Get Wonderfully Lost

November8th

Santa Cruz, Channel Islands, California

Off the coast of Ventura, California, about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles, lies a small archipelago: The Channel Islands. The five islands of the archipelago were once home to the Chumash and were later cultivated by European settlers for cattle before being returned to the National Park Service as protected land.

Santa Cruz, Channel Islands, California

We visited the islands as a day trip. Justin hasalways enjoyed spending time outdoors, and it is because of his influence that I also enjoy hiking and have gained a deep appreciation for nature’s bounty. We’re always thinking of ways to do and see new things, and the Channel Islands seemed like a clear choice after doing a bit of research about hiking in Southern California: it is remote and unpopulated, full of flora and fauna, and a great way to disconnect for a day.

Our journey began in the foggy Ventura Harbor as we waited to embark our Island Packers catamaran to the islands. We arrived nearly an hour later at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz, the largest and tallest of the islands. After a brief orientation, we set off to explore. The roughly 40 passengers on the boat dispersed throughout the island’s roughly maintained trails – these were people that we would later see only when we reunited on the return boat trip home. One of my favorite parts of our excursion was the shear solitude that we encountered. The only things that we heard were the wind blowing past our ears through the brush prairie, birds chirping in the distance, and the barks of sea lions from down below. With the exception of remnants of ranching and one or two visitors, civilization was utterly absent from the island.

We hiked west across the steep cliffs of the island to Cavern Point and Potato Harbor. Along the way we were greeted by countless birds and the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. The caves below the cliffs gave way to spectacularly colored waters – full of emerald, turquoise and sapphire blues. Sea lion barks echoed throughout as we watched them play on a small outcropping of rocks off of the Potato Harbor coast.

We headed inland for lunch, where we perched ourselves above Scorpion Canyon to watch the clouds form and reform over the cliffs above Potato Harbor. No sandwich or fruit tastes as good as when you eat it after a long hike!

View from Cavern Point: sea lions, beautiful flowers, turquoise waters, and the endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. Santa Cruz, Channel Islands, California

 

After lunch, we headed southeast to a nearby peak on the Montanon mountain ridge, the tallest mountain range in the Channel Islands. We hiked up the rugged trail, and enjoyed the views of the ocean, prairie, and oak-covered canyons. As we hiked down, we saw abandoned fences with rusted cattle-wire strewn about the grasses – reminders of the island’s rich cultural past. We were lucky enough to see one of the island’s endemic species, the Island Fox. Each island has its own species of Island Fox, so our sighting was truly unique as this animal cannot be found anywhere else on earth!

Fences among the grass: remnants of the island’s rich history. Santa Cruz, Channel Islands, California

The island is also home to a variety of sea caves, best viewed by kayak (which we are certainly doing on our next adventure in the Channel Islands!): The Painted Cave on Santa Cruz is one of the world’s largest caves. Traveling on a more southern trail will lead you to Smuggler’s Cove, one of the only places on the island with beach access – also a future destination for us!

The beach at Scorpion’s Anchorage and the indigenous Island Fox. Santa Cruz, Channel Islands, California

~ JKM & JB

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