By Jo Anne Schultz
I belong to a very active hiking club of mostly retired people in the San Francisco Bay Area where we have many great trails to enjoy. But we also like to go farther afield, so when one of our members suggested a trip to the California Channel Islands, there was an enthusiastic response.
October 2014: Three of us drove to Ventura to scout out the possibilities. We found three wonderful sources of information for our trip—the Ventura Visitors Bureau, the Island Packers office, and the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center. Our first stop was at the Ventura Visitors Bureau where we picked up many pamphlets and brochures and asked numerous questions. We were given Cheryl Bagby’s name and were able to contact her later to help with accommodations, restaurant reservations, and many other details. Island Packers, the authorized concessionaire to the National Park, is located at Ventura Harbor. We had already booked two boat trips through them, one to Santa Cruz and the other to Santa Rosa. We did scouting hikes on both islands. Cheryl Connally, the office manager and owner was very helpful in setting up our boat trips. She made suggestions for restaurants which turned out to be excellent. Through the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center, we were able to arrange an interesting afternoon program for the group.
“Our first stop was at the Ventura Visitors Bureau where we picked up many pamphlets and brochures and asked numerous questions.”
May 2015, Day 1: Thirty-one members signed up for the trip. Most drove and stopped for a short hike at Harmony State Park on the way. Seven went on AMTRAK’s Pacific Starliner to Santa Barbara and were delighted with their experience. A Surfliner train brought them to Ventura within walking distance of the motel. We selected the Best Western Plus Inn because of its central location, good breakfast, and price. Most ate at the Beach House Fish restaurant at the Ventura Pier that night.
Day 2: We met at Island Packers, where we had our bagged lunch delivered both days by the Harbor Cove Café. We went to Santa Rosa Island where one group followed the National Park volunteer on a hike up Cherry Canyon. Others took the scouted hike to see the Torrey Pines, and one person hiked to the top of Black Mountain. On the return, the boat went into Painted Cave, and afterward we were rewarded with sightings of whales and dolphins in the Santa Barbara channel. Most went to the Rhumb Line for dinner which was a perfect choice for good food and sunset watching after a very successful day.
Day 3: We took the boat to Santa Cruz Island, again with our bagged lunches. Some hiked at Scorpion while most did the guided hike from Prisoners Harbor to Pelican Bay on Nature Conservancy property and were picked up by a skiff. All enjoyed our group dinner at The Greek that night.
Day 4: Four members returned to Santa Cruz Island where two went bird watching and two went kayaking. The rest followed the walking tour handout and had a great time exploring Ventura seeing the immense fig tree, the old Ventura Hotel, the beautiful City Hall with its stained glass, the mission, the museum, and many other sites. We took the Downtown Ventura-Harbor Trolley (free) to the harbor for lunch before going to the National Park Visitor Center for an orientation by a park ranger before watching the park film and a virtual dive on Anacapa, The diver showed us sea creatures plucked from the kelp forest. Many went to Spencer Makenzies that evening, and folks are still raving about the fish tacos. Some went up to catch the view from the Ventura Cross, and some hiked the trail in the Ventura Botanical Gardens below the cross.
“The rest followed the walking tour handout and had a great time exploring Ventura seeing the immense fig tree, the old Ventura Hotel, the beautiful City Hall with its stained glass, the mission, the museum, and many other sites.”
Day 5: We all headed home very pleased with our memories of a lovely, friendly city, great adventures on two of the Channel Islands, very pleasant accommodations, and wonderful restaurants. We want to go back when San Miguel opens!