— 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 and Hiking the Island. —
Part II: Kayaking + Setting Up Camp
(map provided by the Nation Park Service)
You can see from the map above, we really had a full day of kayaking (and I’ve got the sore muscles to prove it). We chose Channel Island Outfitters as our kayaking company, and they were excellent. As challenging as it was, our kayaking group really ranged in age and abilities and yet there were zero complaints. They really accommodated everyone well. We started by heading toward Cavern Point and then looped back to see Scorpion Rock, and if anyone was too tired to continue there was a spot where people had the option to end their day (or go snorkeling), but our whole group kept at it.
As I mention in my previous post, we already met our guides Ben and Phil on the main land before we boarded the ferry. Once on Santa Cruz Island, we followed them to their kayak station where they gave the group the ranger talk about the island.
Above is Phil going over the rules of the island, and giving an intro lesson to kayaking. Channel Island Outfitters provided all of the gear (lifejackets, wetsuits, kayaks, different water jackets incase you’re cold, paddles etc) and even had a storage lockup for all of our gear. No quarters required for lockers, as it’s a giant container they lockup. The only thing that is suggested, is that you bring water shoes (mine were $10 at Kmart and were perfect) and a bathing suit that works well under a wetsuit (the smoother and less-frilly, the better).
Once the safety talk was completed, we got into our gear and the kayaking began. You can see the weather was still overcast (which is why I opted for the extra jacket) but the water was actually perfect for kayaking. The water was pretty calm and a comfortable temperature.
Here we are above heading toward Cavern Point. They took us through many caves and tunnels. There was always the option of passing on whatever we didn’t feel comfortable with, but the guys gave us excellent instructions before each cave and it was fun to test out our new kayaking skills. I should note, I’ve kayaked only a handful of times in my life and felt totally comfortable doing everything they suggested. Our group was quite large, but with two guides (one in front and behind) I was always within earshot of one of them. They have a plethora of knowledge when it comes to marine life. Both Phil and Ben had such a deep knowledge of the island (and even science in general) that this was a very informative experience.
Above you can see we were exploring caves while hanging out with sea lions. Nearby were several curious harbor seals. While the sea lions were loud and clearly staking their ground, the harbor seals are very curious stealthily creatures who were quietly watching us. Kayaking with seals and sea lions, how cool is that?
Ben and Phil also gave us a lesson about seaweed and its common use in many everyday products. I even tasted the seaweed skin! It tastes like salty apple skin.
The colors, even on a cloudy day, were so beautiful. Look at the golden browns and blue water. It was really something special.
Fellow blogger AsHerWorldTurns, took the above photo of me (she also took many of the photos you are seeing posted from the kayaking trip). Between the GoPro and the underwater camera, she got us some great photos. I strongly suggest you only bring waterproof cameras on your kayaking adventure. I did get pretty wet and I’m glad I chose not to bring my nice camera.
Here was are above near Scorpion Rock learning about sea life. We got to hold those purple spiky balls and the spikes move when they feel your fingers (see below).
We lucked out and visited on a day when volunteers were planting on Scorpion Island. I don’t have an image of it here, but imagine a tiny island with people all over it gardening. This effort is part of The Nature Conservancy‘s plan to revitalize the animal life on Santa Cruz Island. These specific plants they were planting attract a specific nesting bird, and hopefully these plants will bring more birds to the island ultimately increasing their population. After looping around Scorpion Rock and even entering one of it’s caves, we had to head back to the main port as our time was nearing an end.
With 30 minutes until the ferry boat was heading back to the main land, we borrowed some snorkeling gear from Channel Island Outfitters and went for a quick dip in the harbor. While we were camping over (and not taking the ferry back), our guides had to head back as well as most of the kayaking group who just came to the island for the day.
Look at that stingray above! Even in our quick snorkeling time we still got to see some awesome animal life. The even had a kelp forest right in the harbor (which attracts all types of fish) and we spotted this stingray, and spent some time watching it feed. Alas, it was time to dry off and head back to shore. We spent a lot of time chatting with a Channel Islands Outfitters guide named JD, who was cleaning the gear and assembling it for the next days visitors. He was so nice and helpful. I really can’t stress enough, everyone we met on the island was so accommodating and eager to lend a hand. He even offered to help us carry our stuff to our campsite.
It was kind of him to offer, but we wanted the challenge of our camping weekend, so we carried our own gear to our huge campsite. You can see above, we made our way to the campsite and set-up our belongings. I touch on this in my previous post, but I must reiterate, when we went to book a campsite it was all reserved. By calling the number on the reservation website the rangers worked with us and really made this weekend happen. Sure enough they had many cancelations, and they gave us a giant site to ourselves.
We quickly setup camp and tried to get some photos in as the sun was setting. The above photo shows the wide shot of our campsite. Our site was under the trees on the left side of the photo.
Thankfully we hiked up fast enough to catch the sun setting. We also got to see some stellar views of where we had kayaked earlier that day.
After taking some photos we headed back to our campsite to have a bite to eat. While eating dinner one of the park rangers (Ranger Tim) stopped by to say hello. He was very kind and answered all our questions. I’ve always been fascinated (and super jealous) of people who spend all day outside and I had so many questions for him about what he does. He was very patient and told us all about island living. Later that night our good friend Cathy (see my last post for a photo) came by to answer any questions we had about hikes or wildlife.
Up next, Ill detail the hiking the Channel Island hikes with plenty of blue sky photos.