In September of 2014, we organized a siblings backpacking trip to Channel Islands National Park. It was a special trip since even though my siblings and I were all living in Southern California at the time, we didn’t often spend much time as a group together outside of our family dinners with our parents. Also, Marisa, my sister, was about to move to France for her first stint at teaching English.
We left on Saturday and returned on Sunday. It was a short weekend trip. The best kind of weekend escape!
Our trip started with a boat ride from Ventura, CA with Island Packers. The boat was super crowded with several troops of Boy Scouts. Thankfully, they all got off on the first stop at Scorpion Ranch on the eastern part of Santa Cruz Island. We stayed on the boat and got off at the second stop at Prisoners Harbour.
We had reserved a campsite at Del Norte, a backcountry campground which is about 3.5 miles from Prisoners Harbour. The heaviest part of our packs was carrying all the water for the weekend since the campsite does not have potable water and there were very few reliable fresh water sources on the island at the time. The hike to the Del Norte campground starts off immediately at a uphill climb. Most of the trail is exposed, but you get beautiful views of the ocean. The trail winds up and down two canyons, Cañada del Agua and Cañada del Muro. We were the only group heading up to Del Norte that day. It felt amazingly like we were exploring the island all on our own, a rarity for a local Southern California hike. I imagine untouched “mainland” California used to look similar to how Santa Cruz looks today.
After setting up our tent, we decided to head back out to explore Chinese Harbour, approximately 4 miles away from our campsite. We didn’t know what to expect, but that was half the fun of it.
Chinese Harbour is a rocky beach. It was crazy to have it all to ourselves. We found lots of random things at Chinese Harbour including an animal skull on the beach. I’m guessing it might be from an Island Fox, a small fox native to the Channel Islands. We saw a ton of them running across the trails on our way back to our campsite. They were really cute, but so quick that I never got a picture.
We talked to some people at our campsite, and they told us that The Nature Conservancy, who owns 76% of the Santa Cruz island, leads guided hikes to Pelican Bay every morning that the Island Packers boat comes in. It sounded interesting, so we headed out the next day early enough to meet the boat when it came in.
The hike to Pelican Bay from Prisoners Harbour is 2 miles. We totally didn’t know what to expect (again). We left our backpacks at Prisoners Harbour and took smaller daypacks with our water bottles on the hike. It was extremely hot that day, so we definitely could have brought even more water. We didn’t know that Pelican Bay would be this gorgeous blue bay that we could swim in. Marisa and I didn’t bring our swimsuits, but we jumped in anyway. The water was so cool and refreshing, and even without snorkels we could see the bright orange Garibaldi fish swimming with us. It was such an amazing treat!