Three-Day Kayak and Hiking Tour of the Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz)
By Mike Baird
Three-Day Kayak and Hiking Tour of the Channel Islands (San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz - see www.nps.gov/chis/ ) in Southern California, 02-04 July 2009. Five of us from the Morro Bay, CA kayakmorrobay Yahoo! Group (Mike Baird, Steve Cohen, Rouvaishyana, Betty Tegner, Ron Gabel) joined eight others on a Truthaquatics (Santa Barbara, CA - see truthaquatics.com ) adventure outing that may have been the best vacation I've ever taken. Leaving Santa Barbara harbor at 4AM, we arrived at San Miguel Island's Cuyler Harbor, opposite beautiful Prince Island, and hiked to Harris Point on San Miguel the first day, July 2, 2009, under the leadership and interpretation of the most affable and knowledgeable Sabine Faulhaber, a volunteer for the Channel Islands National Park Service, who is a German University of California Materials Dept. graduate student who had just finished her degree. Endemic plant life and many Chumash archeological sites abounded. Remnants of the Chumash civilization can still be seen in thousands of “shell middens” on the island. San Miguel Island is the only known place in the world where 4 different species of seals and sea lions breed and up to 6 species can be found. Also on Day one, July 2, 2009, we paddled a few caves near our Santa Miguel harbor mooring. On Day two in the morning, July 3, 2009, we paddled caves, arches, coves, and beaches along Santa Rosa Island near Bechers Bay and Torrey Pines. That afternoon, we paddled Santa Cruz Island, including the legendary Painted Cave, one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world. Painted Cave, is on the northwest coastline of Santa Cruz, and is so named because of its colorful rock types, lichens, and algaes. Painted Cave is a quarter-mile long and 100 feet wide, with an entrance ceiling of 160 feet. It was within the halls of this "cathedral" created by nature's raw power of wind and water that I experienced what could only be called a religious experience while listening to the amazing voice of Rouvaishyana sing opera and perform a chant in Hebrew, lighting up the chamber's darkness with pure emotion, which brought tears to my eyes for the joy for being alive and present amidst such magnificence. That evening we made an unscheduled turbulent round-trip back to Santa Barbara to replace a burned out water pump that disabled the generator required for operation of the boat. On Day three, July 4, 2009, by now very confident in our equipment and abilities, we paddled a number of caves and arches in turbulent surf amongst wash rocks and swells. We returned to Santa Barbara late afternoon on July 4th, 2009. Thanks to Rouvaishyana for arranging such a magnificent experience. I have taken the liberty to add some comments made by Rouvaishyana after the trip: "San Miguel Island was a real treat. As you know, I had been expecting foggy, windy weather so it was a treat to hike across the sunny, yet eerily barren plains with great views of the ocean all around. A late-afternoon paddle was the perfect way to end our first day. The long coastal paddle at Santa Rosa Island was perfect for all of us. Lots of exploring, long-distance cruising, thousands of sea lions, and a bald eagle to top it off! It's great that the captain saw fit to trust us to our own strengths and abilities. I knew we could do it. The afternoon paddle at Santa Cruz was even more challenging in some ways, with the need to travel into a 15-knot headwind, though not even for half an hour. Painted Cave was the grand prize, the realization of more than 10 years of dreaming, and only a real storm would have kept me from making it there. Sea caves have long held a mystique for me, and for many people, representing the unknown, entrances into the innards of the earth, places of unique rock formations and hidden life, and even as sacred places. Painted Cave is the greatest and deepest of them all in the ocean world. What a privilege to explore it with others by kayak, and it was just as gratifying that Betty and Sabine, our naturalist, were able to come by Zodiac after being turned back by winds. I didn't mind the unplanned return trip to Santa Barbara, and I found the motion of the sea to be an aid to sleep and relaxation. This was especially true the following morning, when we went back to the east end of Santa Cruz Island. We became an elite group of paddlers when the captain dropped us off at Potato Harbor, announcing that he didn't recommend that day's paddle to anyone except experienced sea kayakers, which we all are. By the way, I learned from reading that Ron is correct about the rocks in that harbor being volcanic. Santa Cruz Island in general is underlain by a layer of basalt and agglomerate volcanic rocks, with shale and other sedimentary rocks on top. The sea cave explorations that day were wonderful, and the clear water an inspiration."