In our last post, we were enjoying beautiful Santa Cruz Island, seeing lots of wildlife, and having a great time hanging out with our siblings. Unfortunately we were told that due to an impending storm, our trip was going to be cut short and we would soon have to take a ferry back to the mainland. For more details, read the full Day 1 blog post.
Things got stranger on Day 2 (December 21). This map of the island will help orient you:
Our second day on the island began early with a variety of birds chirping around the Del Norte Camp. Ever curious, we got up and tried to spot them.
We found a loggerhead shrike as the morning sun pleasantly illuminated the hills and water.
After breakfast, we went on a short out-and-back day hike on the Del Norte trail.
The views were amazing. We saw an island fox, a spotted towhee, house finches, and several other birds.
We went on a sibling backpacking trip in Channel Islands National Park this past December. Chris’s sister Becky and Anna’s brother Joe joined us for the adventure. We were very excited to spend some quality time with them, and to explore a new place at the same time. We planned two days of hiking, a day of kayaking, and a half day of snorkeling before heading back to mainland California. We could never have guessed what surprises the park held for us!
We woke early, piled gear into Joe’s car, and headed about an hour north of Los Angeles to Ventura, CA. We arrived at the harbor on time, checked in, and put our packs below deck. It was a sunny, gorgeous winter day. The only odd thing that morning was a terse email from Island Packers ferry service stating “We are running the trip to Prisoners Harbor today. The crossing to the island will be rough.” That couldn’t have been farther from the calm, sunny weather we were enjoying on the shore.
Minutes into the ferry crossing, the captain got on the loudspeaker, slowed the engines and started taking about a Stellar sea lion he’d just spotted. He explained that it was rare to see a Stellar sea lion in Southern California waters because they mostly live near Alaska. It was huge, much bigger than the California sea lions we’d seen before. The captain also explained that the large semi-circular scar near the sea lion’s tail was likely from a shark bite. The sea lion made a deep call and even stuck out its tongue at us as the boat drifted by.
Farther from shore, the wind picked up and the waves grew taller. The ferry started to rock and roll. As we rode wave after wave high into the air, then fell into an empty void below, it felt like we were on a roller coaster. Salty spray drenched the boat as the fierce wind chilled us. Dolphins seemed to like the waves and the ferry. For a few minutes, several swam playfully alongside us, even jumping occasionally. They were so beautiful and graceful.
The ferry ride was turning out to be part of the adventure, not just transportation to the island! The first stop was Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. The majority of passengers, many of them birders, were to disembark here. Unfortunately the dock at Scorpion had recently been damaged by a mix of climate change-induced sea level rise and a king tide. With the dock unusable, passengers had to be skiffed to shore six at a time.
Our stomachs started to feel uneasy while waiting over an hour on the bobbing ferry. We watched the horizon to fend off seasickness.
Finally, the ferry started moving again. We passed steep cliffs and grand arches carved into the rock. Whitecaps kept the boat rolling. We were glad when we arrived at Prisoners Harbor, and set our feet on solid ground.
We don’t own a car so we walk and bike everywhere in town. Biking is fun and it keeps us in great shape. There was even a cool article in Bicycling Magazine recently about how Chris inspired a co-worker to start biking to work. Basically, we love bikes!
As readers of this blog, you already know that we love spending time in nature. We’ve always wanted to combine these two loves, bikes and backcountry camping, into one trip. This is the story of our first bikepacking trip. Not everything went as planned, but we definitely came away with good lessons we can apply on future trips.
On a Friday night in August we pulled out all our normal backpacking equipment, minus the backpacks. Instead we packed our gear in panniers. Then we added some additional bike-specific items: a mini pump, tube repair kit, tire lever, spare tubes, a multi-tool, bike water bottles in place of our water bladders, mountain bike shoes for easy walking and good traction, padded bike shorts, bike locks, and helmets. We also included a full 10-liter dromedary since our destination wouldn’t have any water sources.
Saturday morning we were filled with excited and nervous energy as we headed out for a new type of adventure. We rode north on the Poudre River Bike Trail. It’s a paved, flat path with great scenery. We were off to a good start.
Crossing one of the bridges on the bike trail, we met a cool multi-species team out for their own Saturday adventure.
After 7 miles on the bike trail, we turned left onto County Road 23. One and a half miles later we made a right onto County Road 25. The rolling hills in this section had us working harder, especially with the added weight of the camping equipment and water in our panniers. We considered the extra challenge a good excuse to pause and look at the rock formations and birds around us.
One of the first bike camping difficulties we noticed was that our cameras, stashed in our panniers, were hard to access quickly. We ended up using them less than we would have on a hike, where they’d be close at hand on our backpack hip belts. Instead we took lots of phone pictures, since our phones were always in our pockets as we rode.
North Fork Cascade Canyon to String Lake Trailhead (11 miles)
We scrambled up onto a large boulder overlooking our campsite and ate breakfast. We packed the remaining food into our now almost empty bear can, just enough for our final day in this awesome backcountry.
Chris’s altitude headaches and fatigue from previous days were completely gone. He was thankful to be back to normal.
A storm loomed in the forecast, so we packed up a little earlier than usual. We wanted to make sure to cross Paintbrush Divide, our high point for the day, before the storm broke loose. Marmots basked in the sunlight as we set off.
Lake Solitude, though early in our day’s walk, was so nice that we opted to stop and and enjoy the view for a while. The water was clear enough to watch fish moving in its depths.