Yesterday my wife and I and two other friends found ourselves up at the crack of dawn and heading towards Ventura Harbor where a boat awaited to take us to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is one of five Channel Islands that lie about 20 miles offshore. They are classified as a State Park (although some parts of them are owned by a Nature Conservancy). At over 96 square miles in size it is California's largest island.
The island contains two rugged mountain ranges, a large central valley/fault system, deep canyons with year-round springs and streams, there is 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tidepools, and expansive beaches...so plenty to do and see. Due to the boat's arrival and departure times (10:00am and 4:00pm) we were limited to in scope of how much we could do, there’s one boat a day and if you miss you’re left to plan some unexpected camping!
We arrived to find low cloud/fog and a cool temperature and once we were under way fairly choppy seas, on the way we stopped to admire so basking seals and we also saw dolphins. I’m no sailor but an hour of up and down almost got to me and I was very happy to see the island appear out of the mist! We went ashore and was given a brief; no fires, no litter etc from the Park Rangers, after which we were left to our own devices.
We had picked a hike that took us up from Scorpion Anchorage to Smugglers Cove a 7 mile round trip. As were at sea level everything was of course up and this was the path we took. Along the way we took a side track out to a look out and was treated to a great view, boats bobbing and crystal clear water. The further we went inland the more cloud lifted until we were in clear blue skies.
We hiked onwards until we reached the high point and then started on the second half, which was downwards into the Cove. We could have hiked up to one of the islands highest ridge lines but I couldn't convince anyone and all that sea air combined with an early start had everyone on the hungry side.
We arrived to find a beautiful cove with a eucalyptus grove and a big pebbly beach. We stayed there for lunch and after an hour during which we explored the beach and spent some time combing for treasure (none was found), chatted to some regular hikers and admired the brave souls who went swimming; the water temp was about 60f, we headed back.
A couple of hours later we were back at the anchorage and with an hour or so to go we found a nice sunny spot and had a nap! An uneventful ride home and we headed to a local fish taco restaurant for some well earned liquid refreshment, check out the label!
If you ever get a chance this is a fabulous trip that really takes you off the beaten path. The island offers much more than hiking alone with camping, snorkeling diving and kayaking so there's plenty to do.
Here are the photo’s from the day.