My daughter and I took advantage of a few free days from her work this summer to head to the Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz Island. This can't be a spur of the moment trip due to the logistics. There is one backcountry camp on the island and one has to make the reservation in advance, especially as there are only 3 campsites. We also had to reserve and book space on the boat transportation (Island Packers) for the round trip. Another logistical consideration is the lack of fresh water on the island, so we had to pack all our water for two days. Waiting for our boat we made note that all the back packers for the different islands that morning were well laden, and we were glad for our small packs once again. We hand carried two one gallon jugs of water for the hike into Del Norte camp and stashed them there as the 4 mile hike in was short enough so as not to matter we were cradling water jugs like a newborn. Full Photo Set here.
This trip is perfect for a two day excursion. Once we set up our camp in the only shaded site on the entire island (at least it seemed that way), we stashed our excess food in the locker provided, filled up our 1.5 liter bottles, and set off for Montanon Ridge. Distances were a little free flowing, the provided map didn't seem to jive with reality, but we estimated the total for the day from Prisoner's Bay drop off, to Del Norte, and the round trip back to camp from Montanon Ridge to be approximately 17 miles, with surprisingly fair elevation gain and loss what with the rolling hills and the ridge being at 1700 feet elevation. This trip provided us with a completely different ecosystem from the Pacific Northwest, with stiff breezes all day, open views to incredibly blue water, and brown grassy fields dotted with various flowering bushes and the occasional cactus. Although the temperatures were mild (Low 54/High 70F), the blazing sun on the uphills made it feel much hotter but could be followed minutes later with enough chill from the breeze to don another layer. For this first day we were already stunned by the amazing amount of sea life we saw on the boat (grey whales, humpbacks, dolphins, sea lions, pelicans and myriad birds), only to be followed by sublime far reaching views of the rolling hills and ocean, topped by 360 degree views on Montanon Ridge. The timing was perfect for a sunset on the way back with the near full moon rising behind us. This itinerary had us settling in our campsite at 10 PM, a perfect day of length and terrain, considering neither of us had our hiking legs yet.
On day 2 we figured we could head to China Beach, return to camp, pack up and be at Prisoner's Bay for our scheduled 4:30 PM pickup without being under undue time duress. The day went without a hitch and we had enough water left to clean up a bit before heading to the rendezvous point. We were able to witness the uncommon phenomenon of warmer El Nino currents depositing Baja red crabs by the thousands over southern California beaches, a pink line on the sand akin to painting. On this last day we covered about 15 miles, so the entire trip was essentially perfect for pace, views, and terrain covered for unaccustomed legs.
GEAR: We used the ZPacks Duplex for shelter, 12 oz pads, and Zimmerbuilt packs. Mine is a custom system I had Chris make for me, with the main pack being wider and taller but only 4 inches deep. I had him install a full length zipper for access, with 3 attach points for removable straps. The second part of the system is a custom food bag, also 4 inches deep but shaped to piggyback on my main pack, with attach points top and bottom. This flexibility of configuration is proving successful but I've only used this pack on two trips so far. I'll wait until the end of the season for a full report on its efficacy. For sleep my daughter used a 1 lb. Feathered Friends Vireo and I availed myself yet again of my sub 10 oz Enlightened Equipment quilt, perfect for these mild temperatures. We never felt burdened, even carrying the extra water; our packs went unnoticed, my gauge of efficient packing.