Admittedly, I stare longingly at them everyday from work. Though jagged, they are a welcome interruption on the horizon of the pacific. Off in the distance; hazy, mysterious…majestic even. I can’t help but to think how peaceful it must be out there, with no cars, no roads, no buildings, no people. A paradise in our own backyard. A quick Google search informs me that these islands I stare at everyday are in fact the least visited of the national parks in the country…and immediately, I know what must be done. We’ve repurposed the trip of course as a team-building exercise, but the real reason we’re out on the high seas this morning is to capture some photos and film of the mysterious island to use in upcoming promotional material (if you haven’t heard yet about the Channel Islands project, get some further background from this article).
Getting Away From Work (For Work)
So one morning instead of going to the office, the creative team meets at the harbor in Ventura, only a 40 minute drive from QAD corporate headquarters. We pop a few dramamines and take a seat at the center/rear of the boat (we’re told it’s the best place for those prone to seasickness, and since we’re all desk-jockeys we heed the advice). The bumpy trip will simultaneously take us 90 minutes in the the future, and 9,000 years into the past.
We’re headed to the largest island of the eight that appear off the central coast: Santa Cruz. With a whopping official population of two (yes, two) and a length of 22 miles, our four hour window will have to be brief and effective.
Arriving at Santa Cruz, the Largest of the Channel Islands
After nearly an hour of trying to hold down my breakfast burrito, we overhear a deckhand explaining that over the years these islands have often provided smugglers and bootleggers with convenient yet isolated hideaways where they could store their goods. The distracting story is welcome and occupies my mind for the remainder of the ride. As we approach the island it begins to loom over us. It becomes increasingly easier to see the steep volcanic cliffs carved with gigantic sea caves, numerous ragged coves, and sandy beaches (all the better to smuggle with, of course).
But it is also these combination of rugged features that make the island home to many rare and/or endangered animals, both on land and in the sea. Because the islands are so separated from mainland (and each other), many years of private galapagos-like evolution have given rise to a unique variety of birds and the well-known island fox. Due to a lack of predators (eagles once commanded the top of the food chain here) these foxes are truly unafraid of humans.
A few minutes before, we had dismounted from the boat and hastily lugged our packs up into the canyon. The day had a series of hikes in store for us, but a bit seasick and slightly hungover on dramamine, we station a team member to watch the food and protect it from the clever gang of ravens perched on the tree above our post, then head up the north side of the cove.
The hike starts off tough; a maze of narrow switchbacks eventually lead up to a plateau. One on the top of the massive cliffs the trail takes us right along the edge of a 100+ foot drop, providing better and better views down the side of the island that faces the California coast. Up here there is no cover, tall dry grass hardly stops the wind that is whipping over the clifftops. It’s hard to imagine this land as a home. A brochure pocketed during the boat ride explains that the native population of Chumash lived here for some 9,000 years before the island came under consideration as a location for a mission in the late 1700s. After most of the native population left the mainland for California (Mission San Buenaventura to be exact) in the early 1800s, the land was incorporated into California out from under Spanish/Mexican control. During this time of transition the area served as a base for hunters (mostly otter), fisherman, and of course smugglers.
We arrive back at the post, have a quick sandwich and are soon off to our second hike. At this point the boat will be back to get us in two hours, so we’re determined to make the most out of our second excursion. We trek, somewhat surprisingly, past a graveyard of heavily rusted industrial equipment. I recall from the borrowed brochure that by the late 1800s the island was home to nearly 25,000 sheep due to the high demand for wool in the American Civil War. A brief stint in winemaking, followed by cattle ranching continued into the 1970s. This explains the twisted mass of decomposing metal that used to be tractors and other farming equipment we find ourselves wading through on the way to the trailhead.
Anacapa Channel Island Comes to View
The west side of Scorpion bay has a better trail, though no view for quite some time. As we pull outward over the canyon walls, the island of Anacapa reveals itself to us. It’s a narrow island, with three distinct sections, though from this perspective you’d never know it. We split, each of us choosing a spot along the cliff. The wind is less intense now, and I find the moment of solace I often daydream about from the other side. It’s quite peaceful here — I take it all in as the grass whispers, the caves whistle, and the island jays sing their songs. Who knew there was such an underused island paradise right here in our own backyard?
Reflecting On Our Channel Islands Getaway
Several hours later we were traveling back up the 101 freeway — staring again at the islands back across the channel — a few extra gigs of film and photos packed onto our memory cards and a few moments of solace richer. Now when you see the visual representation of QAD’s next generation user experience, you’ll know the history behind those images. Stay tuned for more, especially if you’re attending QAD Explore in May 2016.