A Quick Peek of Catalina Island

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While many Los Angelenos have heard of Catalina Island, many of them tell me they have never visited the little island that lies about one hour ferry ride off the southern coast of California. This time marks my third visit. I’ve flown over to it and had a bison burger for lunch; I’ve been dropped there by cruise ship, and kayaked around the harbor; and now, probably my favorite time, I took a ferry over and spent the day in the sleepy little town of Avalon. What is remarkable about the island, from what I could see, is that there isn’t a Starbucks or a McDonald’s to be found. It appeared to me that most of the restaurant’s and shops were locally owned. It’s a bit like being thrown back in time to the 1930s. Tiles were made right on the island and their use is evident in the walls, benches, walkways and architecture, staying true to the Art Deco time period. Truly, everything had the ambiance of a 1920s film. I had the strangest sensation of being in the middle of an Agatha Christie mystery just before the body is discovered.

The Catalina Casino is probably the most recognizable structure. Built in 1928 it contains a movie theater, a ballroom, and the island art and history museum. Although it is called a casino, taken from the Italian language, it is merely a place of gathering, and gambling doesn’t go on here.

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How in the World Did the Bison Get to Catalina Island in the First Place?

It is somewhat of a puzzle about the Catalina Island bison herds, since animals could only get to the island by swimming across the ocean, flying on wing, or floating over on the breeze. A little research shows that back in 1924 a silent picture was being made on the island, one of the Westerns by Zane Grey called The Vanishing American. Someone thought it a grand idea to include bison, it’s a cowboys and Indians type story after all, so they shipped fourteen of the woolly beasts to the island. You may look all you like but all the scenes in the film featuring the bison have been left on the editing room floor. And since it was too much trouble to haul back the herd they left them right there where they now number 150 head.

This short film clip looks nothing like the  Catalina Island I’ve seen. And sadly the bison are missing. So typical of Hollywood, but now for over eighty-two years the mighty bison has roamed the rocky terrain of Catalina Island, becoming something of a mascot.

And Speaking of Zane Grey

The famous author of adventure Westerns built a home on the island of Catalina. After his death the home was turned into a hotel The Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, now permanently closed. Perhaps it will be turned into a museum of sorts?

There are some other famous movie star connections on Catalina Island namely, Marilyn Monroe lived there as a teenager while married to her next-door neighbor who was in the Merchant Marines at the time. The harbor at Avalon is the center of the mystery surrounding the drowning death of Natalie Wood.

But What Else?

All this aside, Catalina is lovely place to find peace and solitude on the beach. There’s plenty of fun things to do like snorkeling, diving, and fishing. But, if you aren’t into any of that the shops are cute, the restaurants all get great reviews on Yelp, and the views from the beach are exquisite. You can find a nice place to sit and have a drink and relax. Which is really what I was in search of on my visit to Catalina Island. Many people come and stay over for a night or two. Hotels are in abundance, so yes, I will be back a fourth time, and will probably stay awhile.

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Summer’s Over, Welcome Autumn

English: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Deutsch: Eme...

English: Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe. Deutsch: Emerald Bay mit Fannette Island im Südwesten des Lake Tahoe. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the start of summer I had such high hopes. I longed to relive the summer vacations I spent as a teenager, which usually entailed trips to the Santa Monica Pier and the beach with friends, long afternoons reading every Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and Danielle Steel novel (I know! Danielle Steel isn’t one of the classics, but I couldn’t help from sneaking into my mom’s secret book place and snagging one those treasures for myself).

I spent days at my cousins frigid pool where we dared each other to tolerate the cold water the longest. We would slowly dip in: first our toes, then dip lower to our hips, then waist-level, and when we couldn’t take it any longer we submerged our heads until our bodies adjusted to the temperature. I don’t know why my uncle never heated his pool. I guess since we lived in the  San Fernando Valley in Southern California, and the days were plenty hot, he thought that was good enough. I can’t remember him ever swimming in the pool come to think of it. But, anyway, I digress.

As a 40-something I knew I couldn’t totally relive the past. I have responsibilities after all! But, to snag just a bit of that nostalgia was something I yearned for this past summer. Needless to say none of it really worked out.

I spent one total day at the beach at Lake Tahoe, I never finished The Brother’s Karamazov like I was supposed to, and I had some upheavals in my personal life (which I won’t go into) that nearly derailed me. Suffice it to say, it was not the summer I dreamed.

Now that we are entering Autumn, my very favorite time of year in Reno, Nevada. I look forward to crisp days, nights by the chiminea  with a full glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, and chatting amiably with my husband.

The leaves are turning golden, and plum colored. The sky is that bright blue, unique to Sierra Nevada. I never tire of gazing at the contrasts of colors. My hopes are once again set on wonderful times spent with friends and dear family members, finishing The Brothers Karamazov, and outlining that new novel I’ve been obsessing over.

As the days get shorter did you reach the goals you set for the summer months? Or, like me as the summer months fade away you set your hopes now on a full and active fall.