29 May 2007

Across the sea

Sometimes a girl just needs to get away. If you have been reading my blog over the past few weeks, I am sure you agree that it was time.

My favorite type of getaway isn't to a spa for a seaweed wrap or to Vegas for fun (though I wouldn't turn either down). I like to lace up my hiking boots and find somewhere beautiful, rugged and remote, preferably beyond the bounds of cell phone service.

Fortunately, I live with one of those places close by. At 7:30 a.m. on Memorial Day, I boarded this boat bound for Channel Islands National Park:
Island Adventure Boat

When my sister PK first saw Lake Michigan, she said it looked bigger than the Pacific Ocean. Lake Michigan, as seen from Chicago, stretches out to an endless horizon. Our part of the Pacific is framed by islands off our coast, so the sea looks small and cozy by comparison.

The boat I took is a big 64 foot catamaran that travels 25 mph in a wonderful rocking-horse motion over the waves. As soon as we left the harbor and got up to speed, I knew where I wanted to be: out on the bow with the rest of the kids.

Yes, I and about 5 kids stayed out there with our faces in the wind. The rest of the adults would come out for a few minutes and then go back into the cabin, but for me, I was on a BOAT and I wanted the full experience. I didn't want to be shut up inside.
Heading out to the Islands

It was cold out there. It felt like the wind was blowing because of how fast the boat went. It was a foggy, misty, chilly day. And it was early.

I didn't care, because I was laughing the whole time as we surfed through the waves and chased birds out of our way. A feeling of joy bubbled up inside me as we zoomed up and down through the green rolling ocean.

I had my big purple Patagonia jacket, a red watch cap, (never say I'm not colorful!) gloves, jeans, yoga pants under the jeans, wool sox and big boots on. I was ready. Still really cold, but so happy to be hanging out on the bow like the king of the world.

We stopped by Santa Cruz Island first, about 1 1/2 hours off the coast, to drop off about 3/4 of the people on the boat. Some people go for a day hike while others camp for a few days.

The islands are volcanic and rocky and in many places rise straight up out of the water, no beaches. They look like dark, mysterious fortresses.

A few million years ago (sorry, creationists!) the ocean floor split open, lava flowed up and out, and this chain of islands was formed.
Santa Cruz Island Arch Rock

They are popular with kayakers because of all of the little sea caves to explore. They are also home to some of the best cold-water (about 50 degrees, usually) SCUBA diving in the world because of biodiversity in the giant kelp beds.

About a dozen of us stayed on the boat until we got to Santa Rosa Island, another hour out. I went hiking and found this great white sand beach. It stretched for a mile in either direction and there were four people there the whole time. Perfect solitude, which is what I was craving. I sat by a creek, had some snacks, took about 200 photos, watched birds, enjoyed the perfect quiet.
Santa Rosa Island

The islands are almost always cool and breezy. Ok, cold and windy. Check out what the wind has done to these eucalyptus trees. Remember, these are trees that normally stand about 50 feet high.
Eucalyptuses bent by the wind

On the way back, we went by Santa Cruz Island again, this time on the other side, to pick up campers. We saw this beautiful sea cave:
Painted Cave, Santa Cruz Island

We went inside. It is called Painted Cave because it the rocks are splashed with all kinds of colors - pink, purple, red - from the minerals and metals in the volcanic rock. Photos don't do it justice.

When I say "We went inside," I mean the boat went inside. The captain did some pretty delicate manuvering and got us way back in there.
The boat inside painted cave

We were headed back to Ventura Harbor, but on the way we got waylaid by these:
Humpback whales

Humpback whales, two of them, rising and breathing and diving in unison. I know the photo isn't great, but it is the best out of the, oh, say, 400 I took. Do you know how hard it is to get whale photos with a digital camera that has that little delay between the time you push the button and the time the shutter fires? HARD!

In any case, you have to be there. And if you haven't seen whales in person, there is no way to convey how heart-stoppingly amazing it is to see them. The only word that comes to mind is "awe." Trust me. If you get a chance to do it, go.

This is the look I had on my face all day long:
Smiling off the Santa Cruz coast


QT said...

WOW - that looks like a great adventure! I am familiar with the Pacific and how deceptively cold it can be.

I agree, photos of whales do not portray what it is like to be in their presence.

Jessica said...

There's nothing like a big 'ol shot of nature to lift the spirits! I'm so glad you had a nice day.

one smarmy mama said...

omg now I want to go. ed

patches said...

That sounds like my kind of adventure. You look so refreshed!

super des said...

I'm glad you had a great day. It's wonderful what a little nature seclusion can do for a soul.

Country Mouse said...

You've just confirmed your place on my list of people whose company I'd appreciate while on a quest to get away.

Maggie said...

Hurrah for laughter! The sea can be so cleansing and refreshing!

Just A Girl said...

What a beautiful retreat. Glad you got a chance to re-energize.

meno said...

I always hang off the front of the boat wit hte kids too. Only place to be.

Nice to see your smile.

MsLittlePea said...

I love it! I could almost feel the cold Pacific wind on my own cheeks while reading. I'm soooo jealous! I've never seen whales before.

Suzanne said...

What a delightful way to spend a day. Whales and sea caves - so cool! I am glad that you were able to get out and enjoy.

(And when my East Coast friends visited me in Chicago the first time, they reffused to believe that Lake Michigan was a lake since they could not see the other shore. That cracks me up to this day.)

Oh, The Joys said...

I want that look on my face...

viciousrumours said...

If anything would make me want to vacation in California, that would do it.

Jhianna said...

Beautiful pictures, and it sounds like you had a fantastic time.

mothergoosemouse said...

I'm so glad you did that for yourself. And thank you for sharing your day with us too.

Maya said...

I love going out to the islands. I remember getting to go out to Anacapa just for the day as a kid....heaven. We spent our 1 year anniversary (six years sure have gone fast!) on Catalina...what I refer to as the Forgotten Channel Island because no one ever remembers that it's part of the chain.

TB said...

This is perfectly, beautifully, exactly what you needed. I'm so glad to see you smiling in that last picture.

Uncharacteristically Sober said...

Sounds amazing, I love your photos.

mayberry said...

Amazing! And it looks like it was effective too.

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