A world apart – even if it is the National Park closest to Los Angeles. Five islands off the coast by Ventura, three accessible through scheduled service by Island Packers out of Ventura harbor.
We chose Santa Rosa Island – a three hour trip out of Ventura – with one developed campground about a mile-and-a-half from the pier. Lots of trails to chose from and a campsite with potable water.
Our first afternoon we walked along the bluffs above Bechers Bay to the Torrey Pines trail. Only La Jolla has other surviving examples of these trees.
The next day was a longer walk across the Carrington peninsula towards Lobo Canyon.
Here you caught a strong flavor of the islands’ past as sheep and, later, cattle grazing country. On the way a good overlook where the ranch herded cattle onto and off of the island.
Lobo Canyon cut deeply into the north shore of Santa Rosa Island has an unusual “cloud forest” quality with lichen hanging all over relatively lush vegetation. Wild sandstone and tufa formations only added to the eerie qualities of the canyon.
A small beach at the mouth of the canyon opens onto the otherwise rugged north coast opposite Goleta.
Isolation permitted the survival of rare species like the Torrey Pines but also endemic species. While plants grew bigger, animals were smaller, like the Island Fox.
Wild flowers are also abundant despite the lateness of the season, no doubt because of regular ocean moisture.
The return trip to Ventura offered an unusual opportunity to go inside the Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island.
And a chance to observe a “feeding frenzy” started by a school of mackerel.