Escape LA – Anacapa Island

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

Just west of the Ventura coast lies Channel Island National Park.  You’ve likely heard of one of the islands, Catalina.   The national park is made up of Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Miguel, and Santa Barabara islands.  The remaining Channel islands are used for a variety of purposes.  San Clemente and San Nicolas islands are owned by the Navy and used for training purposes, while Catalina is a tourist trap a privatized island for the more luxurious travelers.  I have some choice words for Catalina, but that will have to wait for another day.

Californian_Channel_Islands_map_en

Catalina, Santa Cruz and Anacapa all provide great day trips with accommodation options.  The smallest of the two, Anacapa, makes the perfect day trip, because of it’s proximity to Ventura harbor and easy trails.

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The trademark rock formation of the Channel Islands

The island itself is divided into 3 different islands, East, Middle and West island.  The only island you’re able to visit is the Eastern island, about 1 square mile around, and has no beach access.  Anacapa sits high up on a plateau, about 100 feet to the ocean.  There’s little shade, several flights of stairs to climb, and lots of birds.  Lots of birds.

Visitor's Center

Visitor’s Center

Get There: The island can be reached by taking a 2 hour ferry ride.  Anacapa and Santa Cruz both have two ferry rides a day, so most people will ride out in the morning and head home at night without staying the night.  If you decide to camp, you must bring your own water, and conditions are rough.  The lack of shade gets a little annoying, and the wind gets really intense at night.  But if you’re up for the adventure, Anacapa doesn’t disappoint.

The island serves as a breeding ground for the Western Gull, as well as a dozen other endangered species of birds.  Nesting months are between May and July, and seeing these small birds hatch is a pretty incredible experience, especially from someone who hates birds.

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island

The island has one particular amazing view.  Hiking to the eastern most point of the island gives way to views of middle and west Anacapa Island, with Santa Cruz island off in the distance.  This view alone makes the entire trip worth it.  It’s dirty, hot, cold, windy, dry, but the island’s scenery makes it all worth it.

Escape LA – Salvation Mountain / Slab City

Escape LA is a feature that will routinely discuss day trips outside of Los Angeles to encourage discovery of Southern California’s outdoor opportunities.  All features will not require overnight accommodations and can be accomplished within an 8 hour window of time.

The deserts in Southern California are often overlooked as a recreation hot spot, but the area is full of beauty (Joshua Tree), relaxation (Palm Springs), and freedom (Anza Borrego).

About an hour south of Palm Springs along the 111 highway, lies the Salton Sea, a desolate wasteland full of abandoned yacht clubs, dead fish, flooded neighborhoods, and nudist colonies.

Among this lies Salvation Mountain, a 70 foot tall mountain made of adobe mud, hay bales, sticks and an unlimited supply of paint.  The project is the life’s work of creator Leonard Knight.

The mountain serves as a pilgrimage for Christians, hippies, and adventurers.  While the mountain has a certain amount of lore, it remains relatively unnoticed.  The biggest stage Knight’s mountain has been featured on, was ‘Into The Wild’ when Emile Hirsch tour’s the landmark while staying in nearby Slab City.

salvation mountain

As you follow the 111 highway as it wraps around the east side of Salton Sea, you’ll come to Niland, CA.  Once you reach Main st, head east away from the lake.  After about 5 minutes, the mountain will come into view.

Leonard’s work is breath taking.  There are few words that can describe the mountain’s power, and the mutli-colored giant has so many intricate details, it’s worthy of several repeat visits.  What makes this trip even better, is the mountain features a ‘yellow brick road’ that climbs to the top of the mountain.

salvation mountain

Behind the mountain, you’ll find a series of huts constructed of hay bales and paint with the roof constructed on scattered driftwood from the sea.  Leonard is the epitome of conservation, reusing literally every piece of plastic, wood or metal that comes to his property.  The man’s creativity is unending, which he credits to God’s everlasting love.  As soon as you walk into these huts, you’ll notice the temperature drop about 50 degrees.

About 1/4 mile down the road is Slab City.  A former Air Force base, Slab city is a drifter’s town named after the concrete slabs left over from the Military.  The shanty town can feel a little rough, but revolves around the local’s impromptu flea markets and yard sales for passing travelers.

slab city

Saturdays bring out the best in Slab City, a weekly stage show called “The Range at Slab City”.  Patrons toting six-packs, whiskey and cigarettes spend this weekly celebration dancing and proclaiming their freedom from the rest of the world.

Given the timing of this post, Leonard Knight has been staying in an assisted living home for the past couple years, so maintenance of the mountain relies heavily on volunteers.  Given that the mountain no longer has a passionate groundskeeper, the location’s future is fairly undetermined, making this day trip a must for Southern California travelers, photographers and adventurers.