A Visit to California’s Channel Islands
I found myself standing alone in the perfect location to watch the seals, sunbathing amiably on a mid-ocean buoy. The boat slowed so others could gather and witness this sight, so oft forgotten on land. We were maybe 100 people heading to the Channel Islands, a national park off of California’s central coast. It was a busy and beautiful weekend. My husband and I were fortunate to get tickets at the last minute due to cancellations.
The boats engine revved and we were off again, bouncing harshly against the strong current. It was difficult to stand, let alone walk. Water splashed onto the deck and I was thankful for my waterproof shoes. I slowly and clumsily made my way back to my husband, who was resting in the cabin, feeling the effects of his seasick pills.
Channel Islands is not easy to visit given restrictions to the number of visitors and boat cancellations due to unpredictable weather and rough seas. Its beauty and sheer seclusion make it well worth the effort, however. We docked at Santa Cruz Island, the largest and most visited of the five islands. Towers of rock stood before us – large hills covered in dust and wild grasses. After a short orientation, we were free to explore the island. Some backpackers headed off for overnight excursions, and kayakers went on their way (the islands are best known for sea kayaking due to its immense sea caves). The rest of us went our separate ways to hike the island’s many trails.
My husband and I decided to hike three trails offering views of the north and south sides of the island, as well as the rocky shoreline. The day was perfect for hiking and picnicking, and we relished the cool sea breeze (strong wind at times) offsetting the warm sun overhead. We had packed a lunch, as the island has no amenities. We picnicked under beautiful trees at the campground where we docked. We saw many island foxes – small and friendly little creatures native to Santa Cruz Island, scavenging food. Despite the crowded boat ride, it was easy to find solitude on the island.
If you are visiting Southern California, Channel Islands is a great place to get away from the city. Boats leave from Ventura, just one hour north of Los Angeles on a daily basis. Visit IslandPackers.com for more information on boat rides, or NPS.gov for more information on the park. If you have a couple of days, check into kayaking and scuba diving opportunities, as well as visits to the other islands (most are only open seasonally). It is close to Santa Barbara and Santa Ynez wine country, also, which can make a great long weekend trip.