#23 Channel Islands National Park, CA
Like Dry Tortuga National Park, the Channel Islands can only be reached by boat. There had been some very unpleasant seas the day before and the boat didn't leave the safety of Ventura Harbor; but bright and early Friday morning the boat left with a full load of people anxious to get to the islands.
Pretty flowers at the dock.
The seas were bouncy, but not unpleasant as the skipper made his way to Santa Cruz Island. As we saw Anacapa Island off to the south we knew we would soon be approaching the largest island in the Park, Santa Cruz.
East side of Santa Cruz Island
Disembarking at Scorpion Ranch
Everyone who steps foot on the island must undergo orientation before exploring. It's not long, and is good information.
You might be wondering why the anchorage is called Scorpion Ranch? Who would have a ranch out in the ocean? In the early 1900's there was a sheep ranch on this site and I'm guessing scorpions too. Thankfully, ranching didn't last too long (1857-1984), as sheep did a lot of damage to the the environment on Santa Cruz Island. It might have been irreversible had it lasted longer than it did.
Santa Cruz Island contains 150 plant and animal species that are found nowhere else on earth! My personal favorite species of animal on the island was the absolutely adorable Santa Cruz Island fox. They are very petite at 12"-15" tall and weighing in at 4-6 pounds. My cat, Leo, weighs 4 times as much at 16 pounds!
Here are some pictures of other species of plants and animals on the island.
This is a rare lizard not found anywhere else in the world and caterpillar that becomes a rare butterfly. It's very much like California's own Galapagos.
Stunning views on every mile of my 7.5 mile hike.
It is necessary to bring everything you need for your day on the island. Water, food, extra clothes and even a trash bag. There are no concessions or trash cans on the islands. It ends up being about 20 pounds in one's backpack; which feels heavier as you ascend the high ridges. I highly recommend waterproof sunscreen. My application from the morning was all sweat off by 10 am and my skin proceeded to fry in the ocean air.
Funny story about the SCI Fox...It was the end of the day and I was sitting on the ground under the shade of rock. A little fox was approaching me and we all thought it was so cute. I didn't move so as not to frighten him, and he walks right up to my foot and "marks it"! No kidding! So I made the comment to the gentleman beside me, "Well, this is going to be a awkward phone call to my husband tonight. I'm going to have to tell him I belong to another, and he's a real fox!" We all got a good chuckle.
I truly enjoyed my time on Santa Cruz Island and would really like to go back and visit all the islands in the future. They are treasures!