Saturday, September 10, 2016

ANACAPA ISLAND EXPEDITION!!

In 2010, I wrote down a goal I had of visiting Channel Islands National Park.  A new issue of postage stamps by the USPS was what prompted my actions, because they had issued a page of stamps honoring the various national parks throughout the United States.  I had visited many of them, but NOT the Channel Islands National Park.  As a matter of fact, I had not even heard of it until 2010!  So when I read that Road Scholar ( www.roadscholar.org ) offered a program about the Channel Islands, I signed up for it.  The first thing I learned is that I could not drive to the Channel Islands, and that I would need to take a boat.  The official boat service used by the National Park Service was called Island Packers ( www.islandpackers.com ), and one of their boats is pictured above. 

Visitors to the island will depart from the marina adjacent to the Island Packers ticket sales building.  And of course, there is a gift shop there where visitors can buy those last-minute items they may need for their excursion, as well as clean restrooms. 

Once you have boarded the boat, you will get to cruise through the Ventura harbor, on your way out to sea.  This will give you an opportunity to admire the numerous sailboats and motorboats that had moored there.

You will also cruise by the Visitor Center for the Channel Islands National Park, which is located at the end of the point, leading into open water. 

After about an hour on board the boat, you will approach the rocky cliffs of Anacapa Island.  At out landing spot, there were no beaches, so the boat captain relied on a man-made concrete dock that had been constructed at one of the more accessible inlets of the island.  After stepping out of the boat, and onto the dock, there was an arduous climb up several flights of metal stairs to the top.  Even though the stairs were tiring, I was thankful they were there, because just imagine how difficult it would be to get from the ocean to the top of the cliffs, if there were no stairs!

To give you an idea of how precarious it is to moor a big boat at the island, I took this photo of our boat from the top of the stairs.  Notice how tiny the inlet is, and imagine how difficult it would be to keep the boat steady if there were rough seas!  I was very thankful that the waters were relatively calm when we were there.

Our Road Scholar pre-trip information had warned us about the stair climb---157 stairs to island plateau---so most everyone was prepared for the "huffing and puffing" that would be necessary before we could start our actual hiking at the top of the island.

Even though this is a National Park, and there was a residence for the Park Ranger, the island is completely uninhabited.  There are probably many reasons for a ranger not being present---budget constraints, difficulty of getting supplies to the island,
and the lack of water . 
One of the first things I noticed when I got to the picnic area of the park , was the "windmill"-type devices installed on every picnic table, that extended out over the bench seats.  The swirling breezes on top of the islands kept the "windmills" in constant motion.  A quick survey of surrounding flat surfaces that did NOT have the windmills , made it obvious that the windmills had been put there to keep the hundreds of birds from roosting on the picnic tables.  Pretty clever, huh??!!

On the plateau atop the island, our group set out to make the hike that would take us down to the far end of the island.  Anacapa Island is a five-mile-long spine of rock that emerges from the ocean, about twelve miles from the mainland. 

This photo of me with hands uplifted , was taken at Inspiration Point, which is at the north end of East Anacapa.  The middle section is called Middle Anacapa, and the far end is called West Anacapa.  This is a favorite location  for taking gorgeous sunset photos.  The nickname for Channel Islands National Park, is "The Galapagos Islands of North America", and references the lack of commercial development . 

From Cathedral Cove, we could look down on a commercial boat that had brought kayakers over to the island, to explore its numerous sea caves and interesting rock formations, as well as get close-up views of the marine mammals that can be found lounging on the rocks.  You can be sure this is not a fishing boat, because the Anacapa Island State Marine Reserve extends about one mile out from the island, and no commercial or recreational fishing is allowed. 



Opposite Inspiration Point, on the other end of the island is this picturesque light house.  As a result of the wreck of the sidewheel steamer Winfield Scott, running at full speed, and crashing into the rocks off Middle Anacapa (which resulted in it sinking), the Coast Guard eventually built a light beacon, in 1912, and then a light station in 1932. 

There is a very small NPS Visitor Center on Anacapa Island.  Inside, you will be able to see the original light beacon used on the island in the last century, as well as exhibits explaining about the geography, history, and wildlife of the island. 

The Visitor Center also contains the Visitor Log Book, and the official NPS Date Stamps, for people who like to keep a record of when they visited various National Parks. 

I was very glad to learn that there were bathrooms (albeit primitive ones!) on the island!  For more detailed information about other services offered on the island, including camping, visit www.nps.gov/chis   .
 
 
The photo below shows a building that has the appearance of a church, located at the summit of East Anacapa.  Although it is very picturesque, one may wonder why there would be a big church building on an uninhabited island?  Good question!!  The building actually houses two massive redwood water storage tanks!  After the giant cylindrical water tanks were erected on top of the island, they apparently were too enticing to passing boaters, who wanted to use them as targets to try out their rifles!  When the Park Service had tired of repairing bullet holes to the tanks, they made the decision to enclose them in something that looks like a church, with their reasoning that boaters would be less likely to shoot at a church.  When our hike leader, retired Channel Islands NPS archaeologist, Don Morris, told this story to our group, I realized how it went along with one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse where Jesus says, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (John 4:10).  How ironic, that I was now looking at a "church" whose only purpose was to protect the water inside it!

Water is so scarce, and so precious, on Anacapa Island, that the National Park Service has implemented some creative solutions to water the native seedlings that have been planted, to restore the island to the way it was before ranching operations were implemented there, decades ago.  This picture shows rectangles, configured in such a way , that the fog will collect on the rectangle, and drip down, to water the seedling below it.   By the way, all the white spots you see on the hillside are sea gulls.  The island is a major rookery for gulls, as well as the largest brown pelican rookery on the Pacific Coast. 
 
 
There is a greenhouse on Anacapa Island that we were able to visit, that shows the efforts that are being made to restore the native vegetation to the island.  At one time, the beautiful--but non-native---Ice Plant was introduced to Anacapa.  The Ice Plant is now known to choke out native vegetation, so there are on-going efforts to eradicate it from the island.  Based on my observations, however, it is still very prevalent! 




The photo below shows the "check in" procedure, as members of our group returned to the Landing Cove, to reboard the Island Packers catamaran.  The boat does not stay at the island with the visitors who spend the day there, so it is important that a visitor does not "miss the boat" when they return to pick you up!  Also, it should be noted, that although the Island Packers will transport a kayak to the island (for a fee), they do not rent kayaks from their facility.  Persons who want to kayak must either bring their own, or arrange for a rental from a list supplied by the park service. 

As our boat started its return journey to the mainland, we motored down by the famous "Arch Rock" , that is the symbol for Channel Islands National Park.  Getting to see this landmark in person was like seeing a mirage come to life, since I had been dreaming of coming here for so long.  In fact, the island gets its name from the word "mirage".  The native Americans on the island, The Chumash, called it Anyapakh or "mirage".  I am SO THANKFUL that I now know this place really DOES exist, and it is not just a mirage on the horizon!  The images I carry with me will always give me "MILES OF SMILES"!!  Tricia