Santa Cruz Island of Channel Islands National Park
Explore the ecology of Santa Cruz Island, “The American Galapagos,” discovering a wealth of unique flora, fauna and geology as you learn the islands’ story from local naturalists.
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Program No. 9176RJ
4 days
Starts at
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4 days
3 nights
8 meals
3 B 2 L 3 D
Getting There
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Check-In, Registration, Orientation, Dinner
Ventura, California
Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

Activity note: Hotel check-in from 4:00 p.m.

Afternoon: Program Registration: After you have your room assignment, come over to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing your name-tag, up-to-date schedule that reflects any last-minute changes, and other important information. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Orientation: The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the program theme, the up-to-date Daily Schedule and any changes, discuss safety guidelines, emergency procedures, roles and responsibilities, and answer any questions you may have. Indicated times are approximate. Program activities, schedules, and personnel may need to change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. For our farewell dinner on the last night of the program, we ask you to pre-order your preferred entrée. Please see the “Notes” section for details. We have set aside some free time in the schedule for your personal independent exploration. The Group Leader will often be available during free time to accompany informal excursions, activities, or meals that have been excluded from the program cost. You are welcome to join if you like, with any associated costs on your own.

Dinner: At the hotel, enjoy a plated meal plus water, coffee, and tea; other beverages available for purchase.

Evening: Enjoy the remainder of the evening getting to know your fellow participants and discovering what you share beyond a love of lifelong learning.

Channel Islands National Park Field Trip
Ventura, California
Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

Activity note: Walk along the harbor is 0.38 miles.

Breakfast: At the hotel, we'll enjoy a buffet featuring an assortment of hot and cold breakfast items plus water, coffee, tea, and assorted juices.

Morning: Channel Islands National Park is comprised of 5 of the 8 Channel Islands, each with a surrounding mile of aquatic environment. Their extraordinary biological diversity is equal to 2,500 miles of coast with more than 2,000 animal and plant species; nearly 150 are found nowhere else. These islands are similar to the Galapagos in the sense that evolution developed in isolation over millions of years. We’ll start the morning with a presentation on the Channel Islands led by a local archaeology expert. The Channel Islands are divided up into two groups; the Northern islands and the Southern islands. Historically, the Chumash people occupied the Northern islands while the Tongva lived on the Southern islands until the early 19th century. The Native American populations used canoes to freely travel between the islands and the mainland. Next, we’ll transfer via private motorcoach from the hotel to the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center where we’ll watch "Treasure in the Sea,” the official park film. We’ll also view exhibits that highlight the island’s natural and cultural features, talk with park personnel, and walk through the native plant garden. You will have some time to browse and enjoy the scenic view from the tower before we depart and walk along the harbor into Harbor Village.

Lunch: At a restaurant on the water’s edge in Harbor Village, we’ll have a plated lunch that includes dessert and your choice of coffee, tea, or water; other beverages available for purchase.

Afternoon: Returning to the hotel, we’ll continue learning about Channel Islands National Park with a member of one of the Channel Islands Park Foundations. Due to the isolated history of the islands, numerous species of plants and animals live here — such as the endangered Channel Island fox — that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

Dinner: At the hotel.

Evening: In our session this evening, learn more about Santa Cruz Island with an expert Island Naturalist. We’ll also have an in-depth orientation for our field trip to the island tomorrow.

Santa Cruz Island Field Trip by Boat, Farewell Dinner
Ventura, California
Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach

Activity note: Access to/from the island is via park concessionaire boat, approximately 1 hour each way. Arriving at the small pier on the island, participants step off the boat onto a ladder and climb down a few rungs to the landing. Scorpion Canyon trail is a 1-mile walk on smooth, generally flat, established trail; approximately 1 hour. Optional Cavern Point hike is 2 miles round trip that climbs 300' on the first third of the hike then flattens out; approximately 1.5 hours.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: We’ll take our private motorcoach from the hotel to the harbor, board the park concession vessel, and embark on a full-day field trip (weather permitting) to Santa Cruz Island, 25 miles off the mainland and largest of the Channel Islands. It is also the most biologically diverse. Ownership, preservation, and protection of the island is shared between NPS and the Nature Conservancy. After decades of dedicated restoration and conservation, the Santa Cruz landscape of canyons, peaks, valleys, and 77 miles of coastline gives us an idea of what southern California was like centuries ago. After we arrive at the island and disembark, you have two choices of nature hikes led by expert naturalists, the 1-mile Scorpion Canyon trail loop or the optional 1.5 mile Cavern Point trail loop. At stops along the way in both, our experts will talk about the isolation of the island, animals, plants, restoration projects, and the marine environment. The Scorpion Canyon trail loop displays good examples of native and endemic plants. The Cavern Point trail offers expansive vistas of the Santa Barbara Channel.

Lunch: Bag lunch on Santa Cruz Island includes sandwich, chips, cookie, and bottled water. Our lunches are packed so that all trash can fit in a pocket to avoid littering because there are limited trash cans on the island.

Afternoon: We continue our exploration of Santa Cruz Island at the historic Scorpion Ranch complex dating to the late 1800s. Exhibit areas include an orientation kiosk, blacksmith shop, farm implements, and a visitor center located in the Scorpion ranch house. We’ll stop at each of these sites with free time to explore on your own before returning to the pier. We’ll re-board the vessel and make the return trip at approximately 4:00 p.m., arriving back in Ventura harbor around 5:00 p.m. After returning to the hotel via our private motorcoach, you will have time to freshen up and relax before dinner.

Dinner: At the hotel. Our farewell dinner features the entrées we selected previously. (See “Notes” section for details.)

Evening: At leisure.

One Man’s Channel Islands Journey, Program Conclusion
Ventura, California

Activity note: Hotel check-out is by 12:00 Noon.

Breakfast: At the hotel.

Morning: Channel Islands National Park and its 175 miles of pristine coastline are within 60 miles of 18 million people, yet it has fewer than 300,000 visitors a year — quite low for an American national park. In our final session, we will follow one man’s journey of discovery with a week of isolation on each of the islands. We hope you enjoy all your Road Scholar learning adventures and we look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. We encourage you to join our Facebook page and share photos of your program. Visit us at www.facebook.com/rsadventures. Best wishes for all your journeys!

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