Posted: Sunday, May 15th, 2016

By Visit Ventura

One couple | 59 National Parks | One Year

By Debbie Cvijanovich

One couple | 59 National Parks | One Year

A photo posted by Elizabeth Donelson (@switchbackkids) on

The Switchback Kids explored Channel Islands National Park as part of their year-long adventure to every national park in America! Channel Islands National Park recently welcomed a very cool pair of visitors. Was it a rare bird species or perhaps an unusual ocean creature? No and no. The infamous pair? Cole and Elizabeth Donelson, aka The Switchback Kids! Who are they? An adventurous couple hailing from Missouri who pressed pause on their lives and “real jobs” – he a healthcare information tech and she: 6th grade teacher – to fulfill their ultimate adventure of visiting all 59 national parks in one year. Channel Islands National Park was #32. Most of us don’t have that luxury (or, do we?) but we can live vicariously through them! Cole and Elizabeth call themselves The Switchback Kids, rightfully so I might add; ‘Switchback ‘is the term for zigzag trails which mirror their hikes and their adventure. ‘Kids’ is added to represent their youthful age of 26. I deem them national park rock stars or poster kids inspiring many in their wake, myself included. Their adventure isn’t just about them. Bringing awareness to national parks and National Parks Service is part of the mission. “Pledge to visit one park this year” they plea.During our chat (keep reading for that story), Cole rattled off a slew of national park facts and figures. I felt both clueless and impressed. Thanks to our conversation, I’ve since become more aware and educated.

A photo posted by Elizabeth Donelson (@switchbackkids) on

Their story keeps getting better… The pair traveled seven months, drove 20 thousand miles, and visited 31 national parks #switchbackstyle – hiking, camping, going to ranger programs, and meeting people – before arriving at Channel Islands National Park where they camped for three nights on Santa Cruz Island. On their way out to the park, the pair was greeted by two gray whales, a pod of dolphins, and sea lions, and they couldn’t wait to inflate their kayak and hit the water. They paddled 3 miles along the coast of Scorpion Anchorage, stunned by crystal clear waters and sea caves to explore. Over three nights, Cole and Elizabeth logged 20+ miles, climbing to Montanon Ridge, one of the highest points on the island, for a spectacular sunset. They encountered lots of wildlife including island foxes, scrub jays, peregrine falcons, and pelicans.  They found Channel Islands National Park peaceful and enjoyed its hillsides that reminded them of Ireland. If you’re thinking of doing a day trip, take the Switchback Kid’s advice and check out the two-mile Cavern Point Loop or four-mile Potato Harbor loop for amazing 360 degree views of the ocean.
A photo posted by Elizabeth Donelson (@switchbackkids) on
  • Longest duration without a shower: 11 days.
  • They made a side stop in Los Angeles to be contestants on The Price is Right.
  • Cole is an Eagle Scout. He puts his skills to good use!
  • Favorite indulgence: Extreme Moose Tracks Ice Cream. “We can’t keep it cold, so we have to eat it all”, they giggle.
  • They are fans of the TV show, “The Bachelor”. Yes, even Cole.
  • Pledge to visit a park this year during the National Parks Service 100th Anniversary.
  • Travel Switchback Style: don’t just visit, explore.
  Learn more about Channel Islands National Park and plan your visit.   Read Cole and Elizabeth’s blog.
A photo posted by Elizabeth Donelson (@switchbackkids) on
A photo posted by Elizabeth Donelson (@switchbackkids) on   Follow Switchback Kids on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for a full recap of their zany adventures.  

Discover More

Get to know Ventura, and discover the best things to do around the city.

Get Inspired Screenshot 2024-01-17 at 7.47.12 AM

Request an
Inspiration Guide

View the current Ventura Inspiration Guide online. And prepare to be INSPIRED.

Be in the know

Visit Ventura
Monthly Newsletter

Sign up for everything you need to know; from new hikes, to new restaurants, to upcoming festivals, music, and entertainment.

Ventura Partners With