Channel Islands- A California Gem, Santa Cruz Island

I have lived in California my whole life. There are so many treasures I have visited that this beautiful state offers. From the beach to the mountains, snow and the sun, Yosemite to Joshua Tree. For each of the adventurous places I have visited, there are probably a dozen more I have not.

Before Memorial Day weekend 2016, I had never been to the Channel Islands. Or so I had thought, embarrassingly. When questioned about my upcoming trip, I didn’t have much to say fact wise about the collection of islands off the west coast of California. Google to the rescue! Wikipedia informed me that there are 8 islands (Four Northern- Anacapa, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa; Four Southern- San Clemente, San Nicolas, Santa Barbara, and Santa Catalina). Since I had been to Catalina a few times, I had officially been to one of the islands, and didn’t even know it. Go me (slaps hand to forehead, used to be a teacher)!
Riding the skiff (small inflatable boat) over from the shuttle to the island.

 

Arriving at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island.
The boat via Island Packers was booked in December to take us from Ventura Harbor to the largest of the islands, Santa Cruz. This island is one of four that are part of the Channel Islands National Park. The group also booked two tandem kayaks, and a camping spot for three days and two nights. There are also back country camping options, that pair well with the fantastic yet sometimes rigorous hiking due to the quick elevation gains and loses from shores to peaks. Although the islands offer beautiful snorkeling and diving, the water was too cold for wetsuit-less me.
A chilly evening walk on the beach after a delicious camping stove top meal. Scorpion Anchorage.

 

The guys looking for birds and other wild life. A short but steep hike to Cavern Point.

 

One of many wildlife encounters. The Island Fox is fearless around humans.

 

Finding that perfect place to nap.
We hiked and picnicked while on the trip. As well as kayaked through several large caves. While on the water I saw my first ever whale in nature. A hump back breached the surface to greet us on our way to Santa Cruz. Sea Lions tried to soak up some sun in plain view upon the rocks, but the weekend was mostly cloudy. The islands also boast a large variety of wild life that only exists there. On Santa Cruz, which was first inhabited by the Chumash people over 10,000 years ago, some of the top animals to see are the Island Fox, Island Scrub Jay, and Island Fence Lizard. There were a few expeditions of exploration over the years, and the Chumash eventually all left by 1822. Many ownership disputes ensued, and then in 1855 the first Merino sheep were brought to the island, which began the 152 year ranching era.
The largest and longest of the caves to kayak through. To the right you can see a small protected channel between two rocks.

 

Heading into the cave.

 

Light at the end of the long tunnel.

 

Although mostly cloudy, the sun broke once for us to illuminate the waters from this cave opening, which was our exit.

 

The protected channel previously mentioned was host to many urchin, fish, and other underwater creatures.
You can visit the original buildings that the ranchers lived in, and learn more about the island through an interpretive walk with or without a guide. The volunteer docents and park rangers are very knowledgeable about the islands, as well as the sea captains who often narrate the voyage with sea facts.
Louie loves to stack rocks precisely on their points.

 

Many of these usually deep water ‘crabs’ were washed ashore. We escorted them back to the sea.

 

One of several Sea Lion sightings.

 

This guy out for some tummy time.

 

Just cruising on by…

 

We kayaked all three days. This skinny arch required paddles up and vertical as we passed through.

 

 A big thanks to my chauffeur, and husband.
Louie pretty much paddled all weekend and let me enjoy the ride.
The crew setting sail for all adventures.
If you plan to visit I highly suggest you book very far in advance, at least 5 months. This National Park is one of the least visited because of the limitations on its usage. Which leaves these islands in much more pristine condition than other California parks, as well as offers a rural and quiet experience. After booking your boat, book your camp site, which are fire less. Add some kayaks, snorkeling, diving, or hiking to the trip and you are set! One more thing. Always remember to limit your impact by carrying all your trash out (and any more you find floating around), as well as brushing off your gear before coming to the island and when leaving to prevent the spread of non-native plant species.
Human sized rock arch.

 

YOUTUBE VIDEO Supported headstand on a kayak. Did I fall in?

 

YOUTUBE VIDEO yoga on a kayak.

 

 

 

 

 

No trip is complete without a series of yoga opportunities taken!

 

Enjoy your trip and…
Stay Adventurous,
Valarie Tes

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