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Santa Cruz Island - Channel Islands NP, CA
mini location map2009-05-29
34 by photographer avatarwritelots
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Santa Cruz Island - Channel Islands NP, CA 
Santa Cruz Island - Channel Islands NP, CA
Kayak avatar May 29 2009
Kayak3 Days         
 no routes
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
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There isn't really a trip type for "multi-modal"! I didn't do enough hiking to call it a hiking trip, but just enough for it to not really be a kayaking trip - then there was the distance that I carried my backpack... hmmmm.... Maybe just "amazing adventure" would cover it! Mr. Wendy came along on this one - it was nice to have him around to share it all with...

Day 1: Seemingly unending drive to Ventura CA on Thursday night. Camped in the Emma Woods Group Camp near Emma Woods State Beach. Not recommended, unless the lullaby of the 101 Freeway and the Amtrack Line both within within 100 yards are your idea of peace and quiet. It was cheap and convenient however, and since we didn't arrive until after 11:30 pm, there was little to do but (try) to sleep.

Day 2: Catch the Island Packer's ferry across to Santa Cruz Island's Scorpion Anchorage. There were a lot of folks heading over, and organization is not the forte of the operator - however it was a fun ride with numerous wildlife sightings. The June gloom had settled in strongly, and we had over cast skies and hazy views - which for an Arizona girl just adds to the exotic feel!

Right off the boat (after the bucket-brigade to unload our gear) we hopped into the kayaks. After practicing our went entry strategies (the 3 "B"s - brace, belly, butt - to which I added brrrrr), we were off on an amazing day exploring sea caves, deserted coves and towering cliffs. One cave (Neptune's Trident) was over 200' deep, with twists and turns enough to make you wonder how you'd make it out alive. And the sound! Amazing how even the smallest wave break turns into a thunderous roar in those caves! I was spellbound!

Kayaked for about 4 hours all the way to Potato Harbor and back - I have no idea what that distnace was, but the haul back was an hour of steady paddling. Need to work on those muscles - they're not as strong as my hiking ones!

Set up our camp in the lower Scorpion campground - which was about a half mile from the anchorage. It's a very nice CG, with lots of very large eucalyptus for shade and protection from the winds. Bear boxes have been added to protect your meals from ravens and the pesky indemic foxes - which as smart animals usually do - have become masterminds at theft.

Day 3: Slept in a bit, since the second group was to take their kayaks out for sea cave exploration. We stood on the beach and watched them do their training bits, then hiked out to the Potato Harbor overlook (4 mi round trip). The trail is almost entirely an old road, easy to follow and well graded, with beautiful views of the ocean and the grassy foothills of the island's mountains. The mist and fog maintained the etheral feeling, and my Irish heritage was stirred. It was fun to look down at the harbor we'd explored from the sea yesterday - the cliffs are hundreds of feet above the water, and you get the feeling of being a bird looking over the caves and coves...

Turns out the morning group had unfavorable weather for exploration, so they returned early, wet and tired. Some of our group backed out of our afternoon kayak trip, but I was ready to go. Along with Mr. Wendy and a few other stalwart kayakers, we headed the opposite direction to explore more fun caves, such as the "toilet bowl" and the "emerald room". Spectacular formations - each with it's own character and quirks. The water was much rougher, with fun swells and wind to make the whole adventure more challenging. We spent another several hours exploring, then headed home against the growing winds. My shoulders are getting BUFF!

Day 3: No kayaking today - the second group finally got a weather break and they went out to explore the Disneyland of cave rides. I originally wanted to hike out to Smuggler's Cove, but the Mr. Wendy wanted to get some extra sleep in preparation for the drive home, so we took the morning slow and then hiked out to and explored Scorpion Canyon. The canyon narrows at the back, with amazing rock formations and plant life everywhere. From the map, it appears that you could hike the whole canyon, go cross country to the Potato Harbor trail and make an awsome loop. Need another day or two to explore!

Packed up and got on the boat for Ventura around noon. On the ride back through the Santa Barbara Channel (for which the islands are named), we encountered a hump-back whale and her calf, a minki whale, and a pod of several thousand dolphins. It was an incredible journey - worth the price of admission all by itself!

Began the long drive back home - over 10 hours from Ventura to Tucson with stops, plus an hour detour in Phoenix to pick up the dogs. We were WORN OUT but so ready to go again, after a good night's sleep...

A few fun notes about the Santa Cruz Island:
Camping on the island is wonderful. There are pit toilets and picnic tables, and when the afternoon ferry boat leaves with all the day trippers, the islands are quiet and nearly deserted. It's like being in the backcountry without all the work (which works well for Mr. Wendy).

The June gloom isn't so bad if you're prepared for cool weather. Without glare from the sun reflecting off the water and the heat of summer, you can kayak all day.

The remains of the working landscape at the ranches are very fun to explore, and all of the derilict fences and trails are fun to use as navagational items. I could spend a lifetime exploring that place!
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