Channel Islands National Park
Santa Cruz Island, California
This weekend I visited Channel Island National Park, the last National Park I haven’t been to in California. I did a bit of research, and decided my friend Nick and I were going to go camping on Santa Cruz island, the largest [and in my thinking] with the most to keep us occupied for a weekend of non ability to escape. Since I’m used to pulling like 1000 driving miles in a weekend, it was a bit strange to be stationary and not able to drive really far away and not be able to spend a whole lot of time in one place.
I work nights, so somehow I woke up early and got all the way to Ventura and we caught the 1 hour 9:30 trip to Anacapa and then after we dumped those people off we headed off to Santa Cruz where we got let off in an island that could best be described as Calabasas [a fieldy town outside LA] but on the water and minus the coyotes. Our campground was about a quarter mile in from the rock beach, in the middle of a big mountain valley and under some strange smelling tree forest of sorts. We were clearly lacking in the tent department as many of our tenting neighbors had the full out multi-room mansion tents complete with silverware and pot and pan set. We had a permanently borrowed tent that sort-of stayed up by itself. After we set up our dirtbox we went out for a little warmup hike around Cavern Point with some nice cliffs and got a great view of well kayaks, some more kayaks, and a long long falling death with a misstep.
I know there are probably plenty that disagree with me, but I really don’t like Santa Cruz mostly because I felt pretty close to LA when I was there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful island, but whenever I go to National Parks the first thing I usually think of is ‘oh, ok, I can see why this is a National Park’. I definitely didn’t think that when we first got there- maybe because of the mass LA daytrippers, the real lack of scenery change, and the influx of kayaks. I’ve been to a good number of parks in California and beyond, but it was the first one I really thought didn’t belong there. With that said, for people who live in Southern California it’s a terrific place to get away from the city without driving too far- if you like different scenery than typical California then maybe it isn’t for you.
So once we got down from death cliff hike, we still had tons of hours to kill [still really odd for us] so we saw this hike to Smugglers Cove and thought it would be interesting enough to go check out. The sun was pretty blazing and the infinite whiteish yellow fields were blinding us but it seemed like a good idea at the time. About two hours into it we finally managed to climb the endless damn mountains and got to this cove which was pretty crappy. In retrospect pulling a ‘9 mile strenuous’ roundtrip up and down mountains might be a bad idea but I had read about these little beasts called Island Foxes which are about the size of a cat and are special to the island as they only exist there. These foxes are fighting off extinction and stuff because the eagles keep eating them. So my plan was to go find these foxes. Since Nick and I sit behind computers for a living, we’re not superstar hikers but we do know how to find things we probably shouldn’t be.
So we do this stupid hike looking everywhere for these damn foxes. Seriously, at every point I was ready for them to jump out and try to attack us, but it was in vain. We climbed down the mountain at sunset exhausted and with half-broken legs, which is worse then them actually being broken. We get down to our picnic table abandoning our food rationing and start downing the better than usual cereal bars only to find one of those bastard foxes staring at us 20 feet away. Oh course the foxes aren’t out in the fields where they should be, they’re too busy hanging out in the campgrounds begging for food! Sadly this wouldn’t be the last time we saw our rabid friends.
About a half-hour later, we grabbed the sleeping bags and conked out instantly while it was still light out. Some time later around the middle of the night I woke up to the tent violently rocking back and forth and the top of the tent shaking like it would go flying off with us still in it. I must have been dreaming about the foxes, as the first thing I thought of [while the sides of the tent were flying in my face] was the damn beasts were trying to get in! Somehow I was substituting the size of bears for that of foxes, but nevertheless I thought they were scratching my face to get to my tasty peanut butter sandwiches. In this situation the obvious logical thing was to make loud bear noises to scare them away. My bear growls did nothing to stop the tent from flying around, so Nick told me it probably wasn’t a fox but the wind. This made much more sense, but it still didnt fix the tent flying around. I tried to ignore the wind and just go back to sleep, but right before I did I’m pretty positive I heard a fox growl as it ran past our tent. No lie.
The next morning we work up amazingly early which meant we had a lot of time to kill before we were to catch our boat at 4pm. Since our legs and backs were already broken, what better thing to do than go hiking some more! Nick picked going up to Potato Harbor as the day’s hike as it wasn’t too difficult, but it was still pretty long. It was nice out and overcast with plenty of fog, so it was actually pretty cold out which made the hiking considerably easier. Going up to Potato Harbor actually changed my view on Santa Cruz as the views up there in the fog were quite impressive- it reminded me a bit of Ireland with the fog coming over the cliffs of the island.
After another 7 or so mile hike around the coastal cliffs we were done and went back to the campground to pack back up and head back to Ventura. Of course our fox friend was there to say bye to us, and I made sure to throw a rock at him and left a tasty cupcake so he knew which camping site to stalk for the next month. If you’re going to Santa Cruz, be sure to stay on the lower level, campsite #4 for a good time. My present to you.