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Given an unexpected second chance, I waterfoiled again those 26 miles across the sea. Santa Catalina was a’ waitin’ for me, and I was ready to romance the island’s special butterfly – again. The Avalon hairstreak is one of the most narrowly endemic species in the world. Unlike the first attempt, this time I hiked far up into the hills, up to the island crest, where I could see the Pacific on both sides. All alone up there, I gazed down on the harbor, teeming with lovers and tourists, their voices drifting up to me – the only one among all these pilgrims seeking little gray insects up on the island’s heights.
At last, on a ridge out over the Palisades, looking down to green Kelpy Coves, I found strymon avalona! The mouse-gray males shot around the tops of the coffeeberry and manzanita and Catalina mahogany bushes. Their favored nectar, St. Catherine’s Lace, spread a creamy canopy over the surrounding hills At one point, a trio of avalonas swirled a dervish with big, bright, American painted lady and a curious Costa’s hummingbird: a stunning spectacle.
I was so enthralled that, even after jogging half the long switchbacks down the hot mountain to the sea, I missed the boat by five minutes.
Soaked and sore but happy, I took the last ferry off the island to somewhere else, never so happy for a five-buck Heineken – watching the porpoises leap their loops and a sooty shearwater overtake us at 30 knots, as Catalina receded into the sea mist & sunset.