Friday, January 28, 2011

Santa Cruz Island

The Channel Islands National Park is made up of five islands located off the coast of Southern California. This National Park includes San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara Islands. Athough we have lived in Ventura County for over 40 years, we have never been out to visit any of them.

The closest I've been to one of these islands was on a Rio Mesa H.S. faculty deep sea fishing expedition where, for about a minute, I grappled with a sea lion before my line broke.

On my only other occasion to get near the Channel Islands, Laurie and I were again on a Rio Mesa H.S. faculty outing, this time on a whale watching trip.

So, with this as a background, we jumped at an offer from our friend Paul Petrich to join him on a five mile hike on Santa Cruz Island, the biggest of the five being 22 miles long and two to six miles wide!

Once a month Paul volunteers his time to lead hikers on tours of the island, so on Thursday away we went.

Southern California's Channel Islands

We started our day at Ventura's Harbor as we boarded one of the Island Packer's boats for the one hour ride to Santa Cruz Island's Scorpion Anchorage.

At Ventura Harbor ready to hike

It was another gorgeous January day in SoCal, about 78º F/ 26º C.

The peaceful moorings in Ventura's Harbor


We were joined aboard ship by about 70 students from Camarillo's University Preparation School located near the campus of California State University, Channel Islands. Lots of energy in these students, fortunately they would not be a part of Paul's small tour/hike group once we got to the island.

Sea Lions basking in the sunshine

Our trip out to Santa Cruz Island proved to be a bit slower than our return as we stopped to observe various forms of marine wildlife that we encountered. Paul was very infomative in describing what we were seeing.

Paul hard at work teaching all of us about the National Park on the ride to
Santa Cruz Island

A School of Dolphins

Who doesn't love to watch these marine mammals frolicking in the open sea.


The school of dolphins completely surrounded us, there were hundreds of them. Paul informed us that the rule of thumb is that for every dolphin spotted on the surface, six more are running underwater. . .

. . . that means that there were around 700 dolphins in our midst

Santa Cruz Island looming ahead

Laurie considereing doing one of those "Titanic" things at the prow of the
Island Packers' boat

A Gray Whale Sighting

The Santa Barbara Channel that separates the Channel Islands from the California coastline is a major migration route for whale's from Alaska on the way to their breeding gounds in Mexico and back. We spotted this one about five minutes before landing at Scorpion Anchorage.

Scorpion Anchorage

The Scorpion Ranch

After disembarking, we started our hike at the site of this former sheep ranch.

The California Coastline in the distance

Nutrition rich kelp beds abound. . .

. . . as do life threatening cliffs

Anacapa Island in the distance

We ate lunch on the bluffs
above Potato Harbor

The Island Fox

These docile animals have no fear of humans and are about the size of a small dog or a large cat perhaps. We saw four of them as we were returning to Scorpion Bay at the end of our hike.

Our total day, including the round trip boat ride, lasted about seven and a half hours. It was well worth the time thanks to Paul's information and guidance and, of course, the cooperation from nature!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great account and photos By George!
However, George forgot to refer to his "graduation" to naturalist status on the hike, for his contribution of photos of one injured fox to the Channel Islands National Parks Service. Thanks George! Paul Petrich.