Channel Islands National Park: Overland to Cavern Point, Santa Cruz Island

channelislands-192

Candleholder Dudleya (Liveforever) (endemic to the northern Channel Islands)

It was the afternoon of May 29, 2016, and our hike on the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island continued. Sean, Patrick, and I had already hiked from Scorpion Canyon out to the Potato Harbor Overlook. Now after picnicking there, we continued on our five-mile loop hike that would lead us to the top of Cavern Point and then back to Scorpion Canyon via a different route. Along the way we were afforded great views from the island’s three hundred foot high cliffs against the backdrop of a persistent marine layer over the Santa Barbara Channel.

channelislands-182

At a fork, we bore left onto North Bluff Trail while Potato Harbor Road descended to the right toward the campground. The old ranching road track had been the way we’d come from Scorpion.

channelislands-181

channelislands-183

Cavern Point

In the distance, we glimpsed Cavern Point, the northernmost point on the eastern, Park Service-managed, portion of Santa Cruz Island.

channelislands-184

North Bluff Trail

channelislands-185

channelislands-186

North Bluff Trail

Despite the glut of day trippers to the island, concentrated here in the general environs of Scorpion Anchorage, we largely had the trail to ourselves.

channelislands-187

North Bluff Trail

channelislands-188

Below, the water was steel gray and shimmering green under the clouds. But despite that, the day was warm.

channelislands-189

channelislands-190

channelislands-191

channelislands-193

After a time, we were able to look back and get a good view of the northern bluffs that the trail had been skirting. The sweep of them was much more dramatic than it had felt as we were walking along.

channelislands-194

channelislands-195

channelislands-196

Candleholder Dudleya (Liveforever)

channelislands-197

Common Ravens

A conspiracy of Ravens was perched along the cliffs, with members occasionally calling loudly and taking flight.

channelislands-198

Common Raven

channelislands-199

Common Ravens

channelislands-200

As the trail climbed gently toward Cavern Point, we could better see down toward the eroded base of the cliffs, where they were pounded and undercut by the sea.

channelislands-201

channelislands-202

channelislands-203

channelislands-204

channelislands-205

Candleholder Dudleya (Liveforever)

channelislands-206

Cavern Point

channelislands-207

California Sagebrush

channelislands-208

Song Sparrow

channelislands-209

channelislands-210

channelislands-211

channelislands-212

Coyote Brush and California Sagebrush

channelislands-213

channelislands-214

National Park Service housing above Scorpion Canyon

We crested a low rise, and views to the east opened up in front of us. In a depression, we could see National Park Service housing and administrative buildings, hidden from the view of those on the floor of Scorpion Canyon beyond. Out across the water, Anacapa Island rose from the horizon.

channelislands-215

channelislands-216

channelislands-217

channelislands-218

Shortly, the trail split again with one route heading directly to the top of Cavern Point.

channelislands-219

The western side of Cavern Point was very steep, and the unstableness of the cliffs was evidenced by the many boulders on the rocky beach and in the water below the cliffs.

channelislands-220

channelislands-221

channelislands-222

channelislands-223

channelislands-224

Anacapa Island

channelislands-225

channelislands-226

Northern Bluffs

channelislands-227

channelislands-228

channelislands-229

channelislands-230

The mildness of the hike (relatively short and lacking particularly steep grades) belied the drama of the landscape, which was spectacular if muted by the blanket of gray clouds.

channelislands-231

Cavern Point and the Santa Barbara Channel

channelislands-232

U.S. Coast and Geodesic Survey Reference Mark (the nautical equivalent of the USGS summit markers)

channelislands-233

Anacapa Island

channelislands-234

channelislands-235

Brown Pelicans

channelislands-236

Image: Sean M. Santos

channelislands-237

Cavern Point

channelislands-238

Candleholder Dudleya

channelislands-239

Slenderleaf Ice Plant (Invasive)

channelislands-240

channelislands-241

Patrick shields himself from my paparazzi camera.

Soon we continued on, descending from Cavern Point on the trail back to Scorpion Canyon.

channelislands-242

The heavy marine layer, which had blanketed the sky all day, was breaking up, at least over Anacapa in the distance. Things were finally getting a little brighter.

channelislands-243

Anacapa Island

channelislands-244

Scorpion Anchorage

We rounded a bend, and Scorpion Anchorage came fully into view. The ferry was already there for our return to the mainland. And private boats clustered along the shoreline out to Scorpion Rock and beyond in Little Scorpion Anchorage.

channelislands-245

Scorpion Rock and Little Scorpion Anchorage

channelislands-246

channelislands-247

Prickly Pear Cactus

On the cliff edge where the trail turned, the Park Service had planted Prickly Pear Cactus pads, which would take root and grow into new plants.

channelislands-249

Prickly Pear Cactus

channelislands-250

Prickly Pear Cactus

channelislands-248

channelislands-251

The trail descended rapidly along the north side of Scorpion Canyon, bearing us down toward the Scorpion Ranch complex.

channelislands-252

Scorpion Ranch

channelislands-253

Scorpion Ranch

channelislands-254

channelislands-255

channelislands-256

Prickly Pear Cactus

channelislands-257

Scorpion Rock

channelislands-258

Scorpion Visitor Center

We concluded our leisurely five-mile hike back at Scorpion Ranch around 2pm, which afforded us plenty of time to look for more little foxes and explore the shoreline at the mouth of Scorpion Canyon before boarding the ferry.

channelislands-259

Mourning Dove

The trees and shrubs in Scorpion Canyon, protected from the winds that battered the bluffs, were also great places to do some bird watching.

channelislands-260

Pacific-Slope Flycatcher

channelislands-261

Eucalyptus Tree

channelislands-262

Common Raven

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s