Catalina Island News

Legendary Yachtsman, Hiker, Thad Jones Remembered on Trans-Catalina Trail

Catalina Island Conservancy

On May 26, 1956, decades before the Trans-Catalina Trail was envisioned, three young men achieved the seemingly impossible. They hiked the entire length of the Island in 11 hours and 20 minutes.

On April 4, 2009 during the opening ceremonies of the Trans-Catalina Trail at the Haypress Recreation Area, 25 hikers many of them members of the Newport Harbor Yacht Club paid tribute to Thaddeus G. Jones - one of those amazing young men, who passed away in July 2008 - in the first organized hike along the newly dedicated Trail.

The inspiration for the "Thad Jones Hike" is the man himself.

In addition to being a formidable medical doctor, and an excellent celestial navigator who sailed in a record 22 Transpacific Yacht Races, Thad was a serious jogger, runner and hiker. His exploits of camping and exploring Baja California are legendary.
As a youth, he attended the Catalina Island School in Toyon Bay. In May, 1956, after considerable planning, Thad and his good friends Steve Royce and Dick Lyon set out on their hike - but with an amazing twist.

At daybreak, off the East end, they jumped overboard into the water from Royce's Glouster schooner Coaster (captained by Thad's brother BZ.)  They swam ashore, put on their shoes and, after many false starts, and a few close calls, scaled the nearly vertical cliffs hundreds of feet to the top of the Island.

Without backpacks or water, they took off across the rugged terrain. When they got to the dirt road out of Avalon, they began jogging.  From the airport to the Isthmus, they went in a straight line, over peaks and bushwacking through canyons. From the Isthmus on they used the road, but dropped down across the beaches of the coves from 4th of July to Howlands. They continued on the road past Parsons Landing, and then by trail past Starlight beach and on to the rocky outcrop of the West End. As sunset approached, BZ was waiting for them in the Coaster a hundred yard's out to sea. They dove in, and climbed aboard.

The following year Thad and Steve Royce did it again, off the boat, this time from the west end to the east end, taking more than an hour off their time: ten hours ten minutes.  The men were in their early 30's and had been training with lots of jogging and long distance running.  Their fast pace was driven by the desire to get the other end by dusk, since either end of the Island would be treacherous by foot in the dark.

Twenty years later, in 1977, in recognition of Thad's Trans Catalina accomplishment, the Catalina Island School's headmaster Richard Wheeler dedicated a trophy in the name of the school's most celebrated Island hiker. The "Thaddeus G. Jones Hiking Trophy," was created as incentive for the school's students to accomplish a full length of the Island hike.