Summer has officially arrived in the valley, which naturally means all Phoenicians are heading to SoCal to get out of the heat and enjoy some time on the beach. This week I’m sharing a little bit about our trip to Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Ventura, California. Ryan and I visited Channel Islands in December 2013 right after Christmas. Before sharing about our experience, there are a few logistical things to mention about CINP. Getting to Channel Islands is not easy, there are five individual islands and getting to the closest islands, Anacapa or Santa Cruz, requires a one hour boat ride. Once you arrive on the island don’t expect to find much in terms of attractions and accommodations, what you can expect to find is peace and quiet, CINP is one of the least visited parks in the park system. For these reasons, I highly recommend visiting CINP on a short overnight camping trip rather than as a day trip. Once the day trippers leave for the evening you pretty much have the entire island to yourself, which is pretty awesome! Ryan and I decided to check out Santa Cruz Island, which is the largest island. Since we were there in December we got to see some Gray Whales during their migration to Baja Mexico on the boat ride over. Once on shore we unloaded everything from the boat and made the short ½ mile hike to our campsite. While we were setting up camp we saw our first Island Fox! These tiny little foxes are native to the islands and found nowhere else in the world. As usual, Ryan worried we wouldn’t see another fox and started frantically photographing the little guy…lucky for him we saw plenty of foxes during the rest of our stay. Throughout the evening some of the foxes fought played near our campsite, they sounded like screeching children! Even though the foxes were pretty prevalent during our visit they were recently at risk of becoming extinct and the Park Service took efforts to protect the foxes and help them reestablish themselves on the island, you can learn more about it here. And yes, almost the whole trip someone was singing “What does the fox say?” In addition to sharing the campsite with the Island Fox we also had a few neighbors, the most memorable were the ‘marijuana enthusiasts’ that set up camp right next to us. In between talking about their stash and listening to Phish they stayed busy kayaking to remote surfing locations and spear fishing. They even caught their own dinner, how cool is that?! Unfortunately, they didn’t have a fishing license so they got a stern lecture from the park ranger…when all else fails people watching generally provides some first-rate camping entertainment! To explore the island we decided to go on a hike to Smuggler’s Cove. Our route linked two trails together to creating a nice 8 mile loop. We started on Smuggler’s Road which followed some rolling hills and very quickly gained elevation providing awesome views of the other islands and the California coastline. The trail then descended onto a beach at Smuggler’s Cove. Imagine a white sand beach typical of other Southern California beaches, except you are the only one on it! We relaxed on the beach for a while, watching the harbor seal bobbing up and down right off the beach and taking some pictures. On the hike back to our campsite we took the Scorpion Canyon trail, which heads more inland and we got to see another one of Channel Island’s native species the Island Scrub Jay. You aren’t allowed to build campfires on CINP so we spent the evening practicing our night time photography skills and using our headlights to “paint” in the photos. This is of course a very simple way to spend an evening, but it was full of laughter and fun memories. Then it was early to bed (I’m pretty sure we got in our tent by 7 PM!) so we could rest up before exploring the other part of the park in the morning…the WATER! More to come!