On the Road is a weekday feature spotlighting reader photo submissions.
From the exotic to the familiar, whether you’re traveling or in your own backyard, we would love to see the world through your eyes.
It’s a holiday week, so we’re going with something a little different. We all know that frosty travelled from April to June, or thereabouts, so in honor of the holiday we’re going to have a week of frosty traveling from park to park! Which means that Albatrossity and Bill both get a week off.
This is another park like Biscayne where you need a boat to see the park. We took a day trip via Island Packers to Santa Cruz Island, one of the five islands that make up the National Park. I was here in 2013, and wanted to see it again.
There are opportunities for kayaking, snorkeling, and diving as well as hiking, which was our plan. There are several trails on the island, from short and easy to long and strenuous. We started on one of the shorter ones that went along the bluffs that overlook the harbor and Santa Barbara Channel, then went on one of the longer ones that involved a lot more uphill and downhill hiking.
Wildlife is one of the draws for this park. Along with plants and animals found on the mainland, there are about 145 other species that only exist on one or more of the islands. We saw two of these, along with dolphins and birds on the way out and back.
It’s not uncommon for dolphins to track the boat part way across the channel. We had a pod of about a dozen, some of which came right next to us. Island Packers detours and slows down when they’re spotted.
We disembarked and embarked at Scorpion Harbor on the island. The bluffs to the right were the destination of our first hike.
This view is from the Cavern Point Loop trail. The shore of the island on the mainland side is sheer bluffs, about 230 feet above sea level.
Scorpion Campground. Along with day trips, it’s also possible to do overnight camping trips, packing your own gear. The only facilities are a couple of pit toilets and water supply. Each campsite has a picnic table and a locker for storing your food and gear. The rangers told us they’re needed because the ravens and foxes are smart enough to open zippers.
I had one major birding goal: to see an Island Scrub Jay, which only exists on the Channel Islands. This was one of the two who perched close to us.
The Island Fox is one of four mammals that are only found on the islands. It was hanging out close to the campground, the same place I saw one in 2013. They are unafraid of humans. This one sat there calmly while half a dozen people were taking pictures.
We left the campground and set out on a 4 1/2 mile walk, the Scorpion Canyon Trail. It started with a pleasant walk through this country, then made a turn for a long climb up to 780 feet, with up to 25% grades. It took awhile but we made it back in time for our departure.
As the boat started to depart we saw two bald eagles being harassed by gulls. A moment later we found out why the gulls wanted them gone, when one of the eagles snatched a gull out of the water and flew with it to the cliffs.
Really awesome! Dolphins are the best
Thank you for the good pics. I’m forwarding them to my friends. A nice way to start the holiday!
Giving the legs a good workout!
Here’s a little background information to set the mise-en-scène: the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, CA.
I am so impressed that you captured that eagle as he nabbed the gull. I have seen such moments but in easy range of a camera!
@Barbara: I wish I had, but it was my hiking buddy who got the eagle pic. I was watching the action through binoculars and I knew I wouldn’t have time to put them down, pick up the camera, turn it on, take the lens cap off, find the eagle, check the focus, and shoot.
OTR is the first thing I look at when I wake up, i.e. when I’m still groggy and only half-sentient. This morning I saw “Channel Islands” and thought Jersey, Guernsey, etc., but also took in “Biscayne” and thought wait, isn’t that Florida? And then the landscape in the pictures didn’t fit with either one….
The pictures are lovely, with a nice variety — wildlife, coastline, countryside for hiking — that makes me put the park on my “maybe someday” list. I especially like that third one, with the coastal cliffs and the sea.
Is there not a single place in California, including isolated islands, where someone hasn’t planted Eucalyptus? Great pictures of an amazing place.
The eagle picture is amazing! How cool, thanks!
@Steeplejack (phone): Thanks for the link. We are headed that way soon and may consider this.
Camped there last month for four days, and took our kayaks for paddling along that coast, which is amazing. Also had some fun snorkeling in the kelp forests. It has a reputation for world class sea caves, which are fun to paddle through. Walked out to Potato Bay also along those amazing bluffs.
Ironically, those bald eagles indirectly protect the foxes, which were nearly hunted to extinction by golden eagles that were attracted to the island to hunt piglets bred by feral pigs. The pigs are now gone, and the bald eagles reintroduced after being devastated by DDT. They are very territorial and drive off the golden eagles.
The foxes seem to have zero instincts to protect themselves from predators because they have no natural predators on the island.
And yes, the ravens are very adept at opening zippers on anything. I put my pack down for a minute when first arriving to help with the kayaks, and they promptly unzipped a pouch on my pack and stole some dried apricots. They were fun to watch in the campground as they are real characters – just keep your food in the metal boxes that are just repurposed bear boxes that you see in Yosemite.
A woman from anywhere (formerly Mohagan)
Great pictures and info. I knew ravens were smart, but unzipping zippers is a new one for me. I love the picture of the fox, and the bald eagle one is fabulous! Also great to see the Island Scrub Jay.
Awesome pix, and so glad you posted this! I’m heading to Santa Barbara for a family visit this week and this will be a perfect getaway from my getaway.
@Dmbeaster: You really did justice to the park. I didn’t have the time (or the gear) for a trip like that. Sounds like you had a great time.
The ferry crew told us the story about the bald eagles chasing off the golden eagles which brought the foxes back. It’s pretty amazing how the web of life interconnects.
My brother worked for Island Packers in the 80s. I got to go on a few trips with them, but never made it to Santa Cruz.