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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2012
    People's Republic of OB

    Hike TR - Channel Islands NP

    A Channel Islands trip has been on my bucket list for ages. It's hard one to pull off if you're like me and don't plan ahead because camping reservations fill up fast on weekends year round, and are near impossible to get on any day between Memorial day and fall. I kept meaning to book a trip this fall and winter but never got around to it. Recently I noticed that reservations had gone from not hard to find to almost completely booked for months out. I managed to find a combo of campsite and boat availability that worked (each has to be booked separately) and pulled the trigger.

    The plan was for Santa Cruz Island, with a boat over to Prisoner's Harbor one day, hike across the island with a campsite booked at Scorpion Harbor, and then catch a boat back to the mainland from there the next day. Departing boat was at 4pm so it left much of the second day to explore as well. Had the boat left in the morning I would have booked a second night of camping.

    Boats leave from Ventura harbor. I drove up morning of and almost got screwed by LA traffic. Thought I left plenty early, but even the 101 north of LA had miles of gridlock heading away from LA at 7am.

    Lots of National Park service boats in the harbor.

    Boat ride over was pretty cool. Tons of dolphins once we got about half way out. You could look in any direction and see tons of them jumping. The captain said they'd been seeing lots of whales recently, but none today. They did take us over close to one of the oil platforms which was cool to see up close-ish.

    The islands and the coast were pretty socked in with marine layer. That didn't bode well for views from the island, but would make for a cool atmosphere...and cool temperatures.

    The hike looked like it would be misty!

    Pulling up to the dock. Was a bit surprised to see a bunch of vehicles arriving to meet the boat. 3/4 of the island is owned by the Nature Conservancy. They had a bunch of people on the boat who were getting picked up. Shouldn't those tree huggers to the environmentally friendly thing, and walk in? : )

    Welcome to Prisoners Harbor

    There was some different looking vegetation on the island. Was told these occur on the mainland too but I've never seen them

    The first couple miles of the hike was up the Navy Road. Had a couple Nature Conservancy trucks go by, otherwise it was quiet. Saw one couple hiking up the road. They were the last people I'd see til Scorpion camp

    I turned onto the Del Norte Trail. It was a just a bit overgrown. But never hard to follow. I was a bit surprised, seemed like this should be a popular hike but it didn't seem like it actually sees much traffic.

    The trail crossed a couple steep canyons. The steeper parts were less overgrown than the flatter parts.

    Some nice flowers out

    Plenty of birds out, and the noise they made seemed amplified by what was otherwise dead quiet

    I stopped for a minute to check out Del Norte camp, a small backcountry campsite with 4 spots. Pretty nice, wish I could have stayed there but those are even harder to book than Scorpion. No one there yet. I think a lot of people do the short hike to Pelican Bay before hiking in to camp.

    Saw a few Island Live oak trees and even a few scraggly pine trees up on the higher parts of the ridge.

    One of the many birds flitting around

    Island live oak. Really cool looking trees especially in the mist

    I finally broke out of the clouds. Of course this happened on the steepest climb of the day

    Headed straight up to the top of the ridge

    That distant mountain poking out of the cloud is still on Santa Cruz Island.

    Pretty cool terrain. Looking back down half way to the top.

    From the top of the climb looking down toward Smuggler's Cove on the south side of the Island. The hike I was planning to do the next day would loop around the south/east side of the island and climb up to the same spot I was at now.

    Lots of these cool plants up on the ridge.

    The hike down to Scorpion from the ridge was a bit of a let down. Steep and wide, loose and cobbly. And no views because of the cloud.

    I was kinda wishing I'd taken the route closer to the coast. But had figured even that wouldn't have good views with the cloud. This way was shorter and my feet and knees were starting to hurt.

    I'd seen a couple island foxes already. And lots of evidence along the trail. Closer to Scorpion there was some aggro pooping going on.

    Go figure, one of the first sights upon reaching the campground

    Pretty nice campground. But where was everyone? All the sites were booked, but less than half seemed to be occupied. I got to the campground around 6, all the boats should have arrived by noon. Only saw a couple people hike in after I got there.

    I set up camp and had dinner. Scheduled at 8pm was a talk by a long time resident/rancher on the Island before it became a National Park. So I wandered over toward the pier. Lots of old farm machinery on display there.

    My feet and knees were really sore, so I'd dug around in the first aid kit for any painkillers. I think the mystery pills I found were leftover oxy, because I had quite the full body buzz going combined with the 10% imperial stout I'd packed along.

    It was well past dark by the time the talk was over. Headed back and crashed out.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2012
    People's Republic of OB
    The route I'd planned for day 2 was a bit dubious having the same mileage that I'd hiked the first day. That hike took around 7 hours total for 12-13 miles, so I'd want to be going by 8 to safely get back to the harbor by 3 when the boat would arrive.

    Wakeup time came and went, campground was pretty quiet so I actually slept in til around 930. That's unheard of for me camping, but the cloud layer kept things cool so there was little incentive to get up.

    Decided on a shorter hike to Potato Harbor instead. It was very damp in camp. And just as damp once I got on trail.

    Foxes were out in force. There were probably half dozen roaming around the campground. Each campsite had its own bear box to protect food against foxes and ravens.

    I took a trail out of camp that climbed straight up to the ridgeline above with good views of the coast

    Lots of bays along the way to check out

    Potato Harbor isn't far away. There was a nice looking beach down there with signs saying steep cliffs - no beach access

    Unless you're a bird.

    Peek-a-boo. Should have known there would be a scavenger at a popular hiking destination

    He was a bit shy, but moved slow enough for some good photos


    I made the hike back with an hour or so to spare before the boat arrived. There were a ton of big school groups doing short hikes along the coast trail. They were all hanging out near the dock as I got back so I moved off to a picnic site a little ways off and had a nap. Then got in line for the boat. It was a lot more packed than the one to Prisoners

    Lots of dolphins again

    And we saw a number of whales. The boat was probably stopped for around 20mins just to watch them. The captain called this surge feeding, where the whale would charge at a school of fish from below. It wouldn't completely breech, just the snout would pop out of the water like this. Lots of dolphins and seals and birds swarming around to feed as well.

    My feeding frenzy was back in Ventura where the nearest tacos was a popup shop alongside a shopping center. Killer tacos, and a great trip! I will be back for sure to do more hiking and check out some of the less visited islands. Hopefully with more sun than cloud next time.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    cow hampshire
    Nice Evdog!

    My son is about to start a 6 month fed gig out on the Channel Islands. He's really excited to check out all the islands. He'll have access to all of them...fed job

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    PNW -> MSO
    Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    That's rad. Those foxes are super cute!

    I never had that place on my radar, but now it's on the list for sure.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Ventura Highway in the Sunshine
    Glad you enjoyed your trip.They are a really cool place and it is nice to have them in my backyard. I would highly recommend trying to fit in some sea kayaking if you return. Paddling the sea caves around Scorpion or east Anacapa is truly spectacular. If you want more backpacking option a check out Santa Rosa, and if you really want to get away, try to arrange a trip to San Miguel. The logistics out there are a challenge, and no backpacking, just ran her led walks (other then theopen area at the beach and campground), but it is out there, and the giant Coreopsis bloom in spring is worth it for that alone.

    I still have not made it to Santa Barbara Island to camp, but it is on my list.

    I agree it is a constitutional right for Americans to be assholes...its just too bad that so many take the opportunity...

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2012
    People's Republic of OB
    Thanks for the beta! I might have been more into kayaking if it wasn't on the cool side. I looked at some of the other islands and yeah logistics definitely more difficult. Some day!

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Great trip report. Used to spend my summers in Oxnard with my grandparents and would get dropped off in Venture for day trips with NPS. Have always wanted to do something like this so this is awesome!

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