#NationalParkGeek - Anacapa Island

Channel Islands National Park. Honestly, for the day I felt like I was in Ireland.

A friend and I decided a few months ago we wanted to see the Channel Islands (off the coast of Ventura/Santa Barbara), starting with the smallest first - Anacapa Island. We took the boat, operated by Island Packers out of Oxnard/Channel Islands Harbor. 

When we arrived, the parking was a little confusing - 3 hour parking limit signs, but apparently it's not enforced (my car was still there, no ticket, when we got back). Upon checking in, they told us there was a possibility we wouldn't be able to get off the boat. This was a little disheartening, having driven from Orange County - we wanted to get on the island! 

Our reservation was scheduled for 9:30AM - and left right on time. The boat was actually smaller than I thought, smaller than the Catalina Flyer, if you've ever seen that one! Once everyone was on, luggage, gear and all, we took off!

I absolutely LOVE being on a boat. I feel so free and alive - sometimes more so than when I am outside hiking or dancing on the beach. I feel so CREATIVE when I am on water. Maybe, I should just make and create on a sailboat - that seems like a happy medium? Right?

So, like I mentioned, we didn't know if we were actually going to make it off the boat. About halfway (the trip is an hour) we saw a WHALE! A Fin Whale to be exact - apparently the 2nd largest species of mammals. He swam around and underneath the boat. Thank goodness for the clarity of the water, because we were able to see him so clearly. I was right on the edge, not even pulling out my phone for pictures, afraid I might miss something and staring in complete awe. Well, I think he blessed our boat and the weather. 30 minutes and 157 stairs later, we were off the boat and on top of Anacapa.

When you book the tickets, you can either come back the same day or camp! We were only going for the day, so we had to be back at the dock at 3PM. Now, 1030AM - 3PM seemed so short to me! However, Anacapa is the smallest and with just hiking the island, that is plenty of time.

I saw that there was a possibility of kayaking around Anacapa and seeing the sea caves. I called Santa Barbara Adventure Company (so incredibly helpful and kind) to check on it and ended up deciding against it. If you're very comfortable with sea kayaking - this might be for you! But without a guide, I wasn't sure I wanted my kayak hitting the sides of a cliff island.

So, we just opted to hike and picnic for the day.

The first photo above was Cathedral Point. The edges were roped off due to some deteriorating cliffs, but we were able to get close enough to see some beauty. 

Our guide for the island informed us also that it was 'Gull Season.' We had a welcoming committee of SEAGULLS - I am not a bird person. Luckily, they were pretty sweet birds and only got crazy if you came close to their nests. Some of the birds laid their eggs close to the trail, so when you passed, if they started squawking, all you had to do was put your hand in a fist over your head and they would stop. See the white dots in the photos above and below? Those are alllllll seagulls. Only slightly terrifying.

The main star of Anacapa - what you probably see photos of the most, is Inspiration Point. The tip of the island that looks out over the other islands of Anacapa and Santa Cruz. We hit this spot twice because it was just too beautiful and one look was not enough.

I MEAN LOOK AT THAT?! Isn't it incredible? 

We stopped about halfway through our trip along the west part of the trail, where you can see the sea lions below lazing, to have our picnic. A very fancy picnic I might add.

It was awesome to sit down and admire being completely surrounded by the ocean. The island is so small so wherever you are, you have a clear view.

After walking the whole island - the best parts twice - we were ready and prepared to get back on the boat and head home. We couldn't have asked for perfect weather on our day trip - although poor sunscreen application gave me a lovely shaped sunburn on my left arm. Don't forget your sunscreen! Oh, and water - since there are no facilities on the island.

Make the time to visit Anacapa. If you live in California, it is so incredibly easy! Just book a trip with IslandPackers and GET EXCITED. I promise it feels like you're in a whole new world for the day - and that's refreshing and amazing for anyone. Enjoy the Earth!

#NationalParkGeek

It is one of my life goals to make it to as many National Parks as I can. Having a serious travel bug, I’ve made some strides in the last year to a few well known parks - Grand Canyon, Zion, Sequoia, Shenandoah Valley, Big Bend & Joshua Tree.

The best thing about living in Southern California, is there are so many parks in the western half of the United States. I can easily find a cheap(er) flight or rent a car and do quick weekend trips. I don’t base all my vacations around knocking these off my list, but I will always look to see if where I am going/who I am visiting is close to one!

Being a huge fan of hiking, it is a habit to look for the coolest places to see and hike to when I travel. Growing up in a few different places, it’s always fun for me to see the different landscapes in different states and of course, different countries. The visual creative in me sees it almost as art in a gallery - one that I may have to brace crazy conditions to be able to see and appreciate.

Below are a few photos of my most recent (2015-2016) National Park adventures. I’ll go into some detail, but mostly I want to inspire your travel through the visuals and make you want to explore that area or experience the vast landscape for your self!

If you have any questions about the trails, conditions, where I stayed, etc. let me know! I am more than happy to help out.

2015

Grand Canyon (Arizona) - October
Just passing through! A few friends and I took a trip from Arizona to Antelope Canyon & Horseshoe Bend and on our way home, we made a pit stop at the Grand Canyon. The goal is to go back soon and conquer Havasu & Mooney Falls - of course! :)

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2016

Zion (Utah) - April
Trails: Hidden Canyon, Emerald Pools, Angel’s Landing, Narrows Entrance

Another quick weekend trip (Friday - Sunday) with a few friends to Zion National Park and it was absolutely amazing - jaw dropper forsure. We were able to do all the trails above and drive around a bit. We rented a car (thank you Enterprise) instead of taking one of our own. We stayed in Hurricane at a cheaper, but not terrible hotel, to save on cost and then drove into the park each day - maybe 25 minute drive?

I would say the easiest was definitely the Emerald Pools hike, then Hidden Canyon and Angel's Landing. Everything we read about Angel's Landing before going made the hike seem absolutely TERRIFYING. However, it wasn't at all. If you're not good with heights, you may want to think twice, but I was able to do it, I just tried not to look down too many times - haha! The views along the way are definitely worth it - for all the hikes we did. We got a lot a great photos from Zion, so enjoy the below!

Sequoia (California) - September
Moro Rock, General Sherman Tree, Crescent Meadow, Tokopah Falls

Again, an absolutely beautiful park. It was still nice and chilly when a friend and I went to Sequoia - which was very nice. We started off with Tokopah Falls - which we didn't end up finding any waterfall, but the creek a long the way was nice and there were some awesome rock structures at the end. I would say all these trails were relatively easy. There are also a few locations in Sequoia that are perfect photo ops - like the fallen tree that has been carved out and definitely Moro Rock. I was slightly unsatisfied with Crescent Meadow, but I am assuming it is a better site in the Spring. OH - and we camped - highly recommend because camping is always a blasty blast. We stayed at Stony Creek Campground.

Shenandoah (Virginia) - October
Dark Hollow Falls, Hawksbill Summit

The weekend I made it to the Shenandoah Valley, I was supposed to be in Charleston for a Bachelorette weekend - but Hurricane Matthew had other plans for me (and getting to hit another NP I wasn't complaining). My mom drove up from Florida and picked me up in Charlotte, NC and we drove up to the Roanoke area to visit with my cousins and see some local sites. Although it was a very rainy day, we were able to hit 2 trails and see the fog hitting the mountain tops.

Also, if you're in the area be sure to check out the farms! We went apple picking in the rain and it was a lot of fun.

Big Bend (Texas) - October
Boquillas Border Crossing, Santa Elena Canyon, Scenic Drives

A quick trip through this park, but well worth it. There were definitely other trails I would have loved to hit here, but this was a quick weekend trip - seeing many other places in West Texas. We flew into El Paso and stayed in this cozy AirBnb - hitting the road early to stop by Prada Marfa, Roadside Target, and other fun sites. Once in the National Park, we drove directly to the Boquillas Border Crossing and took a small boat across the Rio Grande into Mexico. Despite what you may think, it was very safe. We took donkeys up to the small village and had lunch, walked around, and headed back to make sure we hit Santa Elena before sunset. That night we stayed in Alpine at a loft style AirBnb. Early rise the next morning to hit Carlsbad Caverns and White Sands before flying out early Monday morning from El Paso.

With such a small amount of time and over 1,000 miles in driving - we hit some incredible places in West Texas.

Joshua Tree (California) - November
Jumbo Rocks, Skull Rock, Hidden Valley

As always, the desert is a magical place. The lighting always seems supreme and the vastness creates incredible shots. We got to Joshua Tree about mid day and started with Hidden Valley and the Skull Rock. We played around on the rocks a bit before heading over to the Jumbo Rocks area for sunset. We didn't secure a campsite, and of course they were full, so we ended up setting up our tent on BLM land outside of the park. It was perfectly safe and there were a good amount of people out there with us. One tip - make sure your car can make it. I have a Mazda 3 and I really was wishing I was in a jeep (sorry dad). But, we made it easily and set up our tent and made dinner over a portable stove. Waking up to nearly deserted land was wonderful - everyone should camp sometime out on the public land!

Thank you so much for sticking through to the end and witnessing my hard work. I hope the photos above inspire you to get out and see the National Parks of the US (and world). They are preserved for a reason. If there are any questions - reach out! Stay tuned for my next post about my recent trip to the Exuma Cays (Bahamas)!