Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sycamore Canyon Camping/Whale Watching 2.17.12

Finally I got to do some camping here in SoCal. Before I came home for winter "break" (I feel awkward saying that, like I should have graduated from calling it "break" when I graduated from college), I bought some Groupon tickets for a whale watching cruise in Oxnard. Alfred and I decided to make a weekend of it and camp in Point Mugu State Park at the Sycamore Canyon Camp ground. It is a really lovely place, nestled right into the hills less than a mile away from the ocean. Once it was late enough at night and everyone quieted down you could hear the waves along the beach. It was a pretty normal state park camping with people just about twenty feet from us on both sides, but it was good to get out of the city, do a little hiking and know that I still know how to build a camp fire. 

We went on a 3 hour afternoon whale watching cruise on Saturday. I had figured the chances of seeing whales was actually pretty small and was prepared to just enjoy being out on the water and seeing the Channel Islands and some wild life. The grew whales have been migrating up and down the west coast from Alaska where they feed and live to Baja California where they breed and birth their calves. Once the calves are born, the mothers fatten them up to the point where they gain 100lbs a DAY for a few weeks until they go back north to Alaska. Instinct tells the calves to swim on the coastal side of the mother so that when they get north in the area of the Washington coast the baby will be protected from orca (killer) whales in that area. Right now is the season of movement for these whales, but since they are just migrating through the area they can be hard to spot. 

About a half hour out off the coast, we came across a pod of common dolphins near the surface. Once we approached them, the 100ish dolphins swam up to us, surfed in our wake and raced along with the boat for most of the trip. It was fantastic! Sea lions made appearances, pelicans were everywhere. It was decided that even if we never saw a whale, this would make the trip worth it. But we were lucky, and towards the end of the trip, we DID come across a huge, feeding finback whale, which is just smaller than a blue whale. Since it was feeding it stayed in the same area and resurfaced often. It never fully breached, but we were right behind it and right alongside it and got the idea it was just about as big as our boat. Seeing a whale is something I've always wanted to do and I feel so lucky to have been able to spot one. 

Sunday we hiked along the cliffs over the PCH and the ocean. From the site it was a very short hike up to the top of the hills where we could overlook... well, everything. 

Our slightly tipped over tent in the site. 

Sycamore Canyon campground from behind, on the way home from the hiking in the cliffs. 

On the whaling boat, heading towards the Channel Islands, where we saw the finback.

This is the only pictures I could manager of the dolphins, which is an awful representation of how many there actually were that day. But there's two, surfing in our wake.

 Channel Islands National Park.

 El Matador Beach, sunset.

 The cliffs we walked along. We didn't realize we were going there until we got up there. 

 The path we took along the cliffs edge.

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