West 2015- The Itinerary, Part 5


After finding lots of great beer but not enough sun during my five days in San Diego, I headed north under a bright, sunny sky. My first stop was about an hour south of Los Angeles- the historic mission of San Juan Capistrano.


The mission was built by the Spanish in the mid 1770s and served as an important mission to the local Native Americans until the 1830s.


Much of the original mission lies in ruins, but it is still clear to see the early Spanish building style in the ruins. Especially impressive is the remains of The Great Stone Church.


The mission fell into disrepair after it was abandoned by the Catholic Church, and with most of such missions, it’s resources were raided by locals and the buildings became derelict. The impressive masonry buttresses, most of which are the mission’s original ones, survive to this day.


The most famous part of the mission is the Serra Chapel, the only remaining chapel where Father Junípero Serra celebrated mass that remains standing.



I hadn’t planned a lot for my day in Los Angeles, knowing the simple act of moving around in the city’s famous traffic would occupy much of the day. I was going to be limited a couple distinctly “Los Angeles” experiences, so I decided to spend some time at Venice Beach.


Venice Beach is such a quirky microcosm of Los Angeles. It’s got quite a bit of counter-culture, but it is also a place where many of the ‘beautiful’ people hang out. It’s such a weird, chaotic scene.


The main thing I’d wanted to do for years in Los Angeles was to watch a sunset from the Griffith Observatory, which rests on a mountainside overlooking the city’s sprawl.



I found out on the drive up to the observatory that I wasn’t the only one who had this idea on a sunny June day. I lucked out and found a parking spot only about a quarter mile from the Observatory’s grounds. On the walk up I was afforded great views of the famous Hollywood sign, a short distance off to the northwest. Once one the grounds, I spent over half an hour trying to capture a picture of one of the many hummingbirds feeding on the flowering plants here.


The main attraction of the Griffith Observatory is the amazing views of the downtown area of Los Angeles and the vast patchwork of suburbs that radiate away from it. As the sun went down, I was treated to a seminal LA experience.


I couldn’t spend anymore time in the City of Angles, I need to head toward sunset and the coast for my next day’s National Park visit.



The next morning found me in Oxnard boarding a boat for Channel Islands National Park, specifically Santa Cruz Island and the NPS’ Visitor Center at Scorpion Harbor. We were able to observe seals lounging on the buoys that mark the entrance to the harbor.



On the way to the island, the crowd on the boat was delighted by being able to see both common and bottlenose dolphins interacting with the boat.


One of the highlights of the visit to the island was the opportunity to view the Island Fox, North America’s smallest species of fox and one that is found only on the Channel Islands.


I hiked up through the island’s rugged interior to the Cavern Point, which provided amazing views of Santa Cruz Island’s North Coast.


The Cavern Point trail lead back around to Scorpion Harbor.IMG_3645

After returning to the mainland, I drove out of greater Los Angeles and into California’s fertile Central Valley. While there were a lot of crops growing, the ongoing drought gave much of the area a burnt look.

It was onward into California’s most famous desert, and another National Park site, one of the system’s darkest….

West 2015- The Itinerary Posts


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