Published: December 30th 2009December 25th 2009
The story before the trip:
Weighing out our options on winter travel, we picked out Channel Islands as a top possibility.
Now, if you were following our blog for a while, you will be smart enough not to believe what I just wrote.
The truth remains that we have visited every place we know & Channel Islands seemed a better option than yet another drive down to LA. Channel islands on wiki
Close to the California mainland, yet worlds apart, Channel Islands National Park encompasses five remarkable islands (Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara) and their ocean environment, preserving and protecting a wealth of natural and cultural resources.
Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals, plants, and archeological resources found nowhere else on Earth and helped preserve a place where visitors can experience coastal southern California as it once was.
There is just one NPS authorized company that takes you out to the islands. I was wondering why. Existence of another company might bring costs down a bit. But when we got there, hardly 150 people visit the island every day(during winter- and that when the boat runs full). The peak season seems to be Summer. It makes sense one way when there is more daylight-so obviously couple more hrs in the island; On the other hand, the temperature can rise upto a 100F. I seriously doubt if I want to be there then.
Anyways, getting back to my preparation. There is lots of work on the personal front. So, like every recent trip, I've not been doing justice with my R&D.
And that would cost me later.
Reserving tickets on the boat seemed easy as it was just one phone call away. Then I made hotel reservations at Camarillo(a town I'd never heard of before though it is a good 55 miles N of Los Angeles & it has an IMAX 3D theater) for 2 nights. It would be 13 mi away from Ventura harbor from where the boat departs.
Visiting Channel Islands on Christmas day was not possible as the whole state(am sure it is the same with the country) takes a day off. So, it was decided we would visit the day after Christmas.
But a sudden storm was shaking the LA county and our plans. If the sea conditions were rough, sometimes they would cancel the excursion to the island.
My initial Anacapa plans were blinded when the guy (I talked to at Island Packers)
suggested Santa Cruz-the reason being the island had water.($#*% - why would I need water for my 5 hr stay there?) As I said, my plans were blinded, belittled, stamped to the ground like a cigarette butt.(an over-dramatic metaphor, excusez-moi!)
When I started comparing the two islands, I was glad to
have chosen Santa Cruz to Anacapa as Anacapa island has only 2 miles of trails on East Anacapa.
Hiking opportunities in Santa Cruz are plenty. But why Santa Cruz? Why not Santa Rosa or San Miguel?
IF time is in your favor, why not?
We had only a day & so we wanted to make maximum use of it on the island & not on the boat. The Trip: Friday, Dec 25th
Having stocked up on everything we could dream of needing, we got ready to embrace the day. It can be crazy when you travel & nothing seems to be open except the gas stations.
Our first stop was at Pismo beach. We all took a much needed break(a little too long but nothing alarming
). Pismo Beach seemed like a half-way point along the journey.
We all hoped to reach the hotel before night fall so we could have an early start tomorrow for our big day on the island.
See, that turned out to be a problem. We have a history of reaching hotels only by 8 or 9pm. Reaching at 5.30pm, we had no clue what to do with our time. Except little S.
She was jumping all over the bed doing "the Baby Bop hop". A little later she found me jumping along with her.
We did have an early night. Ganesh saw an Edwards Cinema walking distance from the hotel. So, he hoped to catch "Avatar" the next day. And he did not make reservations for it Saturday, Dec 26th
We over-estimated the drive to Ventura harbor & arrived a good 60 minutes before the boat departure. Thankfully so, because we checked in before the crowd came in the last 30 minutes.
That did not seem to have helped as there were a few later comers(that's later than the late comers for you) & the boat left a good 20 minutes or so past departure time. Result: That much less time on the island.
The boat ride was fantastic. Me, Ganesh & little S embraced the windy outer deck while Amma sat inside in warmth. It was a little past due for little S's nap & she duly fell asleep once she was able to(ie when she was on her pack). We decided to hike to Potato harbor(though I really wanted to do the Smugglers cove hike). We stopped at Cavern
point where it got a little windy as we got to a cliff top with nothing to provide shelter. Obviously, little S felt cold & she woke up though she hated it. So, we had to keep moving to find shelter pockets along the hike. And yeah, the weather was "partly cloudy". By the time we reached Potato Harbor overlook(with one boat to recognize so) it became sunny along our part of the island. From where we sat with our sandwich we could see the farther 2 islands Santa Rosa & San Miguel. The Sun stayed a while until we were done & ready to go. From the South clouds started to roll in. It was a confused weather on our way back. We go down to the valley though the other part of the Cavern point loop & entered a Eucalyptus grove. And what did we find? A campground. Oh! What a beautiful place to stay for the night! A well-shaded & protected site!!! Why did it not occur to me about camping overnight on the island? No doubt, I agree. Nights would be cold. But why did I not even think about it. Had I thought about it,
I would've looked into it. Some sites were empty that it was calling out to me. We could've done the hike to Smugglers Cove too.
When I shared my thoughts with a Ranger, he replied, "aah, you can always do it again. So long there is a tomorrow...". But I know that our chances of coming back to CI are slim.
Our ride back was uneventful but for a Minky whale spotting(which refused to surface after the crew member spotted it).
An early return back to the hotel 2nd day in a row. Unfortunately the tickets to Avatar(IMAX 3D) were all sold out!!! If you want to watch something so badly, you make reservations earlier. Lesson well learnt! Well, not so bad. I promised to accompany Ganesh to watch this movie.(a 2.5 hr action movie without a break seems a drab to me. Apparently not to some other people) Sunday, Dec 27th
We dropped by the visitor center(to pick up a fridge magnet) & returned with a broken lens filter. Time & again, a $20 filter protected our $600 lens. We visited the harbor cover beach where someone was happy to share playing the ball with little
S. He had a dog & little S played threw the ball for the dogs(3 of them).
We went over the bay to the ocean side & were amazed by huge waves crashing along the shore.
Little S seemed to have gotten over her fear of beach(a little) but I enjoyed the most. Being in bay area, how often do I get a chance to play in warm water with winter weather like it is Summer?
Our memorable stop for the day was Solvang, CA
. The long line of vehicles into town gave us a heads up to the crowd we would be facing in town. We drove past huge ranches to Solvang where the whole town seemed like a party. There were people everywhere. More people than parking spaces. We rolled in with the crowd on foot & before visiting Solvang Bakery for some Cinnamon crisps & Jalapeno bread. Both were good if not excellent.
Little S had most fun as we met people who were happy to bring their dogs close to her so she could pet them. She was happy (just)petting them. She would turn her face if one of them wanted to kiss her.
diaper change stops, we finally reached home around 9pm(a little early by our standards).
I type this while waiting for a huge load of laundry to get done. A long day, it will be! Thoughts:
-Please, please, please...if you plan to visit the Channel Islands(specially Santa Cruz), make your visit complete by making it an overnight trip. The campground is less than 1/2 mile from the boat dock. And it is truly beautiful.
-Pismo beach is a beautiful town. Catch it on a holiday like Christmas or Thanksgiving where you will encounter little crowd. The beach is gorgeous(& clean) on a bright sunny day.
-Santa Barbara seems like an intriguing town. May be we should make a trip there.
-I enjoyed the beaches the most. Next would probably be kutti S. She got to know the existence of shells, waves, surfing, stones, sand. I had so much fun that I totally did not get overboard when I came back from a walk to see Daddy & daughter mostly covered in mud.
-Visit Solvang on a holiday weekend.(On our last visit
we were there for breakfast & the whole town was almost sleeping). There is an Ostrich feeding farm
just before you enter town. It costs $4 per person. Families with kids might enjoy this place.
-I saw a lot of non-English speaking tourists in Solvang. And I have no clue what language they were talking.
-We did not "see" any animals in Santa Cruz, but we saw a lot of animal poop. One of the Rangers told me that if you camp overnight, you are likely to see a fox. Scorpion Ranch might have apparently been named after the scorpions there. But they are very tiny, at least that was what I was told.
-The Santa Cruz island's visitor center was very informative. It is hard to believe that once upon a time the Channel islands were inland near San Diego. Plate tectonics, obviously! They move the world, literally!!!
-Also an interesting read
about what was Channel islands originally. Again, hard to believe.
-Whale watching cruises are a popular activity off Ventura. Most whales that are spotted here are resident to the area unlike migratory ones you see elsewhere. Interesting read on Santa Barbara channel here
-Please visit the NPS website
to prepare a trip that suits your needs.
Channel islands is one of those places
where you feel that there is more than meets the eye. And there is no way you can see it all.
__________ The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.
~Gilbert K. Chesterton
There are more photos below