showing Reference Objects
Excerpt from GOAT RESET Data Sheet showing Reference Objects

Two Harbors is in Sight!

There are specific points in a hike where the momentum shifts; on an out-and-back peak-bagging trip, it's reaching the summit, knowing the return is all downhill; on a long loop hike, it's reaching the halfway point; and on a thru-hike, it's seeing the day's objective come into view. When I turned toward Two Harbors at 1:30 p.m., with 2 miles to go, the views of the harbor made me happy. 😊

For some reason, I was expecting Two Harbors to be a bustling town similar to Avalon; as I walked through the village to the Visitors Center, I was surprised that I only saw a handful of people, and it was eerily quiet. I knew that the Two Harbors Campground was closed for renovations, and I had an idea that Buffalo Flats Campground was behind the restaurant, but I must've missed it when I entered the town. I picked up my locker combination for Parsons Landing to retrieve my pre-ordered supplies (2 gallons of water, a bundle of firewood, and a Duraflame Fire Starter). Parsons Landing is the only campground with no potable water, and I was looking forward to sitting by the fire on the beach!

Buffalo Flats, a.k.a. The Playground/Town Park!

The woman who helped me provided a campground map and identified my site; however, she said I could take any site I wanted since only one other person was staying there tonight; as it turned out, she was the person who took my reservations on New Year's Day, it was nice to be able to thank her in person for her help! 👍🏻

Buffalo Flats Campground is a temporary camp in the Park/Playground at the center of town; I had walked right past it on my way to the Visitors Center! I kept my reserved space, number 14, across the street from the Two Harbors Elementary School.

When I commented on how quiet it was, she said in the off-season, the only people here were those who worked there. The restaurant and General Store had limited hours, so I made it a point to set up camp quickly, pick up a few snacks, and have dinner at the restaurant.

In the off-season, the Harbor Reef Restaurant and Bar bar opens at 3:00 p.m., with dinner between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. I grabbed a seat at a high-top table near an outlet where I could plug in my phone and ordered a Gluten Free version of the Loco Moco, an Angus Beef burger served on a bed of rice with a fried egg on top. To stay GF, I skipped the gravy and used hot sauce instead. This was my second planned "purchased" meal, and it was delicious.

One of the upsides to Two Harbors is that they have modern restroom facilities, showers, and a laundry room! After dinner, a warm shower felt awesome, especially after four days of hiking!

The showers are coin-operated and run for about three and a half minutes on $2.00; a change machine in the laundry room will change one-dollar bills. If you're here in the off-season, get change (either ones or quarters) before the General Store closes. I only had warm water for a few minutes and was the only person using the showers. Still, the primary showers were being renovated, so perhaps this was a temporary issue.

Relive® 3D Video of Today's Section

Returning to my campsite, I saw a couple I met earlier in the day; they were moored in Catalina Harbor and were walking back to their boat. We chatted for a while before I turned in for the night. Tomorrow promises to be an easy day; I'll be following the West End Road along the coast to Parsons Landing, it's pancake flat, and several survey marks are on my list to look for along the way.

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