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  • Writer's pictureStephanie Maher

Bison Expedition and Tasty Breakfast Burritos!

When visiting Avalon, and you want to see some Bison I suggest experiencing the Bison Expedition hosted by the Catalina Island Company. The Bison Expedition is an exhilarating 2-hour educational adventure into the interior of Santa Catalina in search of beautiful Bison that roam the protected chaparral landscape of the island. Venture along the precipitous cliffs and through the picturesque interior in a 14-seated Hummer through Middle Ranch Road and up to Blackjack Campground. The Hummer is open with a sun canopy so you can feel the wind in your hair and marvel at the 360-degree views of the stunning landscape and the ocean. Chad and I embarked on our tour mid-February. It was a perfectly clear and warm day. We could see the mainland across the channel. The hummer runs on ecofriendly biofuel, and throughout the entire tour, our driver was giving us essential information about the history of Santa Catalina, the wildlife, and the major hotspots.

Before embarking on the Bison Expedition, I suggest eating a delicious breakfast burrito with bacon at Pete’s Avalon’s Plaza Café; a local favorite situated on 128 Sumner Ave across the street from the library. Pete’s is very affordable and offer high-quality food. It is open from 9am- 2am. The café is conveniently located next to the Bison Expedition meeting area. The café offers a delicious selection of Mexican American cuisine and alcoholic beverages. The breakfast burrito is big enough to share and it comes with sour cream and salsa. The breakfast burrito is packed with generous pieces of savory bacon and scrambled egg, blended with melted cheddar cheese. Chad and I split it and we were both full. The sun shone down upon us as we ate in the outside seating area as we anticipated the Bison Expedition.

At 12:30pm we climbed in the back of the hummer and it zoomed off into the interior. I felt like I was flying into the island like one of the magnificent ravens that soar overhead. The Hummer climbed up Chimes Tower Road, past the Zane Grey Hotel and up to Divide Road which overlooks the ocean and the coastline of Southern California as far as the eye could see. It was a treat to study new landscapes and the breathtaking views of Catalina. We soon came upon Laura Stein Volunteer camp and spotted a male Bison near the playground. It is where my husband and I first fell in love in 2013. The male Bison did not mind the Hummer’s presence. The driver pulled up close to it while giving useful information about Bison behaviors. If the Bison’s tail is wagging, it means that the Bison does not mind your presence. If it is not wagging or it is in the shape of a question mark, then watch out!

The hummer then continued down Middle Ranch Road, where it drops into a canyon that has striking geological formations and prominent rock outcroppings. My eyes darted from side to side as I tried to soak up as much as the terrain as I possibly could because it is well known that the island is a treasure trove of archaeological sites. The Native Americans that once lived on the island quarried large amounts of soapstone to make tools that they traded with the Natives living on the mainland.

We saw two more male bison at the bottom of the canyon near Middle Ranch right before we turned onto Cape Canyon Road. The driver turned off the Hummer so we could hear the peaceful yet eerie sounds of the wilderness and the grazing of the Bison. We took many photos of the amazing Bison that stood only about 10 feet from the Hummer. Chad and I plan to camp in the interior and travel upon the Trans Catalina trail because we are inspired by the beauty of the terrain. To learn more about camping and hiking in the interior of the island check out the Catalina Island Conservancy website.

The driver soon revved up the engine again and we sped up Cape Canyon Road to Black Jack Campground. The campground is next to Black Jack Mountain and at an elevation of 2006’; the second highest elevation. Mount Orizaba is 2097’ and the highest elevation on the island sitting exactly SW of Black Jack about a mile away. The driver interestingly pointed out that Blackjack was once mined for silver, copper, and other metals.

As the hummer journeyed a little past Black Jack campground, we could see a stunning view of both the west and east coast of Catalina. On the east side we could see Whites Landing; a private beach home to the non-profit organization called Mountain and Sea Adventures that operates a youth camp. On west we could see El Rancho Escondido, home to Rusack Vineyards. It will soon be a wedding venue in the future. Further in the distance we could clearly see San Clement Island.

From there at the end of Cape Canyon Road the hummer turned South East onto Airport Road. As we made our way back to Avalon, on our left we could see views of the various coves of Catalina. At this part of the tour, you really feel like you are flying high in the sky because of the breathtaking canyons that drop abruptly along the road and open into the Island’s coves. It was an exhilarating and refreshing feeling to have the wind in our hair and venture through the interior of the Island and absorb the undeveloped landscape. The terrain of Catalina looked as it did thousands of years ago. While we rode on the back of the hummer and gazed out upon at the landscape, I could not help but imagine the Native Americans living upon and utilizing the landscape as it is now.

I highly recommend the Bison Expedition or any of the other interior expedition tours that the Catalina Island Company has to offer because one can gain valuable information about the history of the island and gain insights of the terrain that can be especially useful if you decided to hike or camp out there.

To learn more about the Native Americans that inhabited the island, check out the History Gallery at the Catalina Island Museum to get a glimpse of the artifacts that had been discovered on the island. The History Gallery also features a Titanic exhibit with interactive displays, priceless letters, artifacts, and interesting information about the innerworkings and tragedy of the Titanic in April of 1912. Also featured at the Catalina Island Museum is the Gail Garner Roski exhibit which is the first public display of her 33 watercolor paintings that illuminate her adventure under the ocean aboard the MIR I submersible to view and study the remains of Titanic in 2000.

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