Day 1 - Anacapa
We spent all of last week on the Central Coast visiting lighthouses, beaches, state parks, and driving the scenic Highway 1. We drove down to Oxnard on Friday, October 19 in order to go out to Anacapa on Saturday and Santa Rosa Island on Sunday. We stayed at the Best Western Plus near downtown Oxnard which was about a 15 minute drive to the harbor.
We left Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard on an Island Packers vessel for our trip to East Anacapa Island. The seas were calm although there were some swells that would rock the boat. The skies were overcast due to the remnants of Hurricane Paul moving into the Southern California region. Temperatures were about 70 degrees. The ride out to the island was about an hour in length and relatively uneventful since we only sighted a few sea lions.
Anacapa is basically a large rock, similar to Alcatraz. There are no beaches. The landing is done in a cove that resembles a grotto with eroded sea caves and even a blowhole. From the boat, you have to climb 154 stairs to reach the plateau on top of the island. Here's a NPS cam of the landing cove:
We spent about four hours on the island. Steve from Island Packers gave us a great tour that lasted about two hours. He described the human and natural history of the island and took us to the most scenic viewpoints. The view to the west of Middle and West Anacapa is truly spectacular.
We were also able to see boats, kayaks, and sea lions in the waters below us.
On our boat was a group of high school volunteers who immediately went to work restoring some of the native vegetation. They have set up a greenhouse to raise these plants which are replacing all of the invasive ice plant that used to cover the island. Also growing in large numbers is the endemic tree sunflower, coreopsis which blooms after heavy rains.
Since we were visiting in the fall, the island was very dry. There are no wells or any water source other than catchments or water that is brought in by boat and stored in large redwood tanks. We were told that the best time to visit for wildflowers was in the spring. Late winter and early spring is also the time of year that the seagulls nest on the island and that visitors get a close look at the new chicks being hatched. We hope to visit again sometime at that time of year.
After our tour, we found a picnic table in the campground and had our lunch. We then visited the visitor center and walked up to the lighthouse. We were unable to enter the lighthouse but the original first order fresnel lens is on display in the visitor center and is very impressive.
After boarding the vessel for our return journey, the captain took us out to the arch rock just to the east of the landing area.