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.
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.
In the distance, we glimpsed Cavern Point, the northernmost point on the eastern, Park Service-managed, portion of Santa Cruz Island.
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.
Below, the water was steel gray and shimmering green under the clouds. But despite that, the day was warm.
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.
A conspiracy of Ravens was perched along the cliffs, with members occasionally calling loudly and taking flight.
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.
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.
Shortly, the trail split again with one route heading directly to the top of Cavern Point.
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.
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.
Soon we continued on, descending from Cavern Point on the trail back to Scorpion Canyon.
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.
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.
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.
The trail descended rapidly along the north side of Scorpion Canyon, bearing us down toward the Scorpion Ranch complex.
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.
The trees and shrubs in Scorpion Canyon, protected from the winds that battered the bluffs, were also great places to do some bird watching.