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Get Out of Town! - Channel Islands
Even the Smallest Tax Refund can Send you Kayaking in Channel Islands
March, 2006 - Issue #17
Solitude can be hard to find in our wild places amidst noisy shuttle busses, RV parks and souvenir stands. Separating yourself from the crowds is not impossible, however. An hour in the car coupled with another hour on a boat can get you away from the masses to Channel Islands National Park, one of the most spectacular yet uncrowded of the almost 400 national parks in the United States.

Comprised of the islands of San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Anacapa, the park is 14 miles from the mainland at its closest point. The isolation allows for an abundance of wildlife, including seals, sea lions, birds, and the island fox, which is unique to the islands.

It's even better news for those who like the water, as the islands only make up half of the park's roughly 250,000 protected acres. The rest are on and under the waves, so a kayak provides a unique vantage point for seeing the islands and their rugged beauty.

Kayaking Channel Islands

Expedition Guide: Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara, 805-899-4925
Cost: $184 per person
Departure: Ventura Harbor
Length of trip: All day (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
Difficulty level: Appropriate for beginners
What to Bring: Warm clothing for the boat ride and to change into after kayaking, swimsuit, sunscreen, shoes you don't mind getting wet, lunch in sea gull-proof container, water.
If your paddling experience is limited to a few laps around Tom Sawyer's Island in the Davy Crocket canoes at Disneyland, don't count yourself out. Paddle Sports of Santa Barbara offers guided one-day explorations of the sea caves that ring Santa Cruz Island.

The excursions begin at Ventura Harbor, where we boarded the ferry with the rest of our group on a cool, foggy morning for the hour-plus ride to the Scorpion Ranch anchorage on the east side of the island. Santa Cruz is the largest of the islands (although only the eastern quarter of the island is part of the national park, with the remainder being owned by The Nature Conservancy) and is accessible for hiking and back-country camping in addition to kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving.

Following our arrival, the always-patient Paddle Sports guides gave us basic paddling instructions onshore. Within a few minutes, we were suited up and floating in the sheltered bay practicing our techniques, including how to get back in your kayak if you go overboard. Satisfied their charges were proficient in the basics, the guides were ready to lead us into open water and begin exploring the caves.

I was the Three Stooges rolled into one on a kayak. I bumped into cave walls, gained considerable experience in mastering the technique of reboarding a kayak, and even managed to get separated from the rest of the group. My challenges notwithstanding, it was an amazing day that slipped by all too quickly as we experienced the Channel Islands.

The water glimmered in the afternoon sun. Waves slapped at the sheer cliffs. Birds cruised over our heads. The other islands loomed on the horizon. The immense caves were unique worlds unto themselves.

And best of all, I did not see a shuttle bus, RV, or a gift shop offering T-shirts proclaiming "You "Otter" See the Channel Islands."

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Eric Harnish is a Newhall resident.
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