The Escape: Santa Cruz, Channel Islands National Park

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Sometimes you experience something that merely no words can explain. And as usual, I will allow the pictures to explain as much as I cannot. I’ve struggled for weeks trying sort through hundreds of captures and memories of an amazing weekend trip to Santa Cruz.

A group of 7, including Jeremy and I, were Channel Island bound to backpack, hike, camp, survive on the desolate island for 2 days. Our first real backpacking adventure, the nerves, preparation, and adrenaline were creeping to an almost unsound level but we knew it would all be worth it- plus it was only 2 days…we would live.

We started on the ferry, about a two hour travel across the channel to get to the Island. We stopped at the day-trippers destination (Scorpion Anchorage) and let off about 80% of the maxed out occupancy. About 20 others, including our group of 7, headed over to Prisoner’s Harbor. The others explored the Nature Conservancy side of the island for the day (more about this later) while we started our journey to camp.

We had a short hike to our campground, maybe 3 miles total, through the coastal hillside of the island. It was filled with plenty of scenic points, gains and descents, and even a teeny tiny glimmer of where a stream once crossed and cultured pretty wild flowers.

The campsite was open, quiet, and provided a postcard perfect viewpoint of the ocean, mountain tops, and a hopeful picturesque sunset. We decided to go for a hike to explore of the island before dinner. The less popular campground had lost some of its marked trails, so we did a bit of off-roading to reach the opposite side of the island. Eventually we hit a dead-end and took in what we could.

It wasn’t soon after pitching the tents that the native Santa Cruz fox would arrive and welcome himself for dinner. No larger than a standard house cat, the little fox wasn’t too shy -a sad sign of over exposure to humans I would guess- as he walked right up to our camp table and sat waiting for droppings about 10 feet away. It was hard to finish our meals that night!

Soon, the night fell upon us and we watched as the sun dropped behind the peaks- not enough cloud formation for those epic sunset photos but super relaxing. We hunted stars, galaxy’s, and watched satellites zip by just before we all slipped into our tents for a windy night.

The next morning I woke up at the crack of dawn to hopefully get some golden hour snaps- it was a pleasant solo stroll in my flip flops just chasing island birds and sunlight.

After we packed up the tents, we hiked back to the dock and had some bites to eat before we took the “guided” hike through the conservancy side of the island. Day-hikers were only allowed to explore this side with the guidance of the experienced volunteer from the boat. There was a small house staffed with a few researchers studying various projects on or near the island.

It was a completely different adventure than those we had the previous day. There were moments of lush green, signs of once flowing streams, rocky cliffs, and open meadows. The guide stopped a few times and let the group in on some history, pointed out native and non-native species, and promised to get us to the lagoon for a relaxing hour or so near the crystal blue waters- he did not disappoint!

By this point we had all hiked nearly 20 miles in two days and were ready for an easy boat ride back to land for some greasy grilled food and beers. We still found some time to explore the shore before we loaded on board. All we were missing were some marine mammal sightings to wrap up a fantastic adventure….and the seas would not disappoint!

On the ride back to Ventura, we ran into a gigantic pod of dolphins migrating and were completely surrounded! There must have been thousands of them. They brought up a huge flounder and then shortly after 2 separate pods of humpback whale! Yes. I know, can you say l-u-c-k-y! It was magnificent. One of them was only about 40 yards from the boat. We were officially over the moon. Adventure book- closed.

Until next time….

#5230project

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