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Dispatches from the Road

A selection of travel logs from both near and far.

Filtering by Tag: Hikes


Laurel Dailey

The view from the pier at Bechers Bay.

The view from the pier at Bechers Bay.

Of California’s nine national parks, Channel Islands is one of the least visited. Receiving just 366,250 visitors across all five islands in 2018, Channel Islands feels remote, removed, and isolated. By comparison, consider that Yosemite National Park welcomed 4,009,436 guests in 2018. Four million.

Statistics are one thing, but being in the presence of pristine land is quite another. Especially when that reclaimed wilderness is off a portion of the coastline that straddles central and southern California.

I’ve begun, then erased, then tried again several portions of this dispatch. Mainly I’m grasping at the filaments of recent memory, hoping to weave them into something sturdy, informative, and guide book-ish. Part of the reason so many of these facts glitter just under the surface is because when I heard them, I was distracted. I was in a fugue brought on by buffeting wind; hypnotized by water; lulled by the rhythmic shush of grasses.

So I’m beginning again—erasing the facts, leaving them as the ephemera of recent memory. They, too, will be swept away and dissolved into the past. And anyway, a cursory web search will unearth hundreds more of these tidbits than I could ever hope to remember. You didn’t come here for a research paper, after all, and I’m not here to write one.

The view from our tent at Water Canyon Campground, with Santa Cruz Island in the distance.

The view from our tent at Water Canyon Campground, with Santa Cruz Island in the distance.

On Santa Rosa Island, lacking the trappings of civilization—reception, WiFi, paved roads, vehicles, trash cans, power lines, leaf blowers—presence is something else entirely. For one thing, what most people tend to associate with wilderness is silence. But Santa Rosa is far from silent—from the warning caw of a nesting falcon in Lobo Canyon to the syncopated slapping of wind against my tent.


Neither is it very peaceful. After a surprisingly grueling trek to Lobo Canyon (grueling only insofar as my lack of preparedness left me with a quartet of blisters and one very bruised ego), with sweat pooling and muscles aching, I finally collapsed into my tent and the thought—fleeting, a whisper—came to me: Was it worth it? But the body remembers beauty, even if, in the moment, it was hedging itself against the elements.

What I kept returning to, time and again, was that spending time in such a place felt like a privilege. What an immense honor to spy the endemic island fox with his intentions set on some unknowable goal. What a privilege to observe so many wildflowers—lupine, poppy, yarrow, thistle, seaside daisy, dudleya, buckwheat, red paintbrush, morning glory, et al. It felt both fleeting and ancient, fragile and sure-footed. California’s lousy with national parks (for which I am grateful!), but next time you’re looking to go off grid, consider taking refuge on one of the Channel Islands.

Opal Creek Wilderness | Fall

Laurel Dailey


With trails like this, who needs the sidewalk (ever)? Despite growing up an hour from here, I didn’t discover this hidden gem until embarrassingly recently. And while there are plenty of hikes you could take, but my favorite begins at the Opal Creek/Jawbone Flats trailhead. You’ll easily put ten miles under your feet by the end of the day, but along the way you’ll see waterfalls, emerald pools, ancient forests, rusted mining equipment, abandoned WWII-era vehicles, and plenty of labradors (this is Oregon, after all). 


Confession: When I go on hikes, I often end up stumbling over my own feet because I’m spending all my time looking up. But can you blame me, when the primeval Douglas firs in the Opal Creek Wilderness avail themselves like this? There are forests, and then there are old-growth forests. Turns out, Oregon’s lousy with ‘em. With moss underfoot, overhead, and covering every surface in between, the forest here feels as though it’s breathing. 

If you’re the type to power through a hike, dogged step by determined step, you might miss Sawmill Falls. But listen closely. Follow the sound, off the trail, under a mossy tunnel and onto a basalt outcropping. There are times when the sound of rushing water is a better wayfinder than the marked trail. Speaking of water, even as colder fall temperatures draw a boundary around the day, it’s hard not to want to strip off everything and jump in at Three Pools (at the north fork of the Santiam River).