Channel Islands NP: A Whale Of An Adventure

Channel Islands National Park might be one of the most under appreciated national parks of them all. Granted, there are still several national parks I have yet to visit, but Channel Islands has definitely been put on my ‘visit again’ bucket list.
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We had no expectations of this park and were open minded and excited to see something new. This national park is truly amazing and unique. So much natural beauty, landscapes, and pleasant surprises; like seeing a whale surrounded by a pod of dolphins and seagulls all in their natural habitat!

The Channel Islands are comprised of a total of 8 islands of which only 4 are included and designated as the national park. These four islands include San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Anacapa Island. You must call ahead and plan your visit and tour either by boat or airplane concessioners that will take you to the islands. The national park visitor center is located nearby the Ventura Harbor where the boat excursions depart from. Ventura Harbor is also a visiting stop for the Hikiananalia California Voyage; a 2800 mile voyage from Hawaii to California using traditional old school non-instrument navigation.

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Ventura Harbor Channel Islands National Park

The several activities you can do on the islands include the following:

Swim
Snorkel
Hike, explore tidepools, beaches, & rugged canyons
Camp
Kayak
Sail

This is one of the top scuba diving sites in the world as well.

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Prisoners Harbor Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz is the island we chose to explore and go hiking. We also planned the extra tour of Painted Cave.  We called about a week prior to our visit and made our reservation and purchase on the catamaran boat operated by Island Packers, Inc. There is an additional fee for Painted Cave; and it was well worth it! Learn more about prices and trip info here: islandpackers.com

For this type of adventure, you need to plan and be prepared in advance for your day trip, which is the tour that we chose. We were informed to bring the following since there are no concessions, water, or supplies on the island.

Packed lunch and snacks

Enough water for entire day

Dress in layers, weather can be unpredictable

Bring needed supplements to minimize motion sickness if needed.

Bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen

Do not feed any animals

We arrived early at the Ventura marina and checked in around 8:10 a.m., it’s recommended that you arrive early so you are not delaying the departure of the boat. The scheduled time to board the boat is about 9:15 a.m.

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Ventura, California

There were approximately 85-100 people on this excursion. The weather was windy and the seas were very rough due to the hurricane to the south of the area (near Mexico). The staff member who checked us in asked us if we were okay with rough waters and if we have issues with motion sickness. We told her, “guess we will find out.”

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Ventura Harbor Island Packers Inc. Catamaran

We departed on time and began the morning with a fun and exciting bumpy boat ride. It was about 30 minutes later, when several folks started to feel motion sickness, but the crew members were fantastic and continuously walked around the boat to check on people and helped anyone who needed it.

I admit, I was getting close to that sick feeling, but I turned on my mental power and made it to the island.

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The boat ride is about one and half hour long, and the passengers who did not purchase the additional tour were dropped off at Prisoners Harbor and those of us remained on the boat and continued onto Painted Cave. This ride was approximately an additional 30 minutes one way. All I can say is,.. this was well worth it!

Painted Cave

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Painted Cave

 

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Painted Cave looking back out to the ocean

Painted Cave is a magnificent site that is one of largest and deepest sea caves in the world! You will see multi colors of remnants of algae formed on rocks and is absolutely beautiful as it reflects off the blue-green waters.
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This was such an incredible experience to gently float into the cave and hear the quiet, serene environment with the breathtaking surroundings.

We spent about 20-30 minutes pondering within the cave, of which if the weather and waves are too strong, they do not go into the cave,. But on this day we were lucky enough to have been able to go deeper in the cave and capture some incredible photos.

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We continued on and returned to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island and disembarked the boat and began our hiking journey.
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We began hiking the trail of Del Norte and found a picnic table setting at a perfect viewing point and spot for enjoying our lunch.


We hiked about 2 hours before we had to start heading back to the boat dock for boarding.

On the return boat ride, it was a much smoother more enjoyable ride the on the way to the island. And we got lucky again with an added bonus on this experience as we encountered a hump back whale and a swarm of dolphins and seagulls on a feeding frenzy. Photos by: My husband.

Humpback Whale

This was the most incredible thing to see! This made our trip to the Channel Islands one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had.

Exploring around the island was spectacular as we captured some of the features and beauty that make up Santa Cruz Island.


Channel Islands National Park exceeded our expectations no doubt! The thrill of traveling over water to unfamiliar land and exploring the unknown is exhilarating! The wildlife on the island migrated over on vegetation. These include mice and fox. Precautions are mentioned about avoiding all contact with any of the animals on the island. Learn more about his beautiful park at nps.gov/chis

Here is more information to plan your next trip to Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park   Directions
1901 Spinnaker Drive
Ventura, CA 93001
805-658-5730
www.nps.gov/chis

Island Packers, Inc.
1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105 B
Ventura, CA 93001
805-642-1393
www.islandpackers.com

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Enjoy more spectacular adventure with me!

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California Dreaming Series|San Diego

Imagine a life where you are surrounded by the most beautiful landscapes, ocean blue waters, and palm trees galore? We might call this California Dreaming as you may think that no such place exists in your world. Well, this is our attempt to bring that world to you.

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San Diego downtown near the Convention Center

 

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San Diego view from Petco Park

San Diego is a vacationers dream with so many exciting attractions, amusement parks, the famous San Diego Zoo, and exquisite dining. However, San Diego offers so much more for you other than the average everyday tourist hot spots. Here are a few different things to discover and see less traveled areas in the San Diego area. Enjoy this photo journal series capturing some of San Diego’s hidden treasures that you may wish to explore. Happy Viewing.

Torrey Pines State Reserve: Hiking and Views

 

 

This is a peaceful, beautiful trail for visitors to enjoy in a clean, natural environment, and stunning landscapes and views. This is a reserve; according to torreypine.org, a reserve is not a park. This reserve is a targeted area protected for conservation and also has other restrictions different than a park. Read more here:

Torrey Pines State Beach

The beach is at the bottom of 300 foot sandstone cliffs of white and golden stone, with a greenish layer sometimes visible at the very bottom.
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At the north end of the beach the cliffs ends and Los Peñasquitos Lagoon, a salt marsh estuary, empties into the ocean. A county highway crosses the entrance, with limited free parking along the beach.
Learn more here:

La Jolla Cove

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La Jolla Cove and Shores are one the most photographed beaches in San Diego County!

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La Jolla Cove

It is home to several species of sea life including seagulls, seals, and occasional spottings of Orca killer whales. See more photos of this area here: La Jolla Cove

Sante Fe Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest

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Del Dios Gorge Hiking Trail: Coast to Crest

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The Sante Fe and Del Dio Gorge Trails are both segments of the San Dieguito River Park area and the Coast to Crest trails. Three pre-historic cultural periods describe parts of this region and portrays a peak at how Native Americans explored through this valley. The Harris Site is noted as one of the most significant archaeological sites on the National Register of Historic Places.

Miramar Air Show: Marine Corp Air Station

The Miramar Air Show was spectacular this year and certainly did not disappoint. This years air show theme was honoring 100 years of women in the Marine Corps. Also feature highlights were some impressive aircraft such as the F-35 Lightening II, F/A -18 Hornet, MV-22 Osprey, AH-1Z Super Cobra/Viper, and of course, the infamous Blue Angels! Miramar Air Show is an annual event usually scheduled for some time in late September or early October.


Petco Park and San Diego Padres

If you visit San Diego, you must experience watching a baseball game at Petco Park with an unbelievable backdrop of the city surrounded by the ocean and spectacular sunsets!

You can watch airplanes arriving for a landing in the distance behind the city buildings as you watch the game.


Stunning sunsets

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Balboa Park

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Carlsbad State Beach

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Take notice of how this beach has a massive amount of rocks that comprise the beach. Then take a look at Moonlight Beach located in Encinitas just a short distance south of Carlsbad.

Moonlight Beach: Encinitas

Mount Woodson: Potato Chip Rock

Highly visited hiking trail in San Diego county. Mountain Lion and her cubs were just recently spotted in this area near the Mt. Woodson golf course. (Date: Oct 4, 2018)

Black Mountain Hiking Trail


Lake Ramona Hiking Trail

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Learn more about these hiking trails as I describe in one of my blog posts here:  4 Great Local Hiking Trails in San Diego.

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San Diego sunrise

San Diego is an exquisite city to visit and experience. It’s a vacation and travel destination for millions of people. And yes, there are the popular tourist attractions that visitors love to see but there are also the less traveled amazing spots that will leave you speechless. So when you make your trip to San Diego, be sure to explore one or two of the hidden gems that will make your dream vacation more complete. Thank you for reading!  California Dreaming!

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More Exploration and Adventure in San Diego!

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Coming Soon:  California Dreaming Series | Palm Springs

How I Prepared & Survived 4 Hurricanes In A 5 Year Span

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The excitement of moving to a new home and new community can be both overwhelming and exciting! IMG_5004Oh, did I mention that the move is driving across the country to a state I’ve never lived before over 2,000 miles away? Making a local move is one thing, but packing a moving truck and driving across the country from California to Florida on your own is another. I need to add in here that we’ve done it twice now. We went from calm quiet days and evenings in California, to thunderstorms and rain everyday and possible hits of hurricanes flying by for 6 months of the year! I was indeed a little nervous but excited too!
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Our first move, we spent approximately two years living near the Tampa area. These were the years that Florida had massive hits by hurricanes. It felt as though a hurricane was coming our way every other weekend. We would embrace, hold our breath, and be prepared to be uncomfortable and expecting damage to the house or property. Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jean made their visit during this year.

It was 2004, approximately a month; mid August, after we arrived into our new Florida home and were working to get the house and ourselves set up and settled in. When suddenly, those thrilling happy feelings would be swooped away by the warnings of the first of 4 hurricanes to visit and impact our new home state during the year of 2004.

Hurricane Charley made its direct hit just south of us in Punta Gorda, Florida at its maximum strength as a Category 4 hurricane. Charley brought massive destruction through this area as well as central parts of the state and to some northeastern states also. I remember sitting in our house hearing the winds and watching the rain slam against our thin windows, and of course not sleeping through the night as the tree branches and twigs fell on the roof all night long. We received approximately 8.5 inches of rain in less than 12 hours as I recall. We were not located in a zone that was ordered to evacuate, so we hunkered down and rode out the storm. We would be without power for approximately 3 days or so although others had no power for several weeks. We were thankful we made it through unscathed and safe. Read more info on Hurricane Charley here:

The second hurricane we had the unlucky privilege of experiencing is hurricane Jeanne, the deadliest storm of 2004. Now, in this case we were not in Florida during the time this storm was making its way towards Florida. We were visiting relatives in North Carolina and were considering when or if we should return home to Florida at this time. Jeanne was making its way towards east and central Florida and it included a path that would take it through the East part of the state and up through the northeastern states.

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So, with the understanding that hurricane Jeanne would be moving north, we thought we might get a head of it or we could drive around it as we packed our vehicle and decided to head back home to Florida. Well, we were wrong. We found ourselves smack dab in the middle of the storm as we approached northeastern Florida towards Orlando, and wound up driving through a major hurricane!

DSC_0182Jeanne was the fourth major named storm of the season to hit Florida in 2004. My husband did all the driving, and had the most intense grip on the steering wheel that I think I saw imprints on the wheel by the time we arrived home. We finally made it home safe and sound, but arrived to a community with downed huge oak trees, power lines, and much more damage. However, our personal property and home were okay, as we proceeded to do our routine yard clean up that had become a very common thing during this year. We were grateful to be safe and fortunate that our property had no damage. By the way, for these two hurricanes, we did not have hurricane shutters.

Fast forward about ten years, having moved back to California after just 2 years of living in Florida, now we’ve packed the moving truck and drove once again across the states back to Florida in 2014 to a new area about an hour south of Tampa and would give Florida another try. Learning that this area has not been hit by a hurricane in nearly 20+ years or any if ever had hit this particular area in Manatee County.

Life was going great and we were enjoying our home, our swimming pool, golfing, and the beautiful nature we witnessed daily in our own back yard.

Well, I guess nature said it was time to throw in a little interesting drama. Hurricane Hermine (read more here: ) made its visit in September of 2016, and hit landfall as a Cat 1 in the Florida Panhandle and we did feel some of the outer band effects from it. We were lucky and dodged the bullet this year, but we would not be so lucky during the year we made plans for another change in 2017.

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After a life-changing event, we decided to travel more and make a goal of visiting the national parks, and other gorgeous places in the US. As well, we decided to move back to California because of an opportunity presented to us we couldn’t refuse at the time. So, we put our house on the market, and we received an offer fairly quickly, and began packing up the house. We were on vacation at the time of receiving an offer. So, our vacation was not very enjoyable, as we were dealing with negotiations and contracts while on travel. All the while watching Hurricane Harvey destroy Houston, and learning about the next lurking storm festering up right behind it, named Hurricane Irma.

With only about a month to plan, pack, and prepare for a cross-country move (again), we learned quickly that we not only had little time to plan a move, but also had to prepare for a possible major hurricane as well. Watching carefully, being told this storm could be a direct hit, and its path would slowly crawl north throughout the entire state of Florida! We felt trapped, as we knew we couldn’t leave because our home was in escrow, and yet we didn’t want to go through another hurricane.

We finally returned home from our vacation and immediately got to work cleaning up the property doing the normal trimming, lawn cutting, and sweeping the pool, as the home inspection was scheduled for the very next day after our return from our trip. The Hurricane was probably about a week away, and we were about 3 weeks until closing, we continued to pack and care for the yard and pool. It was just our luck, the pool pump died the day of the inspection and we informed the inspector and home buyers we will be ordering a new pool pump and take care of it. We proceeded with researching the best deal and brand of pool pump and ended up ordering a new one after more days had passed from a company located in Miami, hoping for an on time delivery (prior to hurricane arriving).

Hurricane Irma is more powerful than ever and picking up steam and heading for Florida, and with only 10 days until closing, I found myself running around to find available food (and specific food-Gluten, dairy, peanut Free) on the shelves at the grocery stores and Wal-Mart to only find many items were sold out and several empty shelves remained. I was able to get some items we needed but off name brands and higher prices.

Therefore, instead of continuing to pack our belongings to prepare for the sale of our home and move; we found ourselves gathering food, shoveling sand to fill sand bags, and installing hurricane shutters on the windows, which was a very difficult and exhausting task in itself.

Hurricane Irma finally made landfall into Naples, FL and was projected to move directly in our path in Manatee County. It ended up a category 2 by the time it hit us with about 100 mile / hour winds of which I heard every one of them all night long. Sounding like a freight train was flying by our house all through the night.

Of course, my hubby was sawing logs all night and I was tossing and turning. We were very lucky once again, and woke up to only one small tree topped over and no other damage. 20170911_175045Wow, we were so surprised and felt as though our home and pool birdcage (they call this the pool cage) were built pretty darn good.

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Screened Pool Cage.  FITLIFEANDTRAVEL.COM

We did hold our breath while waiting for that new pool pump to arrive from Miami as it finally was delivered about 2 days after the hurricane passed. We proceeded to repair the pool, finished preparing and cleaning the house for move out inspection and were ready to hit the road. We ended up packing everything we owned and rolling out of town right on time and as scheduled. Now, read about how we prepared and planned to ride out these hurricanes with little damage and unscathed.

Preparing for a hurricane can be challenging and difficult if you allow it to be. Plan ahead and prepare. Here is a list of things I do to prepare for hurricanes if riding out the storm (without a generator); I start checking off this list several days or a week or more when a storm is forming and prior to storm arriving; (to prevent long lines at gas station and empty food shelves). Also, mentally prepare to be without power for long length of time: NOTE: We noticed how over dramatic the national news/weather channel was making this year’s storms appear which caused even more panic and over reaction. We watch the local news for more accurate and toned down reports or news on upcoming storms.

  1. Full tank of gas
  2. Fill 1-2 gallons of water for each person in home. Fill the bathtub with water.
  3. Pick up extra light/lamps (or candles) used for camping
  4. Batteries
  5. Radio- AM/FM battery
  6. Get food; bread for sandwiches, crackers, cans of tuna,
    A. I make sure to have extra food in refrigerator that can be eaten cold also
    (hard boiled eggs, cold tater tots, pizza, etc.)
  7. Manual can opener
  8. Clear any loose items around the house exterior;
    • Small potted plants
    • Hoses, decorative items
    • Lawn furniture put in garage
    • Rugs

*Use water bottles or pitchers or other containers to fill with water and have several extra, for drinking.
*Get sand bags: I used grocery plastic bags to put sand in, and placed sand bags at the front door and back patio doorways.
*Get a cooler or make extra ice packs using zip locks; fill with ice. Keep the refrigerator door closed as much as possible. (This will maintain its chill for up to several hours).
*Put hurricane shutters on windows; this is not an easy task, so make sure you have all map-instructions, screws, and that each shutter matches its screw hole positions on window.


*Park cars in garage
When hurricane hits;

  1. Close all interior doors.
  2. Be ready to go to the most interior room in the home; stay away from windows etc.

And wouldn’t you know it; these storms always seem to arrive during the night.


Also note: our home was built with cinder blocks and to hurricane codes.

In summary, don’t panic when unexpected things occur that you didn’t plan for suddenly pop into your life. Life is full of unexpected turns, challenges and heartache as well as wonderful good things are always happening too. That is life. Take a deep breath, plan to the best of your ability, stay calm and everything will be okay. I feel very lucky and fortunate, and still can’t believe that the 5 years of living in Florida, we went through 4 hurricanes. And I would still live there again if I had a choice at this time.

Thank you for reading! I hope this will provide some guidance and ideas on how to deal with this type of natural event without being to inconvenienced or chaotic.

Check out my recap of these gorgeous Florida beaches here:
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