Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Murderous Ascent

One of the multiple murders I witnessed on Catalina Island; most were about a dozen birds each.
 After paying the $35 tourist extraction fee (extracting money form tourists) at the Catalina Island Conservancy, I began the Murderous Ascent up the airport road.  It's "paved" but think about the worst, hundred year old, poorly maintained, eroded, mountain road, with blind turns, rock slides, and a 1500 foot climb in just under 2 miles, and you can get an idea of how steep it is.  I call it "Murderous" because I saw (and heard) at least 3, but possibly 4 different murders as I climbed the road.

These were not little, cute, starling or black bird flocks.  These were Edgar Allen Poe's Raven sized creatures who CAWED, CAWED, CAWED, chirped, whistled, and even growled at me when I paused to take pictures, drink some water, and look over the scenery.  Each of them could have easily taken a chihuahua into the air with little difficulty.  They were eyeing me to see if I was going to drop any food, or wrappers, or anything they could scavenge, and when I only quaffed water they turned their territorial rivalries against other murders who were coming by to see what was happening.
Hey, you American Foxes!

It was a very good thing that I paid the $35 extraction fee.  It turns out that the road from Avalon to the Airport is NOT a "public road".  It is owned, entirely, by the Catalina Island Conservancy, gifted to the Conservancy by the Wrigley family, who used to own the entire island.  There's a gate at the upper north end of Avalon before the roughest ascent begins, and if you don't have a $35 bike pass, you're supposed to turn back.  I'd read on-line of other bicyclers who "didn't get a pass and never saw a ranger all day".  Well, lucky me, at the top of the ascent the Conservancy was sealing the bumpy road with some kind of sticky white, soapy sealant, and I saw at least 8 ranger pick-up trucks during my ride.

The first ranger who saw me cordially asked to see my permit.  I showed him the little wallet card the Conservancy ladies in Avalon gave to me, and he went on to press for my green tag bike tag.  I told him it kept falling off so I put it in my backpack (as I tried to catch my breath).  The friendly ranger smiled, and said "please put it on your handle bars, and I'll stop getting calls about the cyclist without a permit. I've already gotten 3 calls on you this morning".  I acquiesced, and put the tag on my bike.

Once up on the crest of the mountain, the road generally followed the crest line towards the airport.  It was 8 miles more to get to the airport.  I made it mostly there - to within a mile and a 1/2 of the airport before I turned around to head back into town and not miss $2 craft beers at The Lobster Trap's happy hour.

Yes, there's Buffalo on Catalina Island

Another Murder at the reservoir

Camera pointing east - those are the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance.

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