Posted by: James Wapotich | September 7, 2022

Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

You heard it here first: The Santa Barbara Public Library has returned to in person presentations for the Trail Talks series!

Into the Mountains! Trails and Tales of the Santa Barbara Backcountry

Free IN PERSON Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, September 15th, 6:30PM
Faulkner Gallery – Santa Barbara Public Library
40 East Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

This talk will highlight several historic trails that lead from Santa Barbara into our local backcountry. Trails that can still be visited today as part of a day hike or backpacking trip and connect with the Dick Smith and San Rafael Wilderness areas. Trails highlighted will include those used by the Chumash, and early settlers and forest rangers.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes and backpacking trips along these historic trails. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. He is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with the Forest Service, and is the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

This free presentation is part of the Trail Talks series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library.

The next talk in the series is Thursday, October 20th, Our Public Lands: A 13,000-mile Journey Through California’s Forgotten Landscapes with Josh Jackson

Posted by: James Wapotich | May 31, 2022

 Hiking & Backpacking on the Channel Islands

Hiking & Backpacking on the Channel Islands

Free Online Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, June 9th, 5:30pm

During the last ice age, the four islands off our coast, Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel, were all part of a single, larger island called Santarosae. This talk will highlight the hiking and backpacking opportunities on these four islands today, as well as describe an imagined traverse of the now submerged super island of Santarosae.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from hiking, backpacking, and camping on the four islands off our coast. James has hiked many of the trails on the islands and has visited all five islands within Channel Islands National Park. He is an experienced backpacker, trail guide, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

This talk is being live-streamed via Zoom. To register go to https://santabarbaraca.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=35481&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2022/03/01

This free online presentation is part of the Santa Barbara Public Library’s 2022 Book to Action series, which includes events and programs inspired by Island Visions, edited by Jacob Seigel Brielle and illustrated by Isaac Seigel-Boettner.

Their book features essays and infographics written by scientists, environmentalists, rangers, fisherman, and local outdoor enthusiasts and explores what is special about the Channel Islands and why it’s important to conserve the environment and cultural significance of this unique place.

The Book to Action series aims to help residents appreciate and understand the ecology, geography, and history of the Channel Islands and our local oceans waters and inspire collective action and engagement on environmental issues.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 27, 2022

Wilderness Hiking and Plants

Wilderness Hiking and Plants

The Santa Barbara Region is home to a rich variety of both trails and habitats. Through this series of immersive classes you will learn the basic skills and awareness to explore our backcountry trails; learn about the native plants found on our trails; and deepen your connection to the natural world.

Each class takes place on one of our local trails and is a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and sharing circles that allow for learning on many levels.

Reading the Landscape – April 30, 9AM-1PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the local landscape, read the topography, and create your own mental maps of the backcountry without the use of a GPS or compass. See how habitats and plant communities are organized on the landscape, and learn how to remove the word lost from your vocabulary.

Nature Connection – May 7, 9AM-1PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more rewarding when we take the time to develop a meaningful connection with nature. Learn how to feel more at home out on the trails and in the wilderness by being able to recognize plants every hiker should know. We will explore riparian and chaparral habitats, the plants that live there, and some of their edible and medicinal properties.

Listening to Nature – May 14, 9AM-1PM

As we start to feel at home in nature, the land itself can become a source of guidance and inspiration. By working with plants, habitats, and the landscape, and tuning into our senses we can begin to see nature as ally and lay the foundation for being able to know the backcountry like the back of our hand.

James Wapotich is a trail guide, UC Certified California Naturalist, Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Los Padres National Forest, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. He leads workshops on backpacking, wilderness awareness skills, and mindfulness in nature. 

Participants must be able to comfortably hike 2-3 miles. A list of what to bring and where to meet will be provided before each class.

This class is being offered through the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

The class is $115 per person, or $85 for Garden members.

To register go to https://sbbg.regfox.com/wilderness-hiking-plants, or call (805) 682-4726 ext. 102.

If you’re not already a member of the Garden, you may want to consider becoming one. In addition to the discount for this class, the membership includes free admission to the Garden, as well as discounts on other classes, field trips, lectures, and special events through the Garden. Plus, of course, you’re supporting the propagation, conservation, study, and love of California native plants.

Feel free to contact me as well, jwapotich@yahoo.com or (805) 729-4250.

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 18, 2022

Backpacking Made Easy

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness native plants ecotherapy nature connection

Backpacking class instruction workshop Santa Barbara hiking trails Los Padres National Forest wilderness native plants ecotherapy nature connection

Through this class, you will learn the basic skills and awareness to set out on our local trails and craft your own backpacking trips. Many of these skills can also be used for day hiking as well.

This class is unique in that all classes take place out on our local trails and not in a classroom, as the best place to learn wilderness skills is outside in nature.

In general, the class covers three main areas: wilderness navigation, nature connection, and gear/trip planning.

Our approach to wilderness navigation is also somewhat unique. You will learn orienteering skills that are not dependent on having a GPS or compass. While these are good tools to have, learning how to navigate without them can help you develop a richer skill set.

Nature connection is also a big part of our time out on the land. For many of us, the aliveness of the natural world is what makes it worthwhile to invest the time and energy to head out into the backcountry, not the exercise from carrying gear. Feeling a deeper sense of connection and immersion in the elements is often the real payoff for being outdoors.

We will cover the gear basics and provide insights into how to evolve your own gear set. You don’t necessarily need to buy the latest gear in order to head out into the backcountry; what’s more important is to have the basics covered so you can get out there and get started.

Backpacking Made Easy
Saturdays, March 19 – April 2

Santa Barbara and Ojai are home to a variety of incredible backpacking destinations, and yet, often the biggest obstacle is simply having the knowledge and skills to get started.

Through this immersive workshop, you will learn the basic skills needed to comfortably explore and enjoy our local trails.

Hot springs, waterfalls, epic views, and unspoiled wilderness are just some of the rewards for those who are willing to make the journey.

Each class takes place outside, on one of our local trails, and provides a mix of hands on instruction, immersive exercises, and sharing circles that allows for learning on many levels.

Lay of the Land
March 19th 9AM-3PM

Learn how to orient yourself to the landscape and topography, and begin learning the skills and awareness that will help you remove the word lost from your vocabulary. Become familiar with maps and creating your own mental maps of the backcountry.

Working with habitats and being able to recognize them is another key skill to further orienting to the landscape.

Nature Connection
March 26th 9AM-3PM

Venturing out onto the land is even more enjoyable when we take time to develop a meaningful connection with nature.

Learning about the different plants, and plant communities along our trails, as well as some of their edible and medicinal properties helps deepen our connection with the natural environment. This in turn makes us more aware of the landscape around us. 

We will also cover the different gear options and how to choose equipment that suits you, as well as menu planning ideas.

Listening to Nature
April 2nd 9AM-3PM

By learning how to read the landscape and develop a sense of place, we can begin to feel more at home in the woods and start to see nature as ally. By tuning into our senses and being in relationship with nature, we lay the foundation for being able to know the backcountry like the back of our hand.

We will also cover the essentials of self-care on the trails, preventive first aid skills, and successful trip planning, as well as some local plants that can be used for everyday ailments.

Optional Free
Overnight Backpacking Trip
April 9-10

For those who are interested, we will help organize a free, optional backpacking trip. Here’s a chance to put all these great skills to use, and build on the material covered so far.

Length of the hike and destination for the overnight trip to be determined according to current conditions and the capabilities and interests of the participants.

Guides:

James Wapotich is a Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Los Padres National Forest, a UC Certified California Naturalist, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. He is a trail guide and has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry, and has been backpacking here for over 35 years.  

Sierra Boatwright, LMFT, is the founder of Santa Barbara Ecotherapy, where she weaves together naturalist skills and psychotherapy to help people gain more support through their time in the outdoors. Sierra has been hiking and backpacking for over 25 years and is an alumna of the Pacific Crest Outward Bound School. www.sbecotherapy.com

Emily Sanders* is the Director & Founder of the Artemisia Academy, and has been studying holistic health for over 15 years. She is a Certified Clinical Herbalist and Clinical Nutritionist from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism. She teaches classes on herbal medicine, nutrition, and plant identification. www.artemisiaacademy.com

*Because of Emily’s full schedule, she’ll be joining us on just the first day. A backpacking enthusiast, Emily is also available for the optional overnight backpacking trip.

Workshop is $245 per person, or bring a friend and both 15% off.
Limit 12 students. Must be able to comfortably hike 3-4 miles.

To sign up or for more information please contact:

James (805) 729-4250 jwapotich@yahoo.com
Sierra (805) 335-1915 sierra@sbecotherapy.com

Posted by: James Wapotich | February 12, 2022

Waterfalls of the Santa Barbara and Ojai Mountains 

Waterfalls Hiking backpacking trails Santa Barbara Ojai Los Padres National Forest Matilija Dick Smith San Rafael Wilderness Tangerine Falls Rose Valley Falls Santa Ynez Mountains

Waterfalls of the Santa Barbara and Ojai Mountains

Free Online Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, March 17th, 5:30pm

Our local mountains are surprisingly rich in the number of waterfalls and cascades they hold. When enlivened by the rain, these scenic destinations become all the more compelling. 

This talk will highlight close to two dozen different waterfalls and cascades in the mountains behind Santa Barbara and Ojai; and will feature a mix of relatively easy to reach places, as well as more remote locations in the San Rafael and Dick Smith Wilderness areas.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes to these picturesque places in our mountains. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. He is an experienced backpacker, trail guide, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

This talk is being live-streamed via Zoom. To register go to https://santabarbaraca.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails?EventId=35481&backTo=Calendar&startDate=2022/03/01

This free online presentation is part of the Trail Talks series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library.

The next talk in the series is Thursday, April 21st, 5:30pm, Wildflowers of Figueroa Mountain and the Central Coast with Helen Tarbet, Los Padres National Forest.

Posted by: James Wapotich | October 14, 2021

Intro to Wildlife Camera Tracking

wildlife camera tracking trapping class santa barbara los padres national forest trail camera bear bears mountain lion mountain lions deer fox foxes coyote coyotes bobcat bobcats

Intro to Wildlife Camera Tracking

Sunday, Nov. 7, 10:00 am -1:00 pm
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
1212 Mission Canyon Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Wildlife cameras give us a window into the hidden lives of our local animals. They allow us to see what animals do in their natural state, and can provide rich insights into their behavior.

Used by conservationists, land managers, and hunters, wildlife cameras have grown in popularity as technological advances have made cameras more affordable and easier to use. These advances have made wildlife cameras more accessible to nature enthusiasts, photographers, and people just curious about what’s going on in their own backyard. 

This class will cover the different types of wildlife cameras available on the market, the history of camera trapping or tracking, and how to set up a camera. The class will be part slideshow, part in the field, and will cover basic tracking awareness skills in order to more effectively select sites. 

James Wapotich is a UC Certified California naturalist, trail guide, Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Los Padres National Forest, and the author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. In addition to hiking the many trails in our local backcountry, James is an avid wildlife camera tracking enthusiast, with on average a half dozen cameras out in the field.

The class is $45 per person, $30 for Garden Members.

To register or for more information go to www.sbbg.org or call (805) 682-4726 ext. 102

Posted by: James Wapotich | September 23, 2021

Take Five Hikes

Guided hikes santa barbara geology edible medicinal plants mindfulness nature connection wilderness awareness skills

Take Five Hikes

Take a break from your daily routine, step away from the ordinary, and get out in nature. Get moving, get hiking, and clear out your head; and step into the richness of our mountains through this series of five hikes.

Each hike takes place on one of our local trails and is a mix of hiking, natural history, and wilderness awareness skills, with sprinklings of mindfulness, nature connection, and community.

Islands in a Sea of Chaparral – Oct. 23, 9AM-1PM

In our semi-arid climate, the power of water becomes more apparent as we move through the seasons. Explore the riparian habitats found in our creeks and what they have to show us about moving with nature.

Rising Mountains and the Great River – Oct. 30, 9AM-1PM

Ever-changing, the landscape around us is in constant motion. From our geologically active mountains that are still rising, to the plants and animals that live here, everything has a story about how it got to be here.

Nature’s Bounty – Nov. 6, 9AM-1PM

Discover the abundance of nature through the diversity of native plants. This hike will explore the different edible and medicinal plants growing in our local backcountry and their usage by native people for thousands of years.

Listening to Nature – Nov. 13, 9AM-1PM

Everything in nature is woven together, the plants, the animals, the landscape, and the deeper forces that move life forward. These interwoven relationships can draw us into a richer dialogue with nature and help guide us.

Finding your way home – Nov. 20, 9AM-1PM

It’s easy to get lost in our modern lives, including out on the trails. Reconnecting with nature can help us learn how to reorient ourselves and more easily read the landscape around us, and find our way home.

James Wapotich is a trail guide, UC Certified California Naturalist, Volunteer Wilderness Ranger with Los Padres National Forest, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest. He leads workshops on backpacking, wilderness awareness skills, and mindfulness in nature.

Participants must be able to comfortably hike 2-4 miles. A list of what to bring and where to meet will be provided before each hike.

Each hike is $25, or $20 each if you sign up for all five.

To register or for more information contact James at (805) 729-4250 or jwapotich@yahoo.com.

Posted by: James Wapotich | September 8, 2021

Hot & Cold Backcountry Springs of the Santa Barbara & Ojai Mountains 

Hot Springs Backcountry water hiking fall backpacking trails Santa Barbara Ojai Los Padres National Forest Sespe Wilderness Dick Smith San Rafael Mount Pinos Raspberry Spring Sheep Camp Big Little Agua Caliente Willet

Hot & Cold Backcountry Springs of the Santa Barbara & Ojai Mountains 

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A
Thursday, September 16th, 5:30PM

With fall approaching and temperatures becoming more pleasant, now is a great time to start thinking about heading out into the backcountry for soaking and nature connection. However, the big challenge in our semi-arid climate is where is there available water in the fall?

This talk will highlight the backpacking opportunities to our four backcountry hot springs: Little Caliente, Agua Caliente, Willet, and Sespe Hot Springs. It will also cover more than a half-dozen destinations in our local mountains that generally have reliable, year round water.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes to these unique places. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. He is an experienced backpacker, trail guide, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

This talk was live-streamed via Zoom, and now appears on the Library’s YouTube page, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSJLrqWVU0g.

This free online presentation is part of the Trail Talks series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library.

The next talk in the series is Thursday, October 14th, 5:30pm, Bicycling with Butterflies, with author Sara Dykman, who followed the Monarchs on their 10,201-mile migration.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 11, 2020

Waterfalls of the Santa Barbara & Ojai Mountains

Waterfalls Cascades Santa Barbara Ojai Santa Ynez Mountains San Rafael Wilderness Dick Smith Sespe hike trail los padres national forest

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Important Update: This event will be live-streamed on facebook, https://www.facebook.com/SantaBarbaraPublicLibrary/.

Although the Santa Barbara Public Library is physically closed to the public until at least April 6th, it will continue to provide online content such as talks and other online gatherings. Live-streamed talks are also archived on the Library’s facebook page and can be viewed later by clicking the videos link on their facebook page.

Waterfalls of the Santa Barbara & Ojai Mountains

Free Slideshow Presentation with Q&A

Thursday, March 19th, 6:30PM
Faulkner Gallery – Santa Barbara Public Library
40 East Anapamu St., Santa Barbara, CA

Rising from the sea roughly 5 million years ago, our local mountains are surprisingly rich in the number of scenic waterfalls and cascades they hold. Enlivened by the rain, these places call forth the imagination and beckon us to visit.

This talk will highlight close to two dozen different waterfalls and cascades in the mountains behind Santa Barbara and Ojai; and will feature a mix of relatively easy to reach places, as well as more remote locations in the San Rafael, Dick Smith, and Sespe Wilderness areas.

Join local author James Wapotich as he shares images and stories from his hikes to these picturesque places in our mountains. James has hiked many of the trails in our local backcountry. He is an experienced backpacker, trail guide, and author of the Santa Barbara News-Press hiking column, Trail Quest.

For more information call (805) 729-4250 or email jwapotich@yahoo.com

This talk is part of the ongoing Wilderness Hiking Speaker Series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library. The talks are the third Thursday of the month and feature topics related to hiking, backpacking, and our local natural history.

The next talk in the series is Thursday, April 16th, Wildflowers of the Cachuma Lake area with naturalists Liz Gaspar and Chick Hebert, who are the co-authors of Wildflowers & Other Plants of the Cachuma Lake Area.

Posted by: James Wapotich | March 11, 2020

Smugglers Canyon Falls

Smugglers Canyon waterfall Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Smugglers Canyon Falls

Two years ago, in 2017, I visited Santa Cruz Island over Christmas break with my girlfriend Sierra, my sister Lorene, and her boyfriend Todd. We were there for three days, and on the second day I hiked over to Yellow Banks. The plan was Lorene and Sierra would hike with me over to Smugglers Cove, and I would continue from there on my own to Yellow Banks. I later turned the hike into an article.

Unfortunately, on the day of the hike, we get a late start, leaving camp around 11am. We follow the trail through Scorpion Canyon as it climbs towards Montañon Trail, and then cut over to join the road from Scorpion Anchorage that leads to Smugglers Cove. The weather is relatively warm for December.

Roughly halfway to Smugglers Cove, the road crests its high point along the hike. From this vantage one can see the majority of the hike down towards Smugglers Cove. Upon seeing the trail laid out before her and the uphill hike back out, my Sister decides to turn back, followed shortly thereafter by Sierra, and so I continue on my own towards Smugglers Cove and Yellow Banks.

Having not slept well the night before and already feeling the tedium of the long road walk, I decide to cut off trail and head down into Smugglers Canyon to mix it up. I clamber down the slightly steep hillside, through mostly wild grasses, feeling enlivened to be traveling cross-country. The creek is dry, but engaging, and I am inspired to follow it downstream all the way to Smugglers Cove. I continue rock-hopping and exploring, pleased with my decision, but within 10 minutes the creek “cliffs” out and I arrive at the top of a 50-foot drop off. I double back up the creek and find a way to climb out of it, and then contour my way along the eastern side of the canyon, staying high enough to avoid the edge of the deepening canyon, until I’m past the 50-foot drop off.

From this vantage, looking back up the canyon, the drop-off has all the features of a potentially impressive waterfall. Imagining such cascades on the islands are short-Iived, I say to myself I should come back sometime after it rains. The idea of course slips off my radar completely since there is no easy way to just run out to the islands and check on a waterfall. It’s not like hopping in your car and busting it out to Nojoqui or Tangerine Falls to see if anything interesting is happening.

Fast forward to two years later, 2019. I return to Santa Cruz Island, now with a bigger crew. Inspired by the great time we had in 2017, the four of us decide to up the ante and bring kids with us and introduce them to the island. This time there are eight of us. Sierra and her three daughters, Maria, Elizabeth, and Anna Grace, my sister and her now fiancé Todd, and his daughter Raven.

Santa Cruz Island fox Channel Island National Park Scorpion Campground

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Prepared for adventure, we have brought two kayaks and four wetsuits, as well as masks and snorkels. We take turns hiking, kayaking, and snorkeling. We discover the best snorkeling is found by kayaking out from Scorpion Anchorage and heading south to some of the rocks and cliffs where the water is clearest. There we dive in and explore the kelp forests and sea life below. On one of the forays, I find myself marveling at wavy turban snails grazing on the kelp. I have occasionally found their shells on the beach, but never really thought about what they did in the water.

Fox Dance

When we visited the island two years ago, I had just started getting into wildlife cameras. I had two in my backyard, and brought them with me to try out on the island, and was able to capture some fun interplay between a fox and mouse. For this trip, because I was already loaded down with gear and food, I opted to leave my wildlife cameras at home. However, unbeknownst to me, my sister brought the one I’d given her for her birthday.

I had given her one because she had a similar interest in tracking wildlife, for example there’s a particular spot along a creek near her home in Colorado where she regularly sees coyotes. Nevertheless, life being life, she hadn’t gotten around to setting it up and brought the camera with her to the island for a crash course on how to use it.

Our first task is to find a place to set it up. Two years ago, I was lucky enough to spot a fox that had climbed up into a toyon bush and was eating the berries, and suggest we start over there. However, at the site we come up empty since there’s no easy way to attach the camera to something that will provide the view we want, and so we decide instead to follow the nearby fox trail and see where it takes us.

The fox trail leads away from the creek and towards an old fence leftover from the island’s ranching era. Lorene suggests we follow the fence line until there’s a break in it, noting animals will often follow fences looking for just such a break so they can easily pass through and continue across the landscape unobstructed. Sure enough we arrive at an opening in the fence. Here, two different fox trails converge, making it a promising location to set up the camera.

We strap the camera to one of the fence posts, and I walk her through the different aspects of setting up the camera, such as angling it to capture the most amount of activity and placing it at the appropriate height above the ground for foxes. Followed by the equally important test shots to confirm and adjust the placement of the camera. Crucial to this, in my mind, is to trot down the trail like a fox to confirm the action will be in frame and trigger the camera. And while our camera didn’t capture any compelling wildlife photos on this trip, the exercise did yield a couple shots of me imitating a fox. In fact, it’s unfortunate there were no test shots of my sister as her fox “dance” was much better than mine.

santa cruz island fox wildlife camera tracking

Fox dancing

santa cruz island fox channel islands national park

An unimpressed Santa Cruz Island fox pauses in Scorpion Canyon

The Storm

Our time on the island seemed to go by quickly, at least for me. The scenery of course was epic. The weather a tad colder than our previous visit. But the big difference was the prediction for rain on the second night.

Sierra and her crew had opted to stay three days, while Lorene and her crew would stay for four days. Since I was giving Lorene and her crew a ride home, I opted to stay four days as well. I was also drawn to the idea of having the better part of a day for solo hiking. One idea I had was to hike up to Montañon Peak, making a loop back via Smugglers Cove, which seemed a bit ambitious given the amount of daylight one is afforded in December. My alternate plan was to hike over to Little Scorpion Anchorage and follow the eastern coast of Santa Cruz Island south to San Pedro Point, turn west and continue along the coast to Smugglers Cove, and return back along the road. This would allow me to see some new parts of the island.

As predicted, the night before Sierra and girls are scheduled to leave the rain arrives. It starts just after everyone settles in for the night, and fortunately plays out before breakfast, sparing us the misery of cooking and cleaning up in the rain, as well as packing and waiting for the boat in the rain. However, coming in behind the rain are gale force winds, and while it’s just gusty where we are on the island, I start to wonder if the boat will be able to make it to pick them up.

snow topatopa mountains santa cruz island

Snow on the Topatopa Mountains is seen from Santa Cruz Island

On the mainland one can just call Island Packers in the morning and hear a recorded update as to whether or not the boats are running. Recalling Sierra’s two teenage daughters had discovered there was cell service at the beach by the pier, I decide to head down there. They had been making regular trips to the beach in order to stay in touch with civilization, and so I thought I might be able to get through.

On my way to the pier, I run into the park ranger and ask him if he’s heard anything. He says Island Packers is hoping to be able to make a 3 o’clock pickup; they’re monitoring the weather closely and will make a go/no go decision in the next hour or so. I return to camp and relay the news to everyone. We decide to focus on breakfast, and afterwards I go and look for the ranger to get an update. Successful, I return to camp with goods news: the boat is coming!

Sierra and her crew pack up their gear, and we all head down to the pier with them to see them off. From there my plan is to hike over towards Little Scorpion Anchorage and make my trek along the coast to Smugglers Cove. I invite Lorene, Todd, and Raven to join me for the first part of the hike, since it includes some great views and a couple pocket coves to explore.

Since we still have several hours before their boat actually arrives, Sierra and Maria decide to join us for part of the hike. While we are climbing out of Scorpion Canyon along the road that leads off towards Smugglers Cove, Maria and Raven start excitedly exploring the side washes along the road, which are now flush with runoff and producing little elfin cascades.

Something about waterfalls begins stirring in my mind, but I can’t quite recall what it is. Yes, it’s great there are all these cool little waterfalls for the girls to delight in, I mean that’s what happens when it rains, all the little watercourses come to life. As I make this observation, something deeper begins to surface, a forgotten memory of something I wanted to do. It honestly took me this long to put the pieces together, but it slowly came to me that the dry waterfall I’d seen in Smugglers Canyon two years ago would also likely be flowing and now would be the best time to check.

I break out my map and begin studying it. Could I continue on this hike over to Little Scorpion Anchorage, and from there cross-country up to the road that leads to Smugglers Cove, without losing too much time? The mileage seems about the same, I couldn’t be completely sure about the terrain, but the route itself would be mostly grassland.

As we continue towards Little Scorpion Anchorage, Sierra and Maria turn back so as not to miss their boat. I continue with Lorene and her crew to the first pocket cove, but start to feel anxious about my hike and beg off to go at my own pace. 

Little Scorpion Anchorage Santa Cruz Island Channel Island National Park

The view looking back from the bluff above Little Scorpion Anchorage

I quickly arrive at the bluff overlooking Little Scorpion Anchorage. From here, I can see my original plan of traversing the eastern coast of the island would’ve included some challenges. Little Scorpion Canyon is something of a chasm and would’ve required making a circuitous detour around in order to follow the coastline as closely as possible.

Looking at the map again, I see I will need to trace the northern edge of the canyon until I can reach a point where I can easily cross and then continue up the opposite side. I make good time following the edge of Little Scorpion Canyon uphill as the canyon slowly turns and starts to become more shallow.

Dipping down into the canyon, I cross the creek bed, and continue up one of the smaller side drainages, angling my way towards where I imagine the road to be. I eventually crest out of the drainage and intersect the road surprisingly close to where I was aiming. By now the wind has stopped.

Anacapa Island Smugglers Cove Santa Cruz island Channel Islands National Park

Anacapa Island, seen from the road to Smugglers Cove

I make quick time along the road and reach the point where I’d hiked cross-country down to the canyon before. The route starts out steep, but then levels out some, sort of like a bowl. Instead of going all the way down to the creek this time, I descend just far enough to be able to contour my way down the canyon.

I spot a convenient fox trail and follow it through the non-native grass, as it weaves its way around the occasional lemonade berry, island buckwheat, horehound, morning glory, and cactus. Further below, near the creek, I can see island oak and toyon adding to the variety of plants in the canyon.

Smugglers Canyon Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Smugglers Canyon

My goal is to get past the waterfall so I can get a shot of it looking back up the canyon. Ideally, I would’ve preferred to have gone all the way to Smugglers Cove and hiked up the creek to the base of the falls, but I didn’t have enough time for that and so this would have to do.

Continuing along the fox trail, I arrive at a small flat with a good size Catalina Island cherry, where if I was a fox, I might sit and meditate on the meaning of life, while gazing out across the canyon.

Just past the cherry tree, sensing I may have cleared the falls, I make my way to an outcrop of rocks at the edge of the canyon and can see the falls upstream. They are flowing, activated by the rain from the night before; the surrounding rocks and plants are saturated with water, giving the scene a vaguely tropical feel.

Waterfall Smugglers Canyon Santa Cruz Island Channel Islands National Park

Smugglers Canyon Falls

From here, I continue further down the canyon, recalling another vista point nearby. I soon arrive at a much larger outcrop of rocks that extends out to a sort of point. I make my way onto this overlook where I’m treated to dramatic views of several converging canyons. Across the canyon from me, towards the falls, is a small side canyon that tumbles steeply into the main canyon forming its own small waterfall. Looking downstream, the main canyon extends towards the ocean, while to my right are two more deep side canyons that meet the main canyon in a three-way confluence. The view makes me want to come back someday and explore the canyon starting from Smugglers Cove. 

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