My friend Oliver in the ward goes on many trips... mostly to national parks. He loves it and loves people to come with him. He is so much fun that he just draws people to him and everyone wants to go on his trips. I have always wanted to go on an Oliver trip. I missed Mt. Rushmore because I was in Hawaii, but I was able to go on his Channel Islands trip. This was great because I grew up in Santa Barbara and NEVER went out there. Crazy huh? I had always wanted to though. This was my chance. I had just gotten back from Hawaii the week before, so I had to make some arrangements, but I was able to go. There were 6 people total going to the islands and then 5 more people meeting up with us in San Diego after. Everyone drove there except for me. I flew so I didn't have to take more time off of work. It worked out because my mom happened to be in Santa Barbara visiting my sister and her new baby so she picked me up from the SB airport and then I stayed with my sister and got to see my new nephew. There was a little set back and my luggage didn't make it with me on my flight, but luckily it was there the next morning and I was able to get it on my way to the Channel Islands.
It was then time for the islands. I met half of the group that was going with me for the first time. I'm pretty good at making friends, so I wasn't too worried about not knowing a lot of people or having a good time. We loaded our stuff on the boat and off we went. We rode over with a 5th grade class which got kind of annoying, but we survived. It was whale season, so we were hoping to see a whale on our hour boat ride over to Santa Cruz island... but we did not. However, we DID see a thousand dolphins all swimming around our boat. I have never seen that many dolphins at the same time before. It was AMAZING! What a way to start the trip and welcome us to the island.
There are no stores on this island... all you can do is camp and you have to pack in and out all your food and trash and store everything in a box so the fox and ravens didn't get into it. So we put on our backpacks and hiked to our little camping spot. As it turns out, nobody brought a tent, so it was just us sleeping next to each other on the rocky ground. It is not like I needed a tent, but it would have been nice to have one. #1 so I could change in it. #2 because I wouldn't have woken up to being wet from the mildew. #3 Wouldn't have to worry about the rollie pollies that are crawling all over us when we wake up and #4 We wouldn't have to worry about Fox fights by our heads. Oh... you heard me right. We woke up to a fox (which are a special species of fox and are very protected on the island) and a raven having a fight right next to our heads. The next morning one of the girls found her journal all chewed up in the bushes. We laughed for the next few days on how we thought the fox and the raven got in a fight over the journal.
One of the main reasons we went to Santa Cruz island was for the kayaking. It is supposed to have some of the best sea caves in the world, and we were ready to explore it. We decided not to pay for a guided tour which was nice... because we could just come and go as we wanted to. We got double kayak's instead of single kayak which I also appreciated because it made us more together and for how much we kayaked (miles) I don't know if I would have been able to keep up. Plus this way if anything ever happened, I felt more safe too because we partnered up one guy with one girl since we had an even number. The first day I was partnered up with Nate. Nate is in my ward, but until this trip I hardly new him. The only one I really knew on this trip was Oliver. Nate and I had a fun time kayaking together and exploring caves. There was one cave that we went into where we saw these seals on the shore and this big white seal on a rock. He just stayed there as we kayaked up to him. Pretty awesome. *pictures of the kayaking is not great because we used a disposable underwater camera since my underwater camera is broken.*
The second day we left early and packed a lunch in our kayaks. I went with Oliver this time... which I think was inspired because of what would happen later. We kayaked for a long time. Further than where we were shown to go on our little kayak map. We found a little cove where we would get out and eat. But first, we wanted to go around one more little cove.... just to see what was there. What did we find? HUNDREDS of seals and sea lions. They were sitting all over the rocks, they were swimming in the water, they were everywhere. We just sat in our kayaks as we watched them. We were so close to them. It was so awesome. They swam real close. This one other time Oliver and I had a seal pop up out of the water right next to our kayak and then swim under our kayak . It was awesome. It was so fun to see and experience all of the wild life there. *seals are hard to see because they blend in with the rocks, but they are everywhere in this pic*
After hanging out with the seals and eating some lunch, we headed back to explore some caves on our way. Everyone went through this one cave to get from one cove to the next without having to kayak all the way around the cliff. Everyone got through fine and had a lot of fun doing it. Kayaking through caves is awesome. Everyone was continuing on and Oliver says we should go through again because it was so much fun. So he and I turn around and go back through the cave. Going back I notice the waves are a bit bigger but we make it through fine. Now it was time to turn around and go back through the cave the other way so we could catch up with our group. I didn't think anything of it because we had gone through fine the first time, but the waves were quite a bit bigger this time and as we were making our way through the cave this time, the waves flipped us out of our kayak. First I had to get through the shock of the cold water and catch my breath. Then my next thought was that I lost one of my flip flops in the water when I got flipped over. I was trying to swim while holding my paddle and trying not to lose my other flip flop. Oliver was asking me if I was okay while he flipped the kayak back over and went to the side of the cave. I was making my way over to him while I shouted that I lost my flip flop out while out of breath. Oliver was probably trying hard not to laugh at me while he told me it was just a flip flop. I then explained that they were the only shoes I brought on the trip. I finally made it over to the kayak. I put my paddle on the kayak along with one of my flip flops that I had, the other one was lost in the water. Another wave was coming and I was afraid that it was going to flip the kayak over again before we even had the chance to get in it. In that wave I saw my other flip flop! I went after it and I got it! I put it in the kayak. I was standing on a rock in the water trying to lift myself in the kayak... but my life jacket was in my face and in the way and I just don't have the arm strength to lift myself up onto an unstable surface with a life jacket in the way, especially when I am shivering cold and out of breath. Oliver was great and calm and kept me calm, letting me know that he was going to take care of me and everything was going to be fine. The waves kept coming in strong and I was paranoid that we were going to be stuck in that cave, us against the waves. Thankfully Oliver is strong and he got on the other side of the kayak and he pulled me into the kayak by my life jacket. I was in! I crawled to the front of the kayak and Oliver jumped in next and we kayaked out of the cave back to calm water. Oliver had us stop so that I could catch my breath and rest for a minute. In true Oliver (Mr. Positive) fashion... Oliver said to me "Tracy, way to stay calm once you got in the kayak." and then gave me a fist bump. It made me laugh. Oliver is so great. I just smiled and said "I can't believe I made it out with both of my flip flops!". ha ha. We kayaked forever back trying to find the others. We were almost all the way back when we finally saw them behind us in the distance and when we stopped and waited for them to catch up, we learned that they had found these awesome caves that they were exploring. We totally missed out. Yet if you asked Oliver what his top 5 favorite parts of the trip were, towards the top would be us flipping over in the cave. Go figure. *picture I took while coming out of the cave of death*
It wasn't until we had gotten back and we were carrying the kayaks on shore that I noticed my feet were super sensitive. I sat down to take a look at my feet. They were all cut up. My right foot was cut up, but my left foot was the worst. I had a slice across the foot, a gash on my big toe and two gashes on the padding of my foot. Oh man, it was tender. Thank goodness we had a first aid kit. It made hiking that night a challenge. It was hard for me to walk. I guess I was in too much shock or I was too cold to notice my feet getting sliced up in the cave. Oh well. It could have been worse.
On our last day, we didn't have our kayaks, but we did have wet suites and snorkel gear. Originally I wanted to scuba dive since 4 out of the 6 of us were certified, but I was the only one excited about it so it didn't happen. Sad. Snorkeling when you are scuba certified is like having a ticket to a show, but just looking through the window instead of going inside. Just sayin. The water was FREEZING... even with wet suites, but it was still fun. It was super overcast so we didn't see too much, but I did see a Bat Ray and a big school of cool looking fish.
The rest of the time on the island we spent chillin while eating meals out of a bag OR we were hiking. Most of the time we were there we felt like we had the island to ourselves because it is so big and not very many people on it... especially at night because hardly anyone was camping there yet because we were there on weekdays. Our hikes were taken in the evening and we would stay out until the sunset and then we would walk back to camp, have some hot chocolate and go to bed. The channel islands are beautiful. It was funny to look out over the ocean and see the California coast line. It is only funny because my whole life I would look out over the ocean and see the channel islands. I just love being home. Even though the islands are not home, it felt like home. All the nature there has the same feel to it. I loved it.
*The trip summarized by Oliver*
Points of Awesome: Channel Island
1. Amazing burger in Vegas at Holsteins The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas
2. Watched 2 Bellagio Water shows
3. Chandler Warnick slept on Venture Beach waiting for the boat.
4. On the ferry ride to Santa Cruz island surrounded by school of 1,000+ common dolphins.
5. Saw both common and bottle nose dolphins
6. Kayaking in sea caves with sea lions and other aquatic life
7. Saw multiple harbor seals in a cove
8. Picked up star fish off cave wall
9. Chandler had a a birthday ceremony with a speech by Oliver Crane including a toy parachute-man release
10. Great nature appreciation moments
11. Watched beautiful sunset over Potato Harbor
12. Saw and camped with approximately 1 billion pill bugs aka rolley polleys
13. Fox fight over Becca Vikari & Tracy Mills head. Jenny's journal got chewed on by foxes.
14. Sea Lions swam under Oliver and Tracy's kayak
15. Found sea lion cove and watched 10s of sea lion swim around with 100 more watching from the rocks
16. Ate lunch on private pebble beach with a baby sea lion
17. Chandler found seashells in Caverns
18. Super long sea cave/Neptune's Chamber, while Tracy and Oliver flipped in a previous cove from a fluke wave and had to perform rescue operations
19. Scorpion Bay Hike
20. Nathan Lowe destroyed a thistle plan w/ a stick
21. "Where we see each other in 10 years" discussion activity
22. Hot chocolate around camp stove
23. Retrieved Oliver's whip from last night's hike
24. Snorkeling in freezing water (Oliver did not use a wet suit)
25. Chandler looked awesome in his wet suit
26. Saw Bat Ray, fish, and one blue fish and one clear one with a blue line, etc.
27. Nate's bag was attacked by ravens
28. Hike up Scorpion canyon again to keep some warm while others laid out
29. Chandler saw 5 new species of birds
30. Got rental car in Santa Barbara and drove to San Diego to meet up with the rest of the group! Geoff Nelson, Joel Lind, Tara Broadhead, Jamie Lynn Anderson, Wes Malquist
Here is the whole group. Me, Oliver & Nate (my ward- above) Jenny (who I learned is my friend McKay from Santa Barbara Institute's sister), Becca and Chandler.
I'm so glad that I went on this trip. Let me tell you what is so great about Oliver trips. First of all, he plans a good time and everyone is invited. Second of all, he assigns devotionals and prayers to everyone for morning and night so that we are uplifted while we are out enjoying nature. 3rd, I have never been with a group of people that have really appreciated the beauty around them as much as this group. We would be on a hike and then every once in a while Oliver would have us stop and pick out things that stood out to us that maybe others wouldn't notice, such as the way the light hit the grass or the different colors of blue in the water... etc. I thought this was such a great idea. It is so nice to fully appreciate the beauty of this earth. Another game we played was each person went around and said where they thought everyone would be in 10 years. Most people didn't know me, but almost everyone's comments for me included traveling and blogging and having a famous blog because of my travels and photography... which I loved. What I loved the most though that Oliver does is at least once a day he would have everyone in a circle and you would say what you appreciated and admired about the person to your right. It was nice to see what people admired about you.... even when they didn't know you very well. It was also nice to really think about the person next to you and think of things that you really appreciate about them. What it does is create a really positive atmosphere where everyone genuinely likes each other which means everyone is having a great time with no drama. I really want to do this on all of my trips. Oliver is so great and I am so happy I got to be a part of this awesome adventure.