Catalina Island: A Summer Paradise

Photos by Lorianne BODNAR
Girls enjoyed playing the ukelele and singing on the way to the island.

Local LDS girls head 26 miles across the sea for summer fun.

By Lorianne BODNAR

Earlier this summer, girls from the area met at the LDS Stake Center with their luggage in hand to carpool to Long Beach, where they boarded a boat to travel to Catalina Island. The boat ride to Catalina takes nearly two hours and many girls brought along their ukuleles and played songs on the way to keep their friends entertained. Once on the island, a leader from the Catalina Experience, which hosted the camp, gave an orientation on what the girls could expect. Activities were done on a rotation basis, giving all the girls the chance to take part in the various activities. These first day included paddle-boarding, hula dancing and snorkeling for the first rotation; a treasure hunt, kayaking, and hula dancing for the second rotation. While kayaking, the girls would meet up at a large white rock where they could jump off into the ocean. The leaders were always on hand to supervise.

Later, the girls had dinner and shared a devotional. Each day there was a devotional scheduled. After the devotional, different groups performed a lip sync song, which was fun. On the first night, the girls watched an Indiana Jones movie and ate some popcorn before going to bed.

Activities included painting and and decorating small treasure boxes WEB

Each morning, many of the girls practiced yoga or jumped off the pier (nicknamed the “Polar Bear Plunge”). Announcements were followed by prayer and breakfast. Crafts included painting and decorating a little treasure chest, making bracelets/anklets, and making a concrete mold. After Scripture study, the girls had lunch, found props for a skit and practiced their skit. After a rotation of activities, the girls had dinner and performed their skits – most had everyone laughing. After, the girls were treated to a night hike or a night float in the ocean led by the counselors. To end the day, the girls enjoyed a dance party then made s’mores.

Mid-week, in addition to the regular daily festivities, was a time for a testimony meeting at the beach. The girls had time to say their testimony, or feelings about the LDS church. This was a spiritual time for the girls and everyone who wanted to say their testimony had a turn. A slide show followed.

On the last day on Catalina, the girls had one last yoga session or jumped off the pier before packing their luggage and cleaning the tent cabins. After, they either went on a hike or performed a service project. The girls then made lunches for the trip back to Long Beach. Before leaving, camp awards were distributed.

Julianna Cheney is a fourth year camper at Girls Camp on Catalina.

“Paddle boarding was the highlight of Girls Camp,” said Cheney.

Keeley Gibson, another fourth year camper, added, “My favorite part of Girls Camp was the testimony meeting because it’s eye-opening and inspiring to hear people’s stories and how they’ve overcome hard experiences.”

The Girls Camp experience at Catalina provided a chance for the campers and leaders to be close to nature and to each other while learning more about the great outdoors: snorkeling, paddle-boarding, kayaking, tubing, swimming, hiking, crafts and exploring Catalina Island.

Bison, brought to the island in the early 20th century, can be found on the island WEB

Santa Catalina Island lies just off the coast and is within Los Angeles County. Throughout history, the island has been used for trading, smuggling, otter hunting, gold digging, soapstone mining, military training and even Chicago Cub baseball training until being established as an island resort. Today, the Santa Catalina Island Company, which is owned by descendants of chewing-gum magnate William Wrigley Junior, owns the island. Wrigley developed Avalon as a resort island destination and had American bison brought to the island for a Hollywood film in 1924. Ever since then, bison roam the island. Catalina is 22 miles long, eight miles wide and has a population of around 4,100, the majority of whom live in Avalon.

There are plenty of activities for campers to enjoy

The island’s history is preserved in the Catalina Island Museum located near the historic Catalina Casino. Unique native flora can be viewed at the Wrigley Memorial & Botanical Gardens, and local fauna, such as the Catalina Island fox, can be seen when hiking the many trails. Sea life, such as California sea lions, bright orange Garibaldi fish, white seabass, yellowtail, bat rays, and flying fish, can be spotted while snorkeling or scuba diving in the kelp beds surrounding Catalina. The island boasts many beautiful beaches and coves, including at the island’s narrowest point, Two Harbors. The local sea life and shipwrecks can be explored on a glass-bottom boat tour. Jeep or bus tours can be taken to explore the interior of the island. Brave souls can enjoy a bird’s eye view of the island from above while parasailing.

Many summer camps take place at Catalina Island, including Camp Fox, Camp Emerald Bay, Campus by the Sea, Catalina Island Camps and Girls Camp. Girls Camp at White’s Landing on Catalina is offered through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) church and is a summer camp for girls ages 12-17.