After a relaxing boat ride on a Friday morning when I would normally be fighting the morning traffic on the way to work, I arrrived at Santa Cruz Island (Scorpion Harbor). Patrick Martin, who had already been on the island a week, was waiting at the pier with (to my surprise!) a wheeled dolly to help ferry my gear to the campground. Thank you Patrick! When we got to the campground I was amazed by the huge "palace" Patrick had erected for his week-long stay. He called it a tent, but it had to be 8 or 10 times the size of my 2-man tent!
Patrick knew all the rangers on the island, and they knew him. Patrick told me about the ongoing efforts to re-populate the island with bald eagles, and to eradicate the feral pigs which have driven much of the native flora and fauna close to extinction.
After I had set up camp it was time to hit the water. We had decided the weather conditions favored a paddle around San Pedro Point to the southern side of the island. We were in no hurry to gobble up the miles since there were many caves and rocks inviting us to play along the way. We slowly made our way around the point where a large southern swell welcomed us. The swells pounded the coastline, sending up spectacular spouts of foam and spray. The swells were fun but prevented us from landing at Smggler's Cove. We paddled on to Yellowbanks Anchorage and then returned in the same manner - exploring as we went. After rounding the point we had a nice invigorating sprint into a headwind and wind waves. Along the way we had been keeping an eye out for the bald eagles and other wildlife. We didn't spot a bald eagle but we had the company of seals and sea lions. We could see garibaldi flitting among the rocks and kelp.
Saturday we headed the opposite direction - along the northern coastline. We took our time as we had the day before, exploring caves, arches, and rock gardens. There was so much to see! As we continued west the wind and waves picked up steadily and most of the unsheltered caves became far too chaotic to enter. We played for a while at Coche Point, which we called "Agitation Point" because the clapotis was like a washing machine on the agitation cycle. After we had enough fun in the chaos we proceeded to Chinese Harbor where we carefully eyed the dumping surf and finally decided we could land for a short break. Patrick had a funny launch. He got off the beach after me during a lull, but then got hit with ever-increasing waves as he paddled out. Each wave broke on him or in front of him, killing his momentum (and drenching him) just in time for the next, larger, wave to bear down on him. After 12 cycles I lost count, but he must have punched through 15 or more of them. When he finally made it out to me he had a giant grin and was laughing uncontrollably! It could have been a dangerous situation for a less skilled kayaker but it was obvious those practice sessions over the years had paid off. He had cleanly cut through each and every wave.
We had spent much of the day exploring and making our way to Chinese Harbor against the wind and waves, but on the return leg they gave us a mighty boost. We flew back to Scorpion Harbor, surfing the waves and gaining momentum from the driving wind. All this day we had our eyes out for the bald eagles and other wildlife. The bald eagles eluded us, but we weren't surprised, since it's a lucky visitor indeed who catches a glimpse of one.
Wouldn't you know it, on Sunday as we were breaking down our camps we discovered a bald eagle watching us from the creek bed not more than 30 feet away! I think Patrick got a few photos, but I didn't. Eventually it flew away and we were treated to a majestic display of winged gracefulness. We had a unique perspective from which to appreciate of the beauty of its flight, having both been hang glider pilots in earlier years.
I look forward to returning to Santa Cruz soon!
September 26, 2005