As you know, I’ve just had an amazing time exploring the Channel Islands (specifically Santa Cruz Island) and can’t wait to share my trip with you. It’s best if I break it down into the three parts that make up the trip: Getting There, Kayaking + Setting Up Camp + Hiking the Island.
Part I: Getting There
When planning a trip to the Channel Islands, you first (#1) have to decide which island is right for you? My sister and I decided to visit the largest island (Santa Cruz), so we could plan a Saturday of kayaking/snorkeling and then a Sunday of hiking and exploring. Santa Cruz Island had the most hiking options so we decided that was best for us.
(#2) Next we researched the camping, ferry, and kayaking options. Santa Cruz has two main ports on opposite ends of the island. We decided taking the boat into Scorpion Anchorage, where we were only a .5+ walk to the Scorpion campground would work out well (and they have primitive toilets! which is much better than none at all). This same port is where Channel Islands Outfitters leads their kayaking tours.
(#3) It’s now time to book this perfect plan. Channel Island Outfitters offered us an excellent discount and they were the perfect fit for this trek. They offer an all day kayaking experience and even have ferry spots pre-reserved for you (with Island Packers Cruises), so you can book directly through them and they take care of transportation reservations. As for booking a campsite, everything was reserved when we checked the website, but after calling the Ranger (through contact info found here) he managed to find a place for us. This also worked out perfectly, as there ended up being campsite cancellations and since they were so accommodating to begin with, we were able to fill one of those spots. I really can’t stress enough how friendly, helpful and welcoming all the people on the island were.
(map provided by the National Park Service here)
Once our trip was planned, we printed all our info, packed up our gear and made an early Saturday morning trek to Ventura where we signed in with the ferry company and our kayaking group guides, Ben and Phil, at 7am.
You can see above, groups were unloading gear and getting ready for their weekend on Santa Cruz Island (at 7am). I think we were all hoping the gray clouds were all just from the thick marine layer, which would hopefully fade away.
This was the boat we took out to the island above. This is their fast boat which can make the trip in about an hour. They have a small snack bar on the boat, so if you need a coffee boost, here’s the place to fill up. I suggest you sit on the upper deck and look for rare birds, seals, sea lions, dolphins/porpoises, and if you’re lucky, whales. I can promise you’ll see at least one of these animals on the boat ride across.
Above is Cathy, a park volunteer who rode out with us to the island and then stayed the weekend. She was there to teach people about the island and help answer questions. Not only was she on our boat, but she came around to each of the campsites around 7pm to meet all the groups. She was very sweet, knowledgeable about the island and eager to help. She volunteers her weekend to help visitors, which is awesome. Go to Santa Cruz and talk to Cathy!
We passed a team of rowers preparing for an early morning run.
Early in the ferry ride we passed this group of harbor seals warming up. They are so fun to watch up close like this (and on our kayaking adventure we got to be really close.. but more on that later).
Once we were on our way, the gray skies and blue water were so beautiful and still. There is something so calming about the photo above. It was chilly on the boat, so when planning your trip, dress in layers because the wind is chilly but when the sun comes out it warms you up.
Anticipation was building as Santa Cruz came into sight. It reminded me of that computer game Myst, where we approached this magical almost abandoned-looking island hidden in the clouds.
Making our way to the pier. Notice how different this port is compared to Catalina, which is often filled with boats. We knew we were heading to someplace much more private, natural and therefore more special.
Just one or two boats were in the vicinity of Scorpion Anchorage.
Here is where the boat docked, and we stepped off. All the passengers got into a line and passed all the gear down the line until a pile formed at the end of the pier. I love this comradery of helpfulness that everyone goes through as they enter this island. When you are on this island, youre part of a special group of visitors who must work together to get things done. It’s an excellent way to utilize team work and step into a world of nature.
Up next, Ill detail the Channel Island Outfitters kayaking tour.