The Two Harbors to Parsons Landing Ride (Our hero is redeemed)

I figured I needed something pretty good to offset the Avalon Circle of Death ride with Jeri and I found it in a very nice ride out of Two Harbors on Catalina.

Two Harbors is a remarkable place. Physically located 2/3s of the way down the island from Avalon it is a world apart. It, and the surrounding rural area, is home to less than 300 people.

There are very few services at Two Harbors. A restaurant, open only in the evenings, a small cafe, open during breakfast and lunch, a surprisingly well stocked general store, a small harbor with ferry pier and anchorages, and a campground. That’s pretty much it. It’s the anti-Avalon. No cruise ship tourists here, it’s dead quiet. It does pick up on weekends when boaters travel over from the mainland in their boats and anchor at Two Harbors for the weekend. But overall it’s a very small and wonderfully quiet place that few mainlanders have visited. It does have the somewhat grim distinction as being the place Natalie Wood drowned.

The neat little community of Two Harbors. That's the ferry pier in the middle of the cove and the restaurants and offices are behind it in the trees. To the left of the pier and above the beach is the campground.

The neat little community of Two Harbors. That’s the ferry pier in the middle of the cove and the restaurants and offices are behind it in the trees. To the left of the pier and above the beach is the campground.

I have vague memories of biking at Two Harbors many years ago and thought it was worth a look again. Turned out there was a nice dirt road heading out of Two Harbors toward a place called Parson’s Landing near the west end of the island. The ever useful Santa Catalina Conservancy 3D bike map showed the ride to be about 8 miles out and relatively flat. There was a 400′ climb in the last mile just before the road dropped to the beach at Parsons Landing where a campground is located. Unlike our disastrous Avalon ride, we could turn around at any time on this ride and return to Two Harbors. Still scarred, Jeri was somewhat skeptical but I promised her we could turn back at any time. So we set the day for May 21st.

The bike route from Two Harbors (left side) to Parsons Landing (right side). Note the lack of red, other than the last mile to Parsons landing. Easy riding!

The bike route from Two Harbors (left side) to Parsons Landing (right side). Note the lack of red, other than the last mile to Parsons landing. Easy riding!

Getting to Two Harbors is a little different. Ferry service to it is more limited and leaves out of San Pedro (This is the Catalina Express, not to be confused with the Catalina Flyer which only goes to Avalon). Further, the ferry stops first at Avalon before continuing on to Two Harbors, then on the return from Two Harbors to San Pedro, it again stops at Avalon. That’s a lot of boat time for someone like myself who is prone to motion sickness.(I’m a wuss). Also the ferries servicing Two Harbors tend to be rather small, amplifying the ocean experience, not necessarily a good thing.

Come trip day the weather was perfect. No Santa Ana winds this time. After a quick look around what passed for “town”, a small cluster of buildings, we hopped on the bikes and headed northwest out of town. We didn’t need to stop for a permit as we already had an annual one.

This was a NICE route! It hugged the coast a couple of hundred feet above the water with scenic vistas the entire way. The road, while dirt, was very good with little grade. The road provides access to a number of summer camps located in various coves along the coast. While it was still before Memorial Day, some of the camps were already operating and we could see kids down below. While we came across a few pedestrians walking along the road on the way to Two Harbors, traffic was non-existent. We saw a total of two vehicles on the road during our bike ride.

The start of the road out of Two Harbors to Parsons landing. It's really a pretty good road.

The start of the road out of Two Harbors to Parsons landing. It’s really a pretty good road.

Looking back down the coast toward Two Harbors, located to the right of the white rock in the distance.

Looking back down the coast toward Two Harbors, located to the right of the white rock in the distance.

Yep, Jeri's happy. Why? Cause this ain't the Avalon ride! The road is visible in the background and note that it's at the same elevation.

Yep, Jeri’s happy. Why? Cause this ain’t the Avalon ride! The road is visible in the background and note that it’s at the same elevation.

One of the many secluded coves along the bike route. Hard to believe this is still California.

One of the many secluded coves along the bike route. Hard to believe this is still California.

After a very enjoyable outbound ride we reached the last mile before Parson’s Landing. This last mile had a 400′ climb, then a steep descent to the beach. The climb, while short, kicked our asses. Or maybe we were just flashing back to the Avalon ride. So we paused for a while at the top, looking down at Parsons landing and trying to decide if we should ride down. If we did, it meant riding back up. The deal was sealed when we observed about a hundred kids from a nearby Boy Scout camp hike into Parsons Landing. There went the neighborhood.

Looking down at Parsons Landing, 400 feet below. Naw....I don't think so. It's nice up here.

Looking down at Parsons Landing, 400 feet below. Naw….I don’t think so. It’s nice up here.

The turn back point. Even the bikes are ready to go back.

The turn back point. Even the bikes are ready to go back.

So we turned around and headed back to Two Harbors where there were a couple of cheeseburgers with our names on them. The ride back was equally pleasant to the ride out and in no time we were back firmly planted in cafe seats pounding down cheeseburgers after having covered 16 miles. Waiting for the ferry we lounged around and enjoyed the quiet. At 4:15 when the ferry showed up, we were two of about 8 people who boarded. After a cruise along the scenic Catalina coast and a stop at Avalon to pick up more people, it was a fast and uneventful trip back across the channel to San Pedro. Jeri was not displeased and I think I’ve balanced out Avalon.

In all, this was a great trip, one I’d certainly do again. I suspect the road might be fairly busy in summer as the camps fill but probably still OK.