Santa Cruz Island

Channel Islands NP
April 27-May 1, 2011
Last year I visited Santa Cruz Island for the first time with my husband Todd.  This year we planned on doing a longer trip with friends.  So on Tuesday evening Nick, Sonya, and I drove out towards the coast, staying at Steckel County Park near Santa Paula for the night.  We were treated to the sight of two Great Horned Owls in the big sycamore tree near our campsite that night, but otherwise had an uneventful night, retiring early so we could wake up early. 

In the morning we drove the rest of the way to Ventura Harbor then took the boat to Prisoner's Harbor on Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park.  Only two others got off the boat when we did, but they were just dayhiking.  We meanwhile backpacked the 3.5 miles to Del Norte Backcountry Camp.  This camp has no water so we were weighted down with about 2 gallons each and this was the most weight I'd ever carried, along with gear and food for 5 days.  But the reward was staying at the beautiful bluff-top campsite with a gorgeous view of the ocean.  We almost had the campsite to ourselves, there were 2 others camped there.  And of course we shared the site with numerous birds, lizards, and the endangered island fox.  We ate a delicious dinner - pizza in a pot with toasted garlic bagels - and took in a beautiful sunset.

On Thursday we hiked the 12 very rugged miles to Scorpion Camp.  This trail is not hiked by too many people and we did not see anyone along the way, until we got within a mile of Scorpion Campground.  The trail climbs steeply up to the ridge that divides the island into its southern and northern halfs, then it climbs even steeper up Montanon Ridge.  It was very windy up on the ridge but the views were stunning.  I was also excited to see the Santa Cruz Island Pines up on the ridge.  As we neared the top the going got rougher, steeper, and scarier as the winds were gusting up to about 60 mph.  Nick, who is afraid of long drop offs, had an especially hard time hiking the last few hundred yards.  But with our coaxing he eventually made it.   Funny that he didn't have any trouble when he did this backpack trip, the opposite way, two years ago (his first backpack trip, BTW, solo - he doesn't mess around!) 

Then it was 3.5 miles down off the ridge to Scorpion Camp.  Once there we collapsed.  It was a long day!

The next day, Friday, we woke up, ate breakfast, then hung around camp for a couple of hours.  We found out that because of high winds and surf that there would only be one boat to the island that day...  So Todd, Albert, Lio, Debra, and Kim would all be arriving together.  At 11:00 am we met them all down at the dock.  It was a rough trip over and Albert got sick, and because it was so windy in camp we pretty much all just hung around and relaxed that afternoon.  Kim even brought out a kite and Nick tried flying it.   We also had fun watching the foxes scrounge for food and play around camp.

That evening the wind died down, fortunately, and we ate a wonderful meal of vegetarian tacos/burritos, tamales, guacamole, and brownies for dessert.  Then we played Phase 10, but only made it to Phase 4, and retired early...  after playing around with our headlamps and lanterns.

On Saturday morning I was congested and thought about calling off my plans to go sea kayaking, but after talking to the trip guide, decided to go anyway.  It turned out to be a fabulous sunny day for kayaking, although the swells were big, but I think that made it more exciting   Santa Cruz Island has some of the largest sea caves in the world and exploring a few of them was a lot of fun!  I was glad Aquasports came through this year and guided a great trip, it made up for last year's bad experience with them.  While I kayaked, Nick and Todd lounged on the beach, and the others did some dayhiking. 

The last night on the island turned out to be an interesting one.  I slept through it all, thanks to ear plugs, but I guess a guy who was drunk and/or high decided to wander through camp chanting and yelling and generally terrorizing all the other campers.  We reported him to rangers and reportedly he apologized for his odd behavior.  We also had a rude encounter with a maintenance ranger who said he'd give Nick a ride down to the dock (he was nursing a sore knee after our cross-island hike) but then sped off in his Kubota without him.  Scheesh :p   But we all made it to the dock and then on the boat back to the mainland.  We stopped at the park's main visitor center in Ventura Harbor then pigged out at Red Robin before hitting the road for home.

More photos (including Sea Kayaking) here!

A couple of short Kayaking Videos:

Nick's Trip Report & Photos

Last year's trip to the island

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photo by Sonya
photo by Sonya
photo by Sonya
photo by Sonya
It was very windy on the ridge!
Anacapa Island
photo by Sonya