I realize that we haven't been exactly flying down the west coast, but once we hit Southern California things really slowed down. Two reasons. First, the weather, for the most part, got warmer. Second, we arrived in the Channel Islands. If you've never heard of these islands, they're a chain of 8 islands that lie off the coast of southern California, five of which make up a National Park. They are spectacular. The most amazing part is that they are located about 20 miles offshore of one of the most populated cities in our country, and NO ONE is there, quite literally. We spent 2 full days at Santa Rosa Island and didn't see a soul. Well, there were 2 fishing boats that anchored next to us in the evening. On land, though, no one.
We enjoyed it so much that we spent 21 of the 31 days in October exploring them. We were able to visit Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, Anacapa, and Catalina. We didn't get a chance to visit San Miguel as our opportunity fell on one of the windiest days of the month and the anchorage is just too exposed for comfort in those conditions. The land is quite dry and baron this time of year, but the vistas are still breathtaking. It's really all about the water, though. The clarity, sea caves, kelp forests, and marine life blew us away. We saw bat rays, sea lions, whales, an elephant seal, sea bass, octopus, garibaldi, island fox, and several varieties of birds!
One afternoon, as we motored close to shore on Santa Cruz Island, John looked at me and said, "put on your life jacket and get in the dinghy." We were approaching Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in North America. The entrance is 150 feet high, and the cave has 6 rooms. The location makes it nearly impossible for long term anchoring, but on a calm day, such as it was, it's possible for a boat to linger near the entrance. So, we took turns manning Rhythm while the other rowed the inflatable into the cave. It was so exhilarating that I was trembling. Not so much from fear as from the enormity and magnificence of it. As I rowed into the first room, the "barking" of sea lions echoed throughout the chamber and one curious fellow jumped up right in front of me. I let out a scream so loud that John heard it from the boat. I didn't go past the second room since it got dark quickly and to be honest, intimidating, but that 20 minutes made me smile the rest of the day.