Photo Spot 42: Channel Islands National Park – Inspiration Point
Inspiration point, on East Anacapa Island, where I am standing, offers possibly the most spectacular view on the entire US West Coast. Earlier in the day, a misty marine layer (a frequent ocurence) had obscured the views I was hoping to capture at sunrise. But now the cool mist has evaporated, revealing beyond a ridge of East Anacapa a striking chain of three islands, Middle Anacapa, West Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island. Standing 250 feet above the narrow strait separating East and Middle Anacapa, I absorbed the dynamic spectacle of pelicans, gulls, and guillemots soaring below me, above a backdrop of deep blue waters and crashing waves.
Stepping gingerly near the edge of the sea cliff, I looked for a position where I would be able to include a set of Coreopsis flowers as a background to the dramatic view. Inspiration Point is spectacular at any time of the day and year, however, like most of the California hills, the islands are at their greenest at the end of the winter, before returning to brown by the end of April. The strange tree sun-flower, or Coreopsis, blossoms with bright yellow bouquets for a short period of time from the end of March to Mid-April. Although they nest in even larger numbers later in the spring, when every inch of the island seems inhabited by them, in April there were already an impressive number of Western Gulls on the island plateau, each of them sitting on a shallow nest with eggs.
Of all the Channel Islands, East Anacapa Island is the closest to the mainland, only 12 miles – a short hour crossing – from Oxnard, with boats from the concessionaire running all year. Yet the islands are at a same time a world apart. Isolation over thousands of years has created unique animals and plants found nowhere else on Earth, like the Coreopsis.
Although I live in California, I visited 41 National Parks all over the country before my first visit to Channel Islands. Despite being so close to the heavily populated mainland, the islands are little known. They see only light visitation and have preserved a wild character. Since East Anacapa Island is so small, only 3/4 mile long, all of its trails can easily be hiked in a couple of hours, so almost all visits are day trips. I shared the small campground where I had been staying overnight with only two other tents. As the concessionaire had a weight limit of 45 pounds for each bag that can be transported on the boat, I just packed my photography gear and camping gear in two bags, that I carried on two hikes over the 1/2 mile from the landing cove. Not being used to it, the sound of the lighthouse fog horn prevented me from getting a good night of sleep, but being able to stand at Inspiration Point at sunset, and then early in the morning made it well worth it.