Across the Channel
By Tom Modugno
Being a surfer in the Goleta area, the Channel Islands are an ever present backdrop to our daily lives.
Except for those rare days when their clarity and beauty are so distinct that they can't be overlooked, and then we stare in awe.
The amazing thing is, even though they're closer to us than Los Angeles, the large majority of us have never actually been out there.
The reason being, to get there you need one of these. A seaworthy vessel. Lucky for us, we were invited by a friend that has such a vessel to take a day trip out to Santa Rosa Island. A beautifully maintained Radon.
The ride out alone was an amazing event, as we were occasionally joined by some very enthusiastic fellow mammals.
It seemed they were celebrating our decision to cross the channel.
Less than two hours later, we're sitting in another world.
A land that time forgot.
Miles of undeveloped coastline just a short ways away from an overpopulated Southern California.
Seems impossible, but it's true.
Wide open expanses of beautiful ocean front real estate, virtually untouched by modern man.
This island had a large Chumash population and today it has thousands of archaelogical sites. Radiocarbon dating on some of these sites goes back more than 13,000 years.
From 1844 to 2012, ranching operations brought herds of sheep and cattle to Santa Rosa Island. In the 1920's, Roosevelt elk and mule deer were introduced to the island for sport hunting, and they thrived.
The only structures today are remnants of the ranch operations that existed on the island.
When the National Park Service bought the island, all non native animals were removed and/or exterminated.
The remaining ranch buildings were refurbished to accomodate researchers and tourists.
There is a lot of intersting history on this island and several books have been written about it.
As we wandered through the abandoned corrals, it had had ghostly feel.
Generations of families lived, worked and played on this island paradise, separated from the modern world by a mere 40 miles of water.
This beautiful rancho house was built in the 1850's by the More family of More Mesa fame.
It's the oldest standing wooden structure in Santa Barbara County.
The outhouse is probably a close second.
The only modern construction we saw was this heavy duty pier, presumably built to shuttle visitors in and out.
As the Island Packers boat carried a small group of visitors away, we found ourselves suddenly isolated. A good, quiet and peaceful isolation.
We were lucky enough to be here in early Spring, so the island flora was on full display.
The only fauna we spotted were busy with their Spring courting rituals.
This female elephant seal popped up to see what all the commotion was about. Her head was massive...
After a fun session and some exploring, we were headed back to reality.
As we watched our playful escorts dance through the water, my mind drifted back to the emptiness of the islands.
Until next time...