Santa Cruz Camping Trip
by Jonathan Weakliem
On June 13, 2015, 25 scouts and 5 adults met at Big 5 at 5:45 a.m. for the Santa Cruz camping trip. After we loaded up the cars, we went on a 40 minute drive down to Ventura Harbor for the boat ride to Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the biggest of the Channel Islands, about 30 miles long. It is owned by the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. It is the big island that we can see from Santa Barbara beaches. For many years it was a ranch.
The weather was very foggy, which was unexpected and mildly disappointing. Once the boat was loaded and we had our safety talk, we headed out of the harbor. On the trip we saw a pod of dolphins, however, we didn’t see any other wildlife. After an hour, we finally reached the island. We formed a bucket brigade to get gear off the boat, and once that was done, we gathered our packs and a food bin each to carry down to our campsite. This took about 30 minutes. After all the gear was gotten to the campsite, we set up tents and had lunch. The scouts ate at the picnic benches (we had 4 in our campsite) and had a good time. Once everyone’s tents were pitched, we headed out on a 3 mile hike to Potato Harbor.
This hike was on a small dirt road that went up alongside a mountain and eventually lead to Potato Harbor. After hiking for about ¾ of a mile we came along a cliffside with a beautiful view. After stopping there for a few minutes, we continued hiking. Soon, we reached Potato Harbor. Well, we weren’t actually in Potato Harbor, but on one of the cliffs surrounding it. We had a great view of it 200 feet below us. Sadly, the view of our surroundings was dimmed due to the fog. On the way back down many scouts were debating on whether to take the road back or go a different way out on the ridge. It was decided that we went down the way we came.
Once we got back to camp, we split into two cook groups for dinner (crocs/bats and panthers/foxes). We made tacos. Some people made a burrito, some just dumped it into a bowl, but few people ate their food like a taco (however, it was very delicious). For dessert we each got 2 brownie bites.
We had to be very tidy though, or else the island foxes would get to our food. The Island Fox was endangered by golden eagles in the late 1990s. It used to be you were lucky to see one. Now, thanks to captive breeding programs and relocation of the golden eagles, they are very common to see on the island. Although they are very cute, they are actually kind of a pest. They always ate anything left out, and roamed inside our campsite.
Soon people started retiring to their tents, and so ended our first day at Santa Cruz Island.
Bright and early the next morning at 7:00 a.m., scouts got up and started to make a breakfast of french toast. After everyone enjoyed a slice and we cleaned up, we packed lunches of PB and J sandwiches, trail mix, and cookies. By 10:00 a.m., we were heading out on our day hike to Smuggler’s Cove.
The hike was an 8 mile round trip, over one of the many mountains on the island. Soon we came along a small trail junction. One way kept us on the main road, and the other ones led us to a grove of cypress trees. We weren’t sure whether we would have to double back after going to the grove, so we split into 2 groups, agreeing to meet at the top. One went into the grove (which turned out to be a much shorter route) and one stayed on the road.
Soon after grouping up again, we got to a trail junction that marked almost halfway. After that, we had a mostly flat and downhill hike. The last ¾ of a mile or so was pretty steep downhill, but we all made it to the beach alive 😊.
The beach didn’t have much sand, which was unusual, but we were in for a treat. Pelagic red crabs were at the beach in large groups. Normally, we wouldn’t get to see them. They drift with warm ocean currents, so it was a welcome surprise to get to see them.
Many people went into the water, some explored the beach, and a few people settled down for a nap. We stayed at the beach for 2 or 3 hours enjoying ourselves. The people exploring the beach found a few sea lion skeletons near the end of our stay at the beach. That was probably one of the most exciting things that happened at the beach, but soon after we packed up our towels and headed back up the trail.
After about 2 miles, we made it back to the trail junction at the top. This time we went on the other route. About ¼ miles out we came to an old oil well. People built it there a long time ago, thinking they would strike oil, but struck water instead. By the time we got to see it, it was off limits, rusty, and in ruins. Still, it was cool to see it. After passing the oil well, a small group at the back saw a cave that seemed to have a painting in it. After many minutes of looking through binoculars, we still couldn’t decide whether it was a painting or a bunch of very strange bushes.
Once we were back at camp, we started making dinner. Soon we had pasta and meatballs cooking on the stove. Once that was ready we took out some french rolls to go with them and chowed down. For dessert we had brownie bites once again. Some people played cards, some people explored the hills around camp, and others went to bed. Eventually everyone hit the sack, and that ended our second day.
Today was the water aquatics day. In the morning we got up and made breakfast burritos. We had eggs, lil’ smokies, grilled onions, tortillas, and many condiments like ketchup and taco sauce. After breakfast, we headed down to the dock to get to the kayaks.
Once we made it to the kayak area, our instructors gave us a safety prep and we got some gear like helmets, paddles, and wetsuits. Soon we paired up and got our kayaks. When we launched we were split into 2 groups.
Soon after heading out we went into a sea cave. In fact, we went through many sea caves. Some were wide, backtracking tunnels, while others were narrow loop tunnels. One cave even had light filtering up from the bottom! We also saw some pelagic red crabs in the water.
Since it would be impossible to describe every cave and small event (which I can’t remember anyway) I’ll write some of the highlights: At one point when we stopped for a break Riley got out and capsized at least 3 kayaks. After going through a cave we spotted a dead seal floating on the kelp bed. Many scouts found it amusing to splash each other with their paddles.
After a good few hours of kayaking we went back to the beach and had lunch of again, PB and J sandwiches. Some scouts went snorkeling after lunch, however, many scouts just went back to camp to relax.
While snorkeling we saw some garibaldi, a few lobsters, and many other small fish. Alex even went snorkeling without a wetsuit! All in all, it was a nice snorkeling trip. The water was very clear, and we had a good view of the bottom.
After snorkeling we all went back to camp and got to use Mr. Weakliem’s and Mr. Tressler’s solar showers as a reward. For dinner we made hot dogs and chili. For dessert we made some fresh brownies on the stove! They were delicious! I think everyone ate well that night.
Around the time when we were making brownies we lost connection with a group exploring the hills. It was later found out that the person with the walkie talkie either left or got separated from the group. Everyone came out fine, but it did give us back at camp quite the excitement. Soon everything settled down, and we all eventually went to bed.
Today was the last day at Santa Cruz Island. It was also a lazy day. We got up slowly, and made breakfast even more slowly. For breakfast we made breakfast burritos again, but this time, we also made the leftover chili from day 3. Some time after breakfast we got ready for our last hike on the island.
First, we went up the road that we hiked on to Potato Harbor. Once we got to the trail junction though, we took the ridgeline path instead. We had amazing views, since there wasn’t any fog today. After resting and all eating some beef jerky, we went to a small peak overlooking the ocean. After resting again, we went down a trail in between 2 hills and back to camp.
At camp, we had a lunch of (whoopie!) PB and J sandwiches. Seriously, it was getting pretty old. While we were having lunch and packing up another boy scout troop went by. They were from Arizona! That shows how popular Santa Cruz Island is. Anyway, after packing up we did a camp sweep, divied up the boxes, and headed back to the boat.
The boat ride back was just like the one up, except that we had some spray off the port (left) side of the boat. This time we didn’t see any wildlife, which was disappointing. Once we made it back to shore, we loaded up the cars.
After we got the car situation under control, we drove to In-In-Out for dinner. Most people got a double-double, french fries and a drink. We ate like wolves! After a great dinner, we drove back to the church and headed home.
The trip was attended by the following scouts: Cooper B, Simon P, Ben Z, Max J, Timmy H, Ben B, Jarrison B, Nick S, Jonathan W, Vaughn F, Tyler W, Nicolas I, Paul F, Jasper U, Kellen T, Sam J, Nathan W, Billy M, Jason T, Nicolas Z, Alex R, Riley B, Josh A, David Z, and John S. Adults included: ASM Brown, ASM Weakliem, Mr. Inglehart, Mr. Tressler, and Mr. Bohley
More Pictures Of Our Santa Cruz Adventure