I have lived in the Channel Islands Harbor area for seven years now. On a bright and sunny day, I can see the sea lions, sea birds and in the distance, the magnificent Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands from my balcony.
I haven’t been to either of them.
Doesn’t make sense for a girl living here that long, does it? So I called Cherryl Connally, the co-owner of Island Packers Cruises in the Ventura Harbor (they celebrated 50 years last year), to see if she could sneak me on for a last minute day trip on a sunny Sunday. She booked me a 10 a.m. ticket to East Santa Cruz Island to dock at Scorpion Anchorage for a four-hour excursion.
My reservation indicated that it was highly recommended that I bring my own lunch, bottled beverage, wear a good pair of shoes with tread, hat (I had an umbrella), sunscreen, a light jacket or sweater to wear while on the boat and to take a sea sickness pill. I am very prone to it, so I bought myself some Dramamine and took two pills one hour before the trip. I felt a bit drowsy, but I wasn’t sick once, plus I got lucky with the light winds that day. Island Packers also sells Bonine at its office.
According to the Island Packers website, Santa Cruz is the largest of the five Channel Islands, spanning more than 96 square miles with three mountain ranges, sea caves, tide pools and beaches. It also has seen 10,000 years of Chumash Indian habitation and more than 150 years of European exploration.
There are 600 different plant species and 140 land birds plus 11 mammal, three amphibian and five reptile species. One boat ride and one hour later (with some stops to see some Pacific Gray Whales migrating), I was amongst all of this. Oh, and by the way, there is absolutely no cell phone reception on the island. It was peaceful to have a break from a ringing and dinging phone.
Because I was traveling during the February to April timeframe, I had the opportunity to view the wildflowers and the lush green grass on the mountain side, specifically on Scorpion Canyon and Potato Harbor. With four hours on the island, I wouldn’t have time to do both. I am a fast walker but a slow hiker (make sense?). I highly suggest if you want to do the whole island to camp for a few days, it’ll take that long. I decided on Potato Harbor, but before that, I snuck up to a halfway point at Scorpion Canyon to take in the fresh ocean air and view of Ventura County.
The trip to Potato Harbor was five miles and took me almost three hours to do the roundtrip hike, mostly straight but I also had to do a bit of climbing. Along the way I saw some historic buildings and artifacts and white morning glory, which according to Spencer, the guide that greeted all of us when we docked, only grows on the Channel Islands.
I also came across a cute island fox (I read on the Channel Islands National Park website that they weigh about five pounds). They are not very scared of humans and practically walked right alongside of me. Even as I ate my lunch on a picnic bench it never bothered me.
Before boarding at 4 p.m., the last boat for the day, I took a brisk walk along the ocean, which I noticed had black sand and many rocks. More fresh air to breathe in. More peace. Ah.
Back to Spencer the guide really quick. When we docked, he asked many of us if this was our first time coming to the Channel Islands. Locals and tourists alike, practically everyone raised their hand. So I wasn’t too late after all.
For summer whale watching tours, be on the lookout for humpback whales and the endangered blue whales along with other species. Island Packers is located at 1691 Spinnaker Drive, #105B in the Ventura Harbor. For more information or to book tickets, visit www.islandpackers.com or call 805-642-1393.