The Joys of Travel and Life: Santa Barbara Island Dawn

Sunrise at Channel Islands National Park

blog by Ken McAlpine

Welcome to our weekly blog about the joys of travel and life. For the two are one. Travel, like life, is about making the most of our moments, for we only have so many. With that in mind, another moment together. Thank you for coming along for the ride…

Santa Barbara Island Dawn

It is a difficult practice to master, but why dwell in the past or the future when dawn’s light touches butterflies chasing each other above the grass like children?

Tiny Santa Barbara Island sits thirty-eight miles off the coast of Long Beach and greater Los Angeles, and roughly several hundred worlds away. Part of Channel Islands National Park, the island is only one square mile and tree-less, so that you may turn in any direction and face the sea. It is a happy view for those who like solace and a sense of smallness.

But at dawn, I recommend you face east. There are the changing colors — the blast furnace oranges and smoky reds upon the sky, the shy pinks ladled softly on the ocean — and the way the shadows remain, as they do in life so that gliding pelicans are dark pterodactyl cutouts against the rising sun. There are sounds too, the subtlest hypnotic symphony. Waves swell over rock outcroppings with a mother’s whisper; the pelicans’ measured wingbeats make a rustle like a bean bag lightly shaken. On Santa Barbara Island, the wind often rises as the day unfolds, blowing hard and ragged as it scrapes across the steely scrim of the ocean’s surface. But not at dawn. At dawn, the wind is the past and the future. And so, when morning’s light, at last, crawls up the sheer volcanic cliffs to spread upon the sea of brown grass, there are the butterflies, making hay while the wind still holds its breath.

Ken McAlpine has traveled the world as a writer, from the depths of Palau to the heights of the Andes, but no matter where he goes, he can’t wait to come home to Ventura. We hope his stories remind you of why you love the place you call home, and this gift called life. For more info, please go to

Top image by @sir.brendan.