But did those third-graders hike the 4 mile round-trip to Potato Harbor and back? No, they did not. Did some of the "old people" tackle this trek? Yes we did.
|Potato Harbor Overlook.|
Like the third graders I was here to learn about Channel Islands National Park. And to that end, I signed on with Road Scholar for a three-day learning vacation based in Ventura, CA—gateway city to the Channel Islands. The trip included lectures about the archeology and biology of the islands, as well as an excursion to Santa Cruz Island—the park's largest isle.
The five islands comprising the park—Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Anacapa—are reachable only by boat or seaplane. Their relative inaccessibility, along with primitive and sometimes harsh conditions, limits visitation. Despite sitting 25 to 70 miles off the coast of southern California in proximity to 18-20 million people, the park receives only ~300,000 visitors annually.
|Scorpion Harbor, where the boats dock.|
Anacapa Island can be seen in the distance.
The Channel Islands are rich in human and natural history. North America's oldest human skeleton — 13,000 years old— was found here and was once an Indian from The Chumash Tribe. The Chumash inhabited the islands for many years before being "re-located" by early European settlers. The islands were then used for ranching and military operations—which devastated the island's ecology —before being designated a National Park in 1980.
Today the islands are regaining their natural diversity. San Miguel is home to tens of thousands of Elephant Seals and Sea Lions who breed and hang out along the coastline. Anacapa Island is home to the largest pelican rookery in the United States and the largest breeding colony of Western Gulls in the World. The waters surrounding the islands are also protected, and are among the most nutrient-rich and bio-diverse in the world. So let's hear it for nature making a comeback!
|Yellow Coreopsis thrive on the islands.|
|The Island Fox. These foxes only live on the Channel Islands—they|
are found nowhere else on earth.
As our group of not-so-young-anymore tourists boarded the boat to ferry us from Santa Cruz to the mainland we noticed the third-graders gathered 'round a national park service volunteer. I hope they learned as much as I did. And I'm hopeful they'll return to the islands someday, perhaps when they, too, have joined the ranks of old people.
|Campground under the Eucalyptus Trees on Santa Cruz Island.|
The park service provides an excellent website about The Channel Islands. Learn more here.