Tag: beauty

Channel Islands National Park Day 3

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.

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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.

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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.

Channel Islands National Park Day 1

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.

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Stellar sea lion

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.

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Dolphins swimming next to ferry

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.

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Skiff dropping people off at Scorpion Anchorage

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.

Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs Book Sale

We will be spending time with family over the Thanksgiving long weekend, including doing at least one hike. But first, we’re putting our book on sale for the holidays!

Click to get 20% off Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs through December 18th:

The book is also available from Amazon with free shipping.

If you are outside the US, please order through the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s Online Store.

We hope the great outdoors will be a part of your upcoming festivities. They will be for us! We’re planning Colorado day hikes at Thanksgiving and kayaking and backpacking in Channel Islands National Park in December.

We’re thankful for all the amazing people in our lives — family, friends, trail angels, and all of you who read and comment here. Wishing you all the best!

Tent Rocks National Monument Day Hike

In May we had the chance to spend a week in Santa Fe with family. We couldn’t wait to visit the desert again! Our itinerary included an excellent day hike in Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. At 3 miles roundtrip, the hike was short, but it included some fantastic geology.

The hike began with flat or gradual uphill sections beneath tall canyon walls. We were impressed that some large pine trees were able to grow despite the difficult conditions.

Family hike in Tent Rocks National Monument
Family hike in Tent Rocks National Monument

We found a kingcup cactus flaunting its bold red flowers near the trail.

Kingcup Cactus
Kingcup Cactus

As we continued, the walls around us narrowed. Rock strata were on display with varying white and pink tints. It felt like we were walking through a piece of abstract art.

Uncle Bernie walking through the canyon
Uncle Bernie walking through the canyon

The elements had carved beautiful shapes into the rock. Shadows painted the graceful curves.