Santa Barbara, California and Channel Islands National Park

We decided to visit Santa Barbara after learning that there is an island National Park just off the coast. My cousin Sarah lives in Santa Barbara, and there are great wine regions nearby, so we had plenty of reasons to visit.

We stayed on the other side of the mountains from Santa Barbara, at Rancho Oso RV park. We stayed there because it is a Thousand Trails campground, and it was fine, except for a lack of cell service.

We met up with my cousin Sarah downtown, and she showed us the Santa Barbara courthouse, where she’ll be getting married soon. It’s a beautiful building, and we climbed the clock tower for a great view of Santa Barbara and the mountains.

Afterward, we walked down State street (the shopping district) to the wharf. Then we did a little wine tasting, and her fiance met us for dinner. It was a great time catching up!

Solvang is a Danish village in the Santa Ynez valley northeast of Santa Barbara. We went there for breakfast, and had Danish sausage and pancakes. We had a little time to kill before we visited a couple wineries, so we walked around the town and visited a Danish bakery where we bought… Danishes! For some reason, wineries don’t open until 10 or 11 am.

Brian had visited Demetria winery about 10 years ago, and liked it so much that he wanted to visit again. We didn’t have an appointment, but they fit us in since it was early on a weekday. The drive through the winery was picturesque, with the grapevines growing on the hills. The grapes weren’t growing yet, but the hills were much greener than usual, since the area had a lot of rain the week before. We tasted wine outside on the patio, the only ones there.

We also visited Riverbench winery, where we liked the wine, but not as much as Demetria. We called it a day after two wineries. Wine tasting is expensive, especially when we like the wine enough to buy some.

The last day of our visit we went to Channel Islands National Park. It’s made up of five islands, which are off the coast of Santa Barbara.

Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island are about an hour boat ride away. Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara Islands are further away. They have always been isolated from the mainland so they have unique ecosystems. The sea around the islands is a giant kelp forest.

We chose to visit Santa Cruz Island. It’s the biggest island (in Channel Islands and also in California, 96 square miles!), and has the most hiking trails. We booked a day trip on the Island Packers Ferry. Our boat left at 8 am, and it was foggy and chilly. We brought jackets and dressed in layers, and were glad we did, because we sat up top on the boat and it was windy! We saw a seal and a pod of dolphins on the way there.

We first went to the campground to look for Island Fox. They are native to the Channel Islands and so freakin’ cute. They are about the size of cats, and seemed to resemble their behavior at times.

We heard that we would definitely see some near the campground, where they try to steal food from people.

I’ll admit, after they cooperated with our photo shoot (they aren’t scared of people) I had to resist trying to coax one into my backpack. They are just the right size for a trailer pet!

When we finally tore ourselves away from the foxes, we went for a hike. There is a trail right on the coast of the island, that shows off the rocky cliff. Many days the mainland and all the other islands can be seen from the trail, but the day of our visit was foggy. It was fun to see the fog drift in and out, and climb right up the cliffs and wash over the hills.

We had a picnic lunch at Cavern Point, and when we sat down to eat we couldn’t see anything past the rock we were sitting on. After just a few minutes, the fog blew away and an amazing view popped out!

When we got to Potato Harbor, the view was mostly fog. We could hear a seal (ort ort ort!) but couldn’t see it.

We were planning to hike back on the inland trail, but the coastal trial was so nice that we took it back too. Even without a long view out to sea, there was plenty of beauty. Succulents and a large variety of plants grew on the cliffs, and some flowers were blooming.

A prescribed burn had gotten out of control a few days prior, and they cancelled trips to the island for two days before our trip was scheduled, so I was glad to be able to visit.

After we finished the trail, we went to the beach to crawl on the rocks and see what we could find. We found some crabs. I was following Brian out, and he hopped up on a rock just in time for a wave to come in and soak my feet! I had wet feet all the way home on the boat.

On the boat ride home, we saw the pod of dolphins again! There were hundreds of them, and they swam near the boat for probably 15 minutes. It was amazing to see them all jumping through the air. It was a great way to end our long, tiring day on Santa Cruz Island.

Day 548 | Mile 59,863

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