I’ve always wanted to see the world.
Countless times, after a long beach run, I would gaze out at the Pacific Ocean. With my back turned to my town, and the salty winds rushing past my face, I would feel myself soaring over the cerulean water, beyond those distant rays of sunlight too powerful for the clouds to contain. I wanted to fly to the mountains of Chile… the jungles of New Guinea… the steppes of my native Russia. It hardly mattered, just so long as I went far away.
â–º QUARTER FINALIST 2012 TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
So when my friend Robert suggested we begin our summer camping on Santa Catalina, a small island only thirty miles from the Los Angeles coast, I accepted the offer rather spiritlessly. After all, how could any adventure be found so close to home?
But on one hike, deep in the grey clouds that straddled the island’s western cliffs, something caught our eye: Shooting out from the cliffside, a jagged mountain ridge swooped down some five hundred feet toward the Pacific. It then rose back up in steep ascent, culminating in a single rocky peak jutting out of the sea. “Devil’s Loop,” Robert named it.
Immediately, I felt both adventurous and apprehensive at the thought of negotiating the Loop. The task appeared all the more daunting when we discovered there wasn’t even a trail going down. My primal instincts were in hysteria, commanding me to return to base camp. But I knew this voyage must be at least attempted.
Foot by foot, we set down the ridge. We maneuvered steep slopes of rock and labyrinths of cacti. We walked across vegetated areas as one would across a mine field, careful to avoid the belligerent rattlesnakes. With each step, the sea grew more pungent and the wind more violent.
As we began our ascent from the Loop’s lowest point, I looked to Robert. We had hardly spoken a word the entire journey, yet I had gotten to know him better than I ever could from conversation. The support we had given each other, combined with this incredible experience we were sharing, had built an indestructible sense of camaraderie.
We reached the summit.
I looked out upon the endless ocean, as I had done so many times. Something was different, though. I wasn’t across the Pacific—in fact, relative to its size I had barely moved— yet I was feeling the same sense of attainment I had imagined was only possible on a distant continent. I couldn’t believe it. I had spent so much time dreaming of places far beyond my grasp that I had neglected to see the abundant opportunities of my own backyard.
My world, I realized, is only what I make it. To dream of traveling the globe—and to actually travel it—is important, but I must always appreciate what is already here and now. Looking back up the Loop, I laughingly recalled all my suburban “woes.” Grades, scores, reputation… they seemed so meaningless now. I didn’t know how those issues would play out, or even how Robert and I would get back to our tents. I knew only this: I was alive.
And really, what more in this world could I ask for?
I would highly recommend anyone interested in camping, hiking, scuba diving, or even just a relaxing vacation visit Catalina Island, CA—especially those living in L.A. and Orange County, who are only a short boat ride away. Available campgrounds can be found here
“Devil’s Loop” extends from the island’s western shores just a mile north of Little Harbor, where Robert and I stayed.
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