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  • Writer's pictureDale Hill

Trans Catalina Trail - Departure Day

Updated: Feb 24, 2023

What better way to end a fantastic week of backpacking than with hunting for survey marks?!

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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.

Departure Day: Early Morning Catalina Harbor Hike

Date: January 27, 2023

Distance: 2.81 Miles

Total Elapsed Time: 1h 40m

Total Moving Time: 1h 15m

Highest Elevation: 269 Feet

Elevation Gain: 265 Feet

Trailhead: Buffalo Flats Campground (Two Harbors Playground)

Today is my final day on Catalina Island, and it has been quite a week! Last night's bison traffic through my campsite wrought havoc on my sleep, and for the first morning all week, I woke feeling tired. Fortunately, today is easy, and I only have to be ready to board the Catalina Express back to San Pedro at 11:30 a.m.

Morning Hike along the Catalina Harbor

I decided to hike out toward Ballast Point on the east side of Catalina Harbor to look for a few survey marks before breakfast.


The first mark on my list was a mile from my campsite. On my way there, I passed a lone bison; he was grazing on the hillside above the road, probably one of the two I saw last night. 🦬 🙄 If he noticed me walking by, he showed no sign of it.

Type of Marker: DS - Triangulation Station Disc

Setting: 80 - Set in a boulder

Stamping: None

Monumented: 1933 by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey

The mark was easy to find, past a bench at the bend in the road, overlooking the harbor entrance, then down a trail leading to the water's edge. I hoped it would have been stamped with the name and date, but it was a blank triangulation station disc; still, it was right where it was supposed to be. The datasheet listed a reference mark nearby, but I could not find it.

The second mark on my list was on a hill overlooking the harbor, close to Banning House Road. When I hiked into Two Harbors Tuesday, I had contemplated stopping to look for this mark as it seemed very close to the road; but there was a large fenced-in area between the road and where I expected the mark to be, so it looked like it might not be accessible.


Type of Marker: DS - Triangulation Station Disc

Setting: 7 - Set on the top of a concrete monument

Stamping: ISTHMUS 1933

Monumented: 1933 by the US Coast and Geodetic Survey

This morning, I hiked back up the road and followed the edge of the fenced-in area to a small knoll, where I spotted a witness stake. From there, it was straightforward to recover the station and reference mark no. 2; however, I was unable to find reference mark no. 1.

Happy with the recoveries I made this morning, I returned to the road and my campsite at the playground; the total walk was just under 3 miles, and I was ready for breakfast.

After my final oatmeal and coffee breakfast of the week, I began my morning ritual of breaking camp and re-packing my gear. Knowing that I wouldn't need access to anything on the boat, I filled my now empty BearVault with whatever gear would fit; everything clipped to the outside of my pack during the hike was stowed inside, and I emptied my hydration bladder. I started the hike with 48 pounds, which included food and water; my ending weight was 38 pounds, with only two dehydrated meals left and no water.

Relive® 3D Video of Today's Section

It was a short walk to the Visitors Center, where I turned in my partially used fuel canister, dropped my pack, and headed over to the general store to get a few snacks for the boat ride back. When the boat arrived, I enjoyed watching the new arrivals eager to get started on their hikes.

Since there had been an earlier boat departure (9:30 a.m.), this one was empty; I counted eight passengers for the trip back! No need to store my pack below deck; I had my pick of seats for the ride to San Pedro.

Santa Catalina Island in The Rear View Mirror

What a great week! The hike was everything I thought it would be and then some. I was fortunate with the timing; the weather conditions all week were perfect. Two weeks earlier, the island had been inundated with rain, and the trails were closed. As a result of that rain, the island was vibrant green everywhere I looked. Those who hike the TCT during the regular season must contend with high temperatures, sun exposure, and full campgrounds; thankfully, those weren't issues for me. I met some awesome people on the trail and was grateful to be able to decompress and enjoy my surroundings. I returned to the San Pedro port with a full heart and many fantastic memories! ❤️

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