Channel Islands National Park: Returning to the Mainland


Brown Pelicans, Bottlenose Dolphins, and Anacapa Island

Our ferry would be leaving Santa Cruz Island at 4pm on Sunday, May 29, 2016, and all too soon it was time to board. And the next day we would return to Chicago, concluding a ten-day trip to California that had included visiting Patrick, going to Disneyland, and camping at Yosemite National Park.


At about 3:20, Patrick, Sean, and I lined up to be ferried in dinghies from the beach at Scorpion Anchorage across to the waiting Island Packers ferry.






Onboard, the upper deck was already crowded. Patrick and Sean found seats in the semi-enclosed section, while I perched on the end of a bench at the back.


Scorpion Ranch


Scorpion Rock


Pelagic Red Crabs


Once all the passengers were onboard, the crew hoisted up the dinghies and prepared to set off.


To the east, the Marine Layer had finally burned off, but to the west, it insistently clung to Santa Cruz Island.



Cavern Point


Anacapa Island

Once we were underway, Anacapa Island loomed to the south/southeast. Its rugged western end rose like a dreamscape off of the horizon. That part of the island is closed to protect wildlife breeding habitat.


Anacapa Island

The eastern end of Anacapa with its lighthouse, ranger station, and two miles of trails had been another possibility for our day at Channel Islands National Park. I was satisfied with our choice of Santa Cruz, though.


Santa Cruz Island


Brown Pelicans, Bottlenose Dolphins, and Anacapa Island

We spotted Bottlenose Dolphins out between the boat and Anacapa, which lent the scene a dramatic backdrop.


Image: Sean M. Santos


Brown Pelican


Santa Cruz Island


Patrick dozed on the way back, but Sean remained awake. And I, of course, was snapping photos the whole time. Eventually, Sean brought some wine back, and we shared the perch on the bench.

Local So-Cal teenagers nearby discussed their day and the changes to Disneyland since they were kids.


Brown Pelican and Anacapa Island


Brown Pelican


Brown Pelican


Anacapa Island


Santa Cruz Island



Ventura Harbor

We were back in Ventura Harbor and had disembarked by 5:15pm. The park’s visitor center had closed at 5 (you’d think that they’d strategize it better), so we went into the gift shop of the Island Packers concessionaire and picked up books on California chaparral (Patrick) and on Santa Cruz Island (Brandon), among our traditional patches, pins, and other National Park souvenirs (a little plush fox).




Soon we were on the Pacific Coast Highway headed toward Los Angeles and Patrick’s scholar housing apartment near the Getty. We passed Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and headed into the thin ribbon of development of Malibu.


We had dinner at the Malibu seafood joint, Neptune’s Net, where we ordered our respective body weights in fried seafood and sat watching the light dim over the Pacific.


Back at Patrick’s apartment, Sean and I unpacked and repacked our gear, getting our camping equipment and carry-on luggage ready for the flight the next day. Afterward, Patrick and I put cooling towels on our faces and chatted in the living room while Sean fussed about in the bedroom. Then it as time for bed.

Next morning, Monday, May 30 (Memorial Day), Patrick saw us off before heading to the Getty. Sean turned on KCRW as we drove to LAX, and the iconic radio station’s app streaming of Eclectic 24 has since become a staple in our household.

As we were headed to LAX, Sean mentioned that he would have to return to LA and also go to San Francisco in early August for work. He suggested my accompanying him. I thought it highly unlikely, but didn’t dismiss it out of hand. (Little did we know then that the trip just concluding would be the first of three trips to California in nine months.)


Greater Los Angeles


Joshua Tree National Park

Our flight was uneventful save for a fantastic entry in my game of “Spot National Parks from the air.” We were treated to a sweeping view of Joshua Tree National Park and were clearly able to pick out Wilson Canyon Drive, Pinto Basin, and Keys View.


Suburban Chicago

As we arrived back in Chicago it felt like summer had too. Everything was green and growing. And when we got home, Elsa was pleased to see us.


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