Our weekend getaway to Santa Catalina island started as a Groupon I purchased in February 2013. The summer had passed, which may have been the best time to go, but we had a busy year. In mid-October with the expiration date 45 days away and most of our weekends already planned out, I suggested to my wife that we might want to go for my birthday weekend. That made it easy for me… she took care of the rest including providing checking with co-workers and friends to put together a terrific list of things to do.
We had both been there separately before, me about 5-6 years ago and Jenny when she was so young she doesn’t even remember it. So we both still had a lot of new things to checkout. About 5 days before the trip I checked the weather and it didn’t look good. The forecast was for highs in the low 60s with a good chance of rain on Saturday. Unfortunately, the Groupons would expire 2 weeks later and we didn’t have any other open weekends so we decided to go for it.
We got up really early Friday morning to head to Newport Beach, there is a ferry from Dana Point, about 20 miles closer to San Diego, but the Groupon was for Dana Point. Because we left so early the traffic was very light, and we really made good time once we hit the 73 toll road. It was well worth the $6 toll just in convenience, and with my Jeep’s terrible mileage we would have probably spent more than that in gas driving the other route. We got to Newport Beach about 90 minutes before the ferry’s departure so we had time to have breakfast and putz around. We nearly putzed around too long, by the time we got to the ferry the line was long and we nearly didn’t get an inside seat. The weather was overcast and the ocean was rough so sitting outside was not what we had in mind.
With the rough seas we had decided to take sea sickness pills, but took them a little too late, about 20 minutes before the open ocean instead of an hour. So I spent the first 30 minutes of the ride focusing on the horizon. After that I got sleepy and rested my head. I nearly missed coming into Avalon! Jenny had fallen asleep completely and was surprised we were already there. To our surprise the skies above Catalina were blue and the sun was shining. Friday was going to be much nicer than forecast!
We got off the ferry and rolled our baggage around the bay to Hotel Metropole. The town seemed very empty for a Friday, and it would stay that way for the whole weekend. The weather forecasts had scared a lot of people away. When we checked in to our room we were in for a nice surprise. Thanks to all the cancellations we got a very nice room upgrade. A terrific room with a full balcony right on the waterfront! The view is shown in the picture at the top of the post.
The fairly new (since 2010) Eco Zipline tour was at the top of our list of things to do, so after we got settled in we decided to call them. It’s a good thing we did, their only available time was at 12:20, in about 40 minutes. Since we needed to be there 20 minutes early we had just enough time to have a really quick snack and walk to the meeting location. After putting on our harness and helmets the 2-person team who would lead us through the zipline tour gave us a safety brief, and a quick intro to the zipline process they would use. It all sounded very controlled and well thought out, which put everyone at ease. Then we got on a bus to ride to the first platform.
This is a very well run zipline tour, and the scenary is amazing. You can see the water from all the platforms and ziplines except the first one. Not that the view from that zipline wasn’t spectacular too.
Once we were on the first platform, one of the guides headed to the second platform to “catch us” and one stayed with us to be sure we connected correctly and to send us safely off. They asked the group who was the most nervous, and a 7-year old girl won the prize. Not to let the cat out of the bag, but the most nervous person gets to go first! After she zipped to the second platform no one else hesitated taking that first big step! There were basically just a few things to remember:
1. Don’t let go with both hands, unless you want to execute the helicopter maneuver.
2. Do let go with one hand at a time to “steer your position” to get the view you want.
3. Don’t reach up and touch the cable, at 40 miles per hour you’ll lose a bit of skin.
4. When you get near the end, grab with both hands, lean back and bend your knees.
To be sure you remembered the last one, Walker would give a signal when you were getting close.
The second zipline is the longest at 1100 feet, and the highest from the ground at 300 feet above the ground near the center. This is the view of the zipline from the second platform.
From this point on you know what to expect so you can just enjoy the view and enjoy the experience. Practice steering your position so you get the view you want, and so you can look good for that final picture!
The tour last about 2 hours, so the snacks we had around noon were worn off by the time we finished. There wasn’t much going on at the Descanso Beach Club on a Friday afternoon, so we headed back toward Avalon. It’s a short walk and there’s a really great view of the Casino as you head back.
We had lunch at a Mexican Restaurant on Crescent Avenue complete with a couple house Margaritas. We decided to grab some groceries at the Vons around the corner from our hotel. We were pleasantly surprised by the reasonable prices! Then we headed back to the room to relax for a bit, have a couple drinks on the balcony and enjoy the view.
It had been a long day, and a short night, we got up around 3:00 am that morning, so we decided to just take it easy for the rest of the afternoon. That felt so good we decided to carry on with that thought for the rest of the night. We got to bed early so we could enjoy Saturday, our one full day in Santa Catalina. This post is getting a little long so I’ll put the rest of our weekend in Santa Catalina in a second post: Santa Catalina (Days 2 and 3 – Nov 16-17 2013) – (Hermit Gulch Trail, Descanso Beach Club, Avalon)
Here are a few more pictures our our zipline tour. Most are screen captures taken from videos using the camera and my phone. The quality photos is not as good, but hopefully the spirit of the fun we had comes through. I highly recommend the Eco Zipline Tour!
This is Jenny zipping down the steepest zipline.
View of me zipping through the trees on the 4th zipline.
View of Jenny on the same zipline taken from the other side.
Finally a view toward the Descanso Beach Club from the third platform.