Sunday, March 18, 2012

Back from the brink - maybe there is hope?
Approaching Anapaca Island - one of the Channel Islands
How many islands does it take to make an archipelago? If five is sufficient, then today was spent visiting the Channel Islands archipelago. 

In what appears to be an emerging pattern, the activities we thought we had booked keep turning into something else (Alzheimer's  here we come!). On this occasion we were only three days wrong with our booking for a trip to Anapaca Island! So, in lieu of a boat going to where we wanted to go, we simply jumped on whichever one was going anywhere, which, in this case happened to  be a whale watching (searching for?) trip which took us from Ventura out to the waters around the islands. Whilst we lucked out on the whales, we were fortunate to see a pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins, some of which chose to surf in the wake of the boat, and later, huge numbers of common dolphins, california sea lions and sea birds. 

You wouldn’t believe how cool surf scoters are - crazy little sea birds that feed in the huge surf, managing to dive below the water just as you think they are going to be beaten to a pulp by the dumping waves. 

So...the point of the section heading? Many of these beasties are returning from the brink of extinction. Sea Lions were down to about 600 individuals, Brown Pelicans were hammered by DDT and Elephant Seals were also almost exterminated, but now all can be found in healthy numbers so I guess the point is, never give up. Whilst all the other signals tell us that we are screwing the place, there are a few success stories that encourage us to keep fighting the good fight in spite of seemingly overwhelming odds. 

Sunset at Sycamore

Marbled (?) Godwits
California’s Highway One has to be one of the world’s great drives, particularly as it winds its way down the Big Sur coast. It’s only down-side is that it cuts a swathe between some beautiful beaches and some stunning gorges that make their way back into the spectacular coastal ranges. Sycamore Canyon is one of these places - miles of trails leading inland and a stunning beach at the mouth of the canyon. Just have to remember to look to the left, look to the right and look to the left again (yep, the opposite to Oz) before going from the gorge to the beach. Spent the day cycling the gorge trails on our new bikes and ended it on the beach with godwits, sherry, red wine, cheeses and pistachios as the sun burnt its way into the sea behind the islands.

Amongst the Joshua Trees
Yet another spectacular traverse of California’s coastal ranges took us from pine forests to deserts and the world of the bizarre Joshua trees - Yuccas on steroids! These remarkable trees provided the backdrop to a jumbled mosaic of granite boulders - home to a host of small ground squirrels, all sorts of odd cacti and way to many rock climbers. Put the bikes (well..our legs actually) to work again as we cycled through this surreal landscape.   

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