Channel Islands National Park – Santa Cruz Island

[Channel Islands National Park – Santa Cruz Island, Jun 9, 2019]

I am so fortunate to live in California, which boasts nine national parks – one more than Alaska! The closest to Los Angeles are Joshua Tree and Channel Islands. I’d finally visited the smallest of the Channels islands last year. I was supposed to go to Santa Cruz island, the biggest of the five, but a fire broke out there just a few days before my trip and I had to go to Anacapa instead. When my friend Lena suggested a day trip to Channel Islands so she can practice her photography skills, we all jumped at the chance for a non-running adventure, and we picked Santa Cruz due to the variety of hiking trails there. We even brought our boyfriends!

The nearly two-hour boat ride from Ventura went by quickly. The weather was foggy at first but the clouds were starting to lift as we approached Santa Cruz.

By the time we got on the island, it was nice and sunny – perfect weather for hiking. We anchored at Scorpion harbor and the bay looked really inviting.

This is the only island that has an adventure outfitter, and we were a bit jealous of all the people who had reserved a kayak and were going on the water. We all had opted for hiking, fearing that the water would be too cold. Alas, next time.

We learned that one of the park rangers was about to do a 90-minute guided tour up on the same trail we intended to take. Olivia, B and I stayed for the guided tour and learned a lot about the island’s vegetation and the many invasive species who’ve taken up residence here.

We also learned about the Native Americans who inhabited this area. They were forced to move to the mainland when white settlers came and used the islands for ranching. We also learned a ton about the incredible efforts that re-introduced the bald eagle to the islands in the early 2000s,more than 60 years after the last breeding pair lived here. The chemical DDT as well as human persecution led to a precipitous drop in the bald eagle population in the 1990s. The absence of bald eagles allowed golden eagles to swoop in. They, in turn, caused a precipitous decline in the population of island foxes, their main prey. Unaccustomed to predators in the sky, the island foxes were easy meals for the golden eagles. The re-introduction of bald eagles to the Channel Islands was essential to their survival. Below are pics from various points along the guided tour.

By the time the guided tour ended, we were at Cavern Point, one of the most scenic viewpoints on the island. It made for a perfect picnic spot. A pair of ravens nearby tried to pretend they were not after our food.

Next, we headed to Potato Harbor along a bluff trail that provided amazing views of the island’s coastline.

Here are some pics from the scenery along the way. It was a perfectly clear sunny day by now and the views were gorgeous!

Potato Harbor, accessible by boat only, looked great from our viewpoint up above. The water was so calm and clear! I wish we could have gone down there on foot.

By mid-afternoon, the sun and lack of shade definitely took their toll. We were looking forward to getting back to Scorpion Anchorage and relaxing a bit until it was time to board the boat for the return trip. As we approached the campground, we finally saw the elusive island fox we’d heard about earlier from the park ranger. There were quite a few out trying to find scraps of food around the tents.

We had booked a 4:30 pm departure, but we managed to get onto the 4 pm boat as we were tired and we had a long drive back home from Ventura. Luckily, they sell beer on board and that definitely lifted our spirits.

We passed a funny-looking tiny boat on our way into Ventura. Our captain told us that this is Mary, a woman who had just begun her journey to row 2,400 miles from Ventura to Hawaii. Her boat looked so small against the calm sea! The trip was expected to take over 3 months. It turns out she did not complete it – she ran out of power and decided to return to land for safety reasons. Suddenly, we weren’t nearly as tired.

Mary’s boat is the one on the left. Can you imagine rowing for 2,400 miles in this tiny thing?

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