"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Hemingway
Yosemite to Hearst Castle to Channel Islands N.P. to The Queen Mary. In your blue books, write at least 10 pages comparing and contrasting these four locations...
We got up early on Day 32, at least earlier than we would have otherwise chosen, in order to make check in and boarding on the boat which would take us out to East Anacapa Island, the first and smallest of the islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. 200,000 people combined visit Channel Islands annually, spread across five different islands, (compared to 4 Million to Yosemite) so although it was a National Park, the 40 or so people on the boat with us was another world from the thousands we were with earlier in the week.
The boat ride out was supposed to be about an hour, but ended up longer because...DOLPHINS! I have a thing for dolphins. Smart critters. I think the earth is in good hands if they take over for us, but that's a whole other blog subject. Anyways, we stopped on the trip out on several occasions to watch them feed and when we would drive, they would do their dolphin thing, playing around the boat and putting on a show. They were dozens of them feeding with seals, gulls and pelicans. Watching them in their natural environment puts a stupid grin on my face. Kim struck up a conversation with a deck hand on the boat. She guessed that it's probably old hat seeing them, but he said that it never, ever gets old. Cool.
We got to the island around 11:00 am. It is basically a giant rock, 1/4 mile wide, 1 mile long, fairly flat surfaced, but it is all on top of 100+ foot cliff walls. We didn't really dock, more like backed the boat up to a pier, held it steady in the swells and we all hopped off. You then climb 160-ish steps up the cliff wall to the top. It's less than 10 miles offshore from bustling Southern California civilization, but as the boat took off for the day and left us alone on the island, it felt a little like you should have been looking around for Ginger, Mary Ann and the Howell's. I always was always a Mary Ann guy by the way, but that too is a subject for another blog.
Anacapa is a dry rock, lightly vegetated by low scrub plants, surrounded by amazing blue waters, crashing breakers and a few barking seals. During 10 months of the year, you would just hear seals, wind and the crashing waves. For two months of the year, however, this is the largest North American nesting and breeding ground for the Western Gull. So we shared the day with an estimated 10,000 gulls, adults and nearly-fledged young ones.
We started with the guided hike around the island, lead by a smart National Park volunteer, hiking and stopping about a half-dozen times to hear about the history, plant and animal life, with a lot of focus on the gulls.
The Western Gull is the same variety that end up circling around our piers and landfills, but when you see them in their natural home raising their kids, they are fascinating and cool. At the very same moment, they are loud and their guano (which was EVERYWHERE) heated up in the afternoon sun and gave the island a certain...distinctive aroma.
There was a great old lighthouse which we visited, we ate our self-packed lunch (Gulls on an island know how to be aggressive and try to take your food!), made another self-guided lap around the island and then took the boat back. If Yosemite was the Rolling Stones at full volume in a stadium in front of 50,000 fans, then Channel Islands is a talented acoustic guitar player in a little bar around the corner that you watched with a few friends. Not what we expected but a great experience not soon to be forgotten.
We hopped in the car and drove the Pacific Coast Highway, through Malibu, LA and arrived at Long Beach for the night to stay on the Queen Mary. More on this completely awesome 'hotel' tomorrow, but suffice to say, it is amazing. We had a nice casual dinner, walked around the ship for a little while and then collapsed in the room.
More ship wandering and So Cal fun on Day 33. Cheers!