Susan was looking at the AAA Orange County Westways June 2013 magazine.  The cover showed a picture of some kayakers at the entrance of a large cave.  The cover title was "The Outdoor Life".  Inside the magazine in the table of contents, ON THE COVER read - Kayakers explore a sea cave in Channel Islands National Park.  She turned to page 46 and started reading. 

The article was all about Channel Islands National Park.  The Channel Islands are the small group of islands about an hour's boat trip ESE of Ventura.  There are 5 islands in the group.  From west to east they are: San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island (biggest), little Anacapa Isalnd and down south Santa Barbara Island.  The islands are really something special and an area until itself.  If you go to http://www.nps.gov/chis/index.htm the top of the page shows a beautiful picture of the islands and the title says it all, "Close to the California Mainland...Yet Worlds Apart".  How true it is.  If you haven't gone there, I'd really suggest a day trip or even a few day camping trip; it will be very well worth your time.  To give you more of a hint, the nps website says, "The Channel Islands are home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, of which 145 are found nowhere else in the world".  When on the islands, you're very likely to easily see two of those special 145 species - the island fox and the island scrub jays. 

We were interested in kayaking the caves.  Our limited kayaking consists of 2 hours at a time on Big Bear Lake.  Although it can be quite choppy on the lake and added roughness from passing boats, it would be nothing compared to kayaking on the ocean!  We did some more snooping and ended up booking a trip with Channel Island Outfitters.  Typical kayaking is 3-4 hours, so you could go over, kayak and head home rather quickly, as they have boats that come into Scorpion Anchorage about every hour.  We decided to pack a picnic lunch and spend the rest of the day wandering around the island.  I wouldn't have changed a thing, as that was very cool, as well.

The entire trip, kayak and gear rentals and the ferry boat ride cost $368.  A bit expensive?  Not at all.  The entire day from getting up early on Saturday morning until getting home Saturday evening about 8 pm, was worth every penny

Our trip was Saturday, July 20, 2013.  We had to be at the harbor before 7 am to check in (between 6:15 and 6:30).  That meant we had to leave the house about 5:00 - 5:15 am for the hour plus drive up.  We got there early and checked in.  Around 7 am we met up with our outfitters and headed onto the boat.  The morning was overcast and cool.  We had no idea of what the day had in store for us, but we were anxious to get going.

The trip over was overcast and foggy.  We saw some sea lions on a bouy and saw some dolphins, as well.  At one point about 1/2 way over, we decided to walk up to the front of the boat for a view.  It was breath-taking - nearly literally.  Not only the view, but the wind was so chilly, it nearly took your breath away.  Susan didn't like that too much, so we didn't stay up there very long.

Just after 8 am, we could see the island coast through the fog.  After disembarking, we headed to the beach and the red kayaks at the eastern side of the beach.  We met up with our guides, JD (lead guide) and Tom.  We were supposed to get single kayaks, but there was a mix up and we ended up getting a tandem; which turned out fine.  Geared up, headed to the beach and got into our kayaks.  JD gave us some instructions on how he'd guide us and some safety tips and a tip we'd always wondered about - how to get back into a kayak if you flip it.  It's actually quite easy - belly-butt-feet......and, as Susan decided for us, we tried it out later.

Since conditions change daily with tides, surges, swells, etc., JD had to inspect every cave to see if they were safe for us to go through.  The first cave was cool.....they all were!  One of the caves was very narrow and had a very low ceiling.  You had to go in to the left, make a hard right turn, tuck your paddle under your arm and lay back on the kayak to make it through.  We went through looking like pros.  After a few caves, we migrated towards the back of the group.  At that point, the trip got even better because we had a chance to spend some time with the rear guide, Tom.  What a cool guy!  He was a wealth of info about the islands and surrounding waters and even picked some fresh sea weed and the 3 of us shared a few bites!

Around 10:30 am, the sun came out and it started to get nice and warm.  In one cave, the entrance was shallow and they told us to paddle like crazy to get past it.  We should have timed it better and gone in on a high swell.  Since I was the largest (heaviest) person in our group and we had a tandem kayak, we were the heaviest kayak in our group.  There's my disclaimer.  We got stuck.  As I'm trying to get us off of the cave floor, Susan decided to see how easy the belly-butt-feet thing really worked.  I'd just got us moving and I see her suddenly just lean over to the left and, kerplunk, we were in......laughing the whole time.  The belly-butt-feet thing works perfectly.

4.5 hours after starting, we headed back to the beach (bummer).  You'd think we'd be tired from all the kayaking - not at all.  We could have spent the rest of the day on the water.  It was a real treat to spend all that time in the water, especially talking with Tom.  We un-geared, grabbed our stuff and headed to the other side of the creek area where there was a picnic table under a large tree with a big overhang, so we were in the shade.  As we discovered, it was way warmer on land than it was out on the water (no surprise).  After lunch, we hiked up the road on the south side of the beach/creek area and then headed down a trail along the coastline.  The trail was on top of the cliffs overlooking the water roughly 200 feet up.  We could see for miles.

As 4:00 rolled around, we started heading back towards the dock and got in line to board the last boat of the day for the trip back to Ventura Harbor.  We had a beautiful ride back and once back at the harbor, hit the restroom and headed home.

What a fantastic day!  I'm writing this on August 29, 2014, more than a year later and I can still see, smell and feel everything we experienced together on the water and on the land.  JD was an excellent guide, but for us, hanging in the back with Tom was just the best.  Would I do this again, HECK YEAH!  Since it's the end of August and I have no extra time to do try to go this year, we'll try to plan a trip for next summer (2015).  We're really hoping a friend of ours, Tobin, can join us.

It's impossible for you to understand the feelings we get when we see these (unless you've done this), so please enjoy these pictures and let your imagination do the rest!