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A sign near check-in window reads, “NOTICE TO PASSENGERS - Road to interior is unpaved, steep, winding, narrow, bumpy & dusty (as well as scenic).” The big advantage to Unimog is that it can go on roads in interior where big tour buses can’t.
The open-air Mercedes Unimog takes 12 passengers on a tour of mountainous interior of Catalina Island.
“Part of Canyon Road is still washed out from rains,” Dave announces. “We’ll do The Loop instead—my favorite road, actually.”
As we leave plaza, Dave fills us in on some island history and trivia: Discovery Tours is oldest tour company on island, dating from 1894 when people traveled by horse-drawn wagon. The City of Avalon covers one square mile and is part of Los Angeles county. There are no home deliveries of mail; everyone has a P.O. box. Catalina Island gets 10 to 15 thousand visitors a day (summer). Six diesel generators provide island electricity. In 1921 Wrigley installed first one. The Santa Catalina Island Conservancy owns a 42,000-acre private reserve, representing 88% of island.
Narrow winding roads lined with eucalyptus trees snake around steep hillsides. My husband says, “This is a one-gear road.”
Dave looks up to where a hawk glides in sky. “We’ll climb several hundred feet. In old days stagecoach took 2 ½ hours to get to top.” He says first interior tour “was a day and a half trip to Two Harbors by stagecoach.”
We reach Middle Ranch Canyon and ground slopes gently, covered with grasses and wildflowers in bloom. We’re approaching an American Bald Eagle habitat when we spot big beasts in a nearby field—buffalo? No. Dave educates us that these are North American bison (bison bison). “To say ‘buffalo’ is to confuse them with Cape or African Buffalo (Syncerus caffer).”
Fourteen head of American bison were brought to Catalina Island by a film company in 1924 for a movie version of The Vanishing American by western author Zane Grey. (Grey lived and wrote many of his books on Catalina Island.) After film wrapped, bison were left behind. They did what any animal left to roam a nice place with food and water would do—they multiplied. While Conservancy has determined island can support up to 300 head, about 120 are kept on island today.
“How do you tell if bull will charge?” Dave asks.
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Carolyn Proctor, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Read Jetsetters Magazine at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
Carolyn Proctor, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com