“What’s been your favorite park so far?” is my most commonly asked question. I typically mention Grand Tetons, Smokies, or Black Canyon of the Gunnison, depending on my particular mood of the day.
But then I went to Channel Islands.
It’s in a whole other playing field, friends.
Although I only visited one out of the five islands, my experience was marked by exotic wildlife, gorgeous Mediterranean-like weather, and a rugged beauty that I’m finding it difficult to describe.
During the ferry ride in, I relished the feeling of anticipation. The salt air was refreshing; I breathed in deeply, holding on to the edge of the boat as it rocked significantly with the ocean swells. About an hour into the journey, I spotted Santa Cruz island, my destination. It rose grandly out of the Pacific, sharp cliffs setting the background for swooping birds. I heard the sound of the waves crashing violently along the rocks, as well as acute cries of the gulls.
I set off hiking right away, intent to spend the entire day exploring this alluring paradise. Each overlook awarded me with a fresh view that brought with it a sense of wildness. The beauty here was raw – unrefined – yet sophisticated in its own way. Its separation from the mainland has left Channel Islands national park relatively untouched by human havoc. It was a sweet, inspirational day.
Quite a few island foxes scampered about, a keen reminder that this was a special place. These pretty cat-looking creatures gazed at me with thoughtful eyes. I stared back, impressed at the resiliency and uniqueness of a species that can be found nowhere else on Earth.
I was sad as it came time to depart. I wanted to stay for at least a week, soaking up the sun and playing along the numerous coves.
I resolved to return one day.