Santa Rosa Island

November 7-9, 2015
Ahhhh, fresh ocean breezes, miles of empty beaches, beautiful sandstone carved canyons
full of spanish-moss draped live oaks, groves of rare pine trees, plentiful wildlife, and just
a handful of other adventurers...  I love the Channel Islands!  Since I'd been to Santa Cruz
Island twice, I thought it was time to explore another island.  Santa Rosa was my next
choice as I'd always wanted to see the Torrey Pines.  They only grow in two small places on
Earth - on a bluff in La Jolla and on a bluff on Santa Rosa Island.  So off we went!  

Originally it was going to be 5 of us, but 3 of my friends had to cancel so just T and I
were left.  But I knew we wouldn't be alone - the campsites were about half-reserved and
I knew the people that go to a place like Santa Rosa Island would be awesome.  I wasn't
disappointed.  One family in particular took a liking to T and hiked with us.  Tina is a
retired school teacher and, so far, grand child less so she loved talking and hiking with T.  
Her husband Fred and grown son Scott were also very nice.  The whole family had geared
up for many adventures over the years.  I love meeting people like them!

On Saturday we awoke early and drove to Ventura Harbor - the boat left at 8:00 am.  On
the way to Santa Rosa we saw dolphins and a brown Booby!  Normally they aren't this far
north, but due to the warm waters of El Nino it was a treat to get to see one.  We made a
stop at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island to drop off some people.  Then it was on
to Santa Rosa.  
More photos here

Channel Islands in 2010
Channel Islands in 2011

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The first glimpse of Santa Rosa and I was awestruck by the vast sand beaches.  T
absolutely loves playing at the beach so I knew this was a good choice.  When we reached
the pier we walked up the steps and then waited for my big pack to be unloaded.  Then I
loaded up and off we went.  It was 1.5 miles to Water Canyon Camp, the only developed
campsite on the island.  Developed in that each site has a wind break, picnic table, steel
food box, and there is piped water and a bathroom with flush toilets and showers!  Wow,
such luxuries!  The showers were closed due to the drought, but everything else was used
and much appreciated...  Especially when you're hiking with a 3 year old who loves to get
covered in sand!

While we were in camp we met a volunteer park naturalist who said he had access to a
truck and could ferry people to the Lobo Canyon Trailhead the next day.  I hadn't even
considered doing this hike, because it would be 12 miles round trip from the campsite.  
With the ride it would only be about 4.  Yes I said!  So we had our plans set for the next
day.  

After we set up camp it was, "To the beach!"  This is the phrase that Scott said very
dramatically once and T just laughed and laughed and so every time he saw him afterwards
begged him to say it again.  The beach is about a half mile walk from the camp and it was a
very pleasant afternoon.  Warm with just a light breeze and so we spent a couple of hours
just playing in the sand and surf.  T decided that he would tackle a sand dune, and he made
a valiant effort, but
the sand dune won, lol

That night we met Tina and her family.  We also saw two island foxes, the great green glow
from an intercontinental missile launch, the crescent moon lined up with Jupiter and Mars,
and two shooting stars.  It was magical.

In the morning we awoke early, had breakfast, and got ready for our hike!  We met Scott
the naturalist at the air strip and loaded into a Ford Excursion for the trip to the top of
Lobo Canyon.  I only saw one other vehicle on the island, so this was a treat for sure.  We
bypassed miles of road walking and were let off at the top of the Canyon.  Scott and Fred
went ahead while Tina, T, and I meandered down the canyon looking for wildflowers and
other neat things.  Yes, there were flowers, either late bloomers or early, I'm not sure.  I
was also amazed at the Spanish-moss draped live oak trees and the ripples, caves, and
alcoves carved in the sandstone canyon walls.  The bottom of the canyon had fresh water
and frogs croaking.  After about 2 miles the canyon began to open up and we laid eyes on
the most picturesque little cove of white sand beach you can imagine.  The water was clear
and turquoise blue.  I took T's shoes off and off he ran.  It was so much fun there, we
never wanted to leave.  

The next morning we got going early and headed off to the Torrey Pines.  This hike is about
3 miles round trip from camp and afterwards we had to hike to the boat dock, thus the
reason for our early start.  It was a little colder this morning, as there was a winter storm
making its way to us.  But nothing an extra layer couldn't handle!  The Torrey Pines are in a
beautiful setting, like those on the mainland, but unlike there other than a trail and sign
there is no other development.  So untouched and wild and breathtaking.  I am so glad I got
to see them and cross this off my bucket list!


The hike back to the boat was uneventful.  We ate lunch and hung out on the beach by the
pier enjoying our last island afternoon.  When 3:00 pm neared, the boat was quickly loaded
and off we went.  The captain said he wanted to beat the storm coming in.  We crossed the  
Santa Cruz Channel and made a stop at Painted Cave.  This is one of the largest sea caves in
the world, so large that normally the 150-passenger boat goes in it!  This time the swells
were too big to go in, but we went to the entrance and it was still amazing.  

The final two hours home were on rough seas, though not as rough as it gets, so said Scott.  
He's taken the trip many times now and he knew the crew on the boat.  He told me it was a
good solid boat and that the owner was on board, which made me feel better.  Then he told
me that a new girl was driving!  So much for making me feel better!  But of course everyone
has to learn somehow.  I talked to her afterwards and she said it was the toughest crossing
she's ever had.  I knew it was the toughest I'd ever experienced.  I was thankful to have  
Tina and her family there to talk to and take my mind off the huge swells.  T went to sleep,
thank goodness, but I stayed up to watch and worry.  I faced forward in the boat and so I
saw each time the boat came crashing down.  Those that were faced backwards would
occasionally go, "Whoaaaaaa!" as they saw a huge swell coming from behind us.  The storm's
swells literally pushed us all the way home.  We were going 20 knots and a few times the
boat's engines switched into reverse to ride out a swell.  I had sweaty palms and prayed a
lot, I must admit.  The biggest swell was right at the mouth of the harbor and it pushed us
in, as I nervously watched the rock jetties getting closer.  Then it was over, the calm
waters of the harbor took over and it felt like we'd literally made a landing onto solid
ground.  For a few minutes I swore off any more island trips.  But remembering all the fun
we'd had and the beautiful sites and soon enough I started thinking about the next trip ;)


But all good things must come to an end, and we had a ride to catch, so we started our hike
out.  T started to get cranky so I carried him most of the way back, and he fell asleep.  
Carrying the dead weight of an almost 4-year-old is no easy task, but I hiked slowly and
did it.  T woke up near the trailhead and then talked non-stop with Tina until our ride
arrived. On our way back we found out Scott the naturalist worked 30 years with the
Forest Service before he retired to become a volunteer with the Park Service!  Hey, that's
my life plan!