High winds made for a very noisy night on Santa Cruz Island. Gust after gust whooshed down the valley, rocking trees and sometimes cracking branches. As the sun rose, before everyone else woke, Chris decided to explore the cliffs above Scorpion Campground. Up there he found a perfect mix of drama, beauty, and solitude.

Channel Islands National Park

The wind remained fierce. When Joe and Becky emerged from their tent, it immediately blew away with all their gear still inside. They quickly retrieved the tent and collapsed it, preventing it from turning into a kite again.

Scorpion Campground

We had planned to kayak through sea caves today, but that trip had been cancelled due to the bad weather. Now our hope was to catch the emergency ferry back to the mainland at noon.

Over the past two days (see Day 1 and Day 2), we heard so much conflicting information regarding ferry times and weather that we didn’t fully trust anything people told us. We decided to be on the safe side. We packed everything up and walked to the dock, planning to wait there all morning in case a ferry arrived before noon.

While we were eating breakfast on the beach, other campers came by and informed us that they called Island Packers and were told that the emergency noon ferry had been canceled. There would be no ferry service to the island at all for today. We were shocked, and to be honest, a bit skeptical because of past misinformation. We decided to hike up to the cliffs ourselves, hoping to find a cell signal to call the ferry service.


The view from the cliffs was nice, but all our attempts to call the mainland failed. We wanted to find more information. However, in the unlikely event that a ferry did arrive, we didn’t want to miss it. We decided to split up.

Anna and Becky waited at the shore on ferry lookout. They scanned the horizon, stacked some rock cairns, and watched pelicans hunt. There was no sign of a boat.


Chris and Joe went looking for a ranger. They walked up the road to the island’s ranger housing. On the way, they ran into a camper who had just explored the housing area. This camper hadn’t found any rangers, but they had used a radio in the main cabin to contact the mainland. They confirmed that there would be no ferry today. They also recommended that all campers should sleep in the ranger/volunteer/researcher barracks due to high winds and concerns about large branches breaking in the campground.

Chris and Joe relayed the information to Anna and Becky, and anyone else they encountered. The four of us moved into the barracks. A sign at the entrance conveyed the amusing name of the place: Chateau Relaxo.

Chateau Relaxo

The barracks were tidy little cabins.


People gradually gathered at Chateau Relaxo throughout the day. Eventually we determined a count of 15 campers and no rangers left on the island. Joe would communicate periodically over the ranger station’s dispatch radio with the National Park Service and Island Packers ferry service. They said if we were lucky, conditions might permit a boat to dock tomorrow at 9 AM.

Word was, if the ferry couldn’t pick us up tomorrow, the weather could worsen, and we might be stranded on the island for 5 more days. People were frustrated. Three women had already missed flights. Others were concerned about missing Christmas time with family as it was December 22. Some people were starting to worry whether we had enough food.

Having all the campers in close proximity made communication much easier. One mystery remained though. We were unsure if any campers were still left at the Del Norte backcountry campground on the other side of the island.

Since there was no hope for a ferry today, we decided to take a little day hike on the cliffs. It was gorgeous, but insanely windy. We walked cautiously, far away from any ledges.

Hiking in Channel Islands National Park

In the evening we cooked dinner on the ranger station stove. Afterward we played a 1981 version of Trivial Pursuit with some of the other stranded campers. Incredibly we drew two cards in a row which had a correct answer of “Channel Islands”!

When it was time to sleep, we set our alarms for 7:15 AM so we could wake early to radio the mainland for an update and instructions. We didn’t want to miss what could be the only favorable weather for days.



  1. Wow, this is filling in details we hadn’t heard yet. And especially I didn’t know the part about the Channel Islands being in the Trivia game. Funny!


  2. Had to scroll back to catch part 1 and 2 as well. Such a lovely place to visit! Too bad about the weather, would probable have been pretty amazing kayaking in the sea caves:) Next time!


  3. Great posting! And while the name of the barracks certainly is catchy, it’s the name of the campground that gets my attention…the lovely and inviting sounding “Scorpion Campground.”


  4. Y’all are killing me not publishing day 4 journal. Love this Island well… but the wind can get wicked nasty. Can’t imagine in the middle of a storm like this. Can’t wait to read the exciting conclusion!


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