Thanks for enjoying the post about Dar hiking Angel Island! I may have forgotten to mention that one reason we visited Angel Island was to prepare for a then-upcoming trip to the Channel Islands. My wife has wanted to go to the Channel Islands for years. Having been there, I was like, why? Well, it’s California’s only national park that she hadn’tvisited. I said, “but…we have Angel Island.” But…we went to the Channel Islands anyway.

The boat trip from the mainland to Angel Island is ten minutes. By contrast, the boat trip from Ventura (where we were staying) to Santa Cruz Island is an hour, and that’s with the fastest ferry in the fleet. For that, you get a more isolated island and remote experience. Santa Cruz Island, at almost 100 square miles, is the largest island in or near California. It’s pretty…rugged. It has the green-brush-on-yellow-hillsides look of Highway 101-adorned central California, but as an island.

On the boat trip out, Dar’s brother insists on sitting in a booth inside the boat, and Dar does rather well! Looking out the window is sufficiently distracting; he doesn’t bother anyone. In fact, Dar does better than his parents, who become seriously queasy in ways that I won’t detail further.

As Santa Cruz Island looms, I remind wifey of the trouble we had when we arrived at Angel Island when Dar saw the beach, needed the beach, and screamed for an hour after we led him away from the beach. I say, hey, as soon as we get off the boat, let’s start the hike right away. Basically, put the equivalent of horse blinders on Dar until we’re well inland.

As we arrive, Dar has to climb a ladder from the boat to the dock, which suddenly becomes a five-person operation. But then, we’re on the move! We’re marching up the main trail…until a ranger says, “excuse me, where are you going?” Nobody mentioned this during the many announcements on the hourlong ferry ride, but it turns out that we’re required to listen to a ranger lecture before we go anywhere. Okay. That doesn’t happen in Yosemite or Yellowstone or Zion…but sure.

While the ranger talks about the Channel Islands, I’m trying not to look like I have ants in my pants. I don’t cover Dar’s eyes; his mouth is a bigger issue, but luckily the ambient noise covers most of that. The breakers hitting the nearby beach aren’t really hitting a beach; it’s all rocks. Maybe that’s why Dar doesn’t really seem to notice it, thank Jeebus. Also, none of our family had been there, so…maybe we needed an orientation.

The ranger lets us go, and we begin to head up the hill. We see the Island’s famous cat-size foxes. We see one of them charge a group of campers who don’t even flinch. Yeah, these ain’t scary foxes. They’re G-darn adorable. We take pictures of them and keep on trucking.

If Angel Island was a 10-minute ferry ride followed by a one-hour hike, Santa Cruz Island was an hourlong ferry ride followed by what felt like a 10-minute hike to the top. It was probably closer to 20 or 30 minutes, but yay! I should say that we don’t actually hike to the 2500-foot top; that would have taken all day. No, we do what most tourists do and walk up to the top of the main cliff on the island’s east side that affords a view of the gorgeous, Hawaii-ish cliffs of the island as well as much of the Southern California coastline in the distance. The view seems at least as sumptuous as Angel Island’s. Zowie.

One difference from Hawaii: there are absolutely no guardrails on these high bluffs. Any slip means a vertiginous plunge of hundreds of feet. Wifey orders me not to let go of Dar’s hand. I order her the same re his brother. My hand is locked around Dar’s wrist. But it’s all good and I’m very happy we came. We stroll along the high escarpment and I chat with Tom, my lovely friend who has accompanied us for the day.

Hopefully this view is planting great memories in our kids’ heads.

We head back to the beach, and Dar is all about it. But he doesn’t just flop into the water as he does in a temperate calm lake like Lake Anza. With all his joyous wading, in fact, he never gets in any further than his knees. I think it’s the combination of the waves and the ocean chill. He does walk down the shoreline somewhat…until he comes upon a standing flock of at least 200 seagulls. Without me saying anything, he knows not to progress. I like Dar’s instincts. They give me hope.

Despite Dar’s behavior, wifey doesn’t love the idea of Tom and I snorkeling on this same shoreline. Dar’s brother says no (even though we brought his child-sized mask with us), and wifey doesn’t like having to watch two kids. She says a wave could rise up and grab Dar at any minute. I’m like, well, yeah, a tsunami could hit, on the same probability level as an 8.0 earthquake. Should that stop us from doing things? (This is right after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, and we’re also talking about never going out in public again.) So Tom and I snorkel, but we stay within screaming distance.

The snorkeling is…okay. Snorkeling compared to scuba-ing is a little like driving a bumper car compared to driving a real car. But only a little. Tom and I do see a few lovely fish, especially around a rich kelp bed. I can see why there are a lot of snorkelers there. Other than me and Tom, every single one of them is wearing a wet suit. (The air temperature is at least 70 degrees.) I get in the ocean and I’m cold, the way that a morning pool is cold. I get used to it. But…after thirty minutes or so, I’m still a little chilly. Maybe I’m used to scuba-ing in the tropics. My fingers start to feel VERY cold, and I somehow recall (wrongly?) that cold extremities are a bad sign. I get the heck out, leaving Tom at the kelp bed. For wifey, this is a good sign! I can watch the kids again. Who haven’t moved more than a few feet in the last half-hour.

I see why Tom likes the Channel Islands…they’re a way to be away from the big city and just breathe the ocean air. On land.

Dar’s favorite part of the day may well have been his parents’ least favorite part of the day. Like a Scooby Doo episode, it was one of those botched endings that works out better than expected. I asked wifey if we could get on the 4:00 ferry a little early, to make sure we got seats. She said no, she wanted to enjoy the last minutes of our day on the beach (no sand, not a beach, still a shore). We board the boat around 3:45. All the good seats are gone. We sit in the very back of an open-air boat. No, not as open as the boat from Jaws; we sit next to a bunch of kayaks that were stacked and lashed together in the very back. We get very seriously sprayed every time the ferry hits a bumpy wave. Me and Tom being old sea dogs, we’ve got appropriate clothing for this; wifey and second son do not. They’re freezing. I give them my blessing to go into the boat and scrounge for one of the single seats. (Son can still sit/fit in mom’s lap.) Tom and I remain on the tempestuous deck with an absolutely elated Dar. This almost-ten-year-old loves his Ocean Spray. No, not the brand of drinks. No, I mean serious Ocean Spray. Boy, he loves it.

I’m never going to end this as well as the last blog post. Let’s just say that Santa Cruz Island was a win. I should have known. It’s called Santa Cruz!

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