ISLAND MISADVENTURE

Park Ranger Morgan was leading us single file on a narrow path atop East Anacapa Island, pointing out unique flora as she went along.

“That’s an Indian Paintbrush,” she said.

“Indian Paintbrush, pass it on,” people chanted over their shoulders.

My brother-in-law, Bob, who was just in front of me, repeated it over his shoulder and I followed suit.

“Indian Paintbrush… Indian Paintbrush… Indian Paintbrush…” echoed musically on the narrow path behind us. Several people readied their cameras and one guy looked it up in his botanical book and said “Ah-ha.”

“Island Morning Glory,” rang out a few moments later. Again, it went through the trailing line of hikers like a secret code.

“Keep your eyes open for a restroom,” my brother-in-law whispered to me, “I gotta take a leak.”

“Bob has to take a leak,” I said over my shoulder before I realized that might not have been meant for everyone.

Still, “Bob has to take a leak… Bob has to take a leak… Bob has to take a leak…” resounded its way through the line and botanic guy thumbed frantically through his book looking for an accompanying drawing. Fortunately, he didn’t find one.

Our Channel Island adventure had started several hours earlier with a one-hour boat ride out of Oxnard Harbor that everyone was really enjoying until the skipper gave us important seafaring instructions.

“Remember, if you feel queasy, do not get sick in the restroom as it will clog and overflow creating a stench that’s hard to even describe. Also, do not de-lunch into the wind, as it will spray all over everyone on deck. And please, do not upchuck in the snack bar where, by the way, we have a wonderful selection of deli meat sandwiches, hardboiled eggs and chunks-o’-fruit yogurt.”

Once the gagging stopped he had some more good news. “That’s where we land,” he said, pointing at an inlet ahead not much larger than the boat.

The dock consisted of a cement block rising some 20 feet from the water containing a rusty metal ladder that we needed to negotiate hand-over-hand while the boat was bobbing in place in order to reach the 157 steps that lead precariously up the sheer face of the cliff to the top of the lava rock island.

Did I mention that this trip was a gift from the kids? I think they bought it for us right after we gave them copies of our will.

Apparently, we didn’t lose anyone getting onto the island, but several of the crew were happy to point out that we still had to get back on the moving boat for the return trip.

In the meantime, we were following Morgan through a blooming coreopsis forest, alien-looking plants that are totally inactive almost all of the year.

“Sound familiar?” my sister-in-law, Sally, asked.

Bob and I were now resting on a small bench checking to see if we’d brought any beer with us. “Huh?” we said.

Finally, we arrived at the end of the island. “This is Inspiration Point,” said Morgan. “Don’t get too close to the edge. It’s a long drop and the soil on the cliffs is unstable.”

Instantly, everyone leaned over to get a better look. I poised my camera, but no one took flight. That’s when my attention was diverted by dozens of western gulls that I thought were having one-on-one wrestling matches, then realized were mating.

“Check it out,” I said. “It’s like seagull pornography. I wonder if there are any underground nature tabloids or pay-for-view birdie channels that I could sell explicit orgy photos to?”

“You’re not supposed to bother them,” my wife said. “They’re nesting.”

“She’s right,” said Sally.

“What’re they going to do, throw me off the island?”

I moved in closer. Suddenly, one gull complained, then a number of gulls started squawking loudly then more and more until a cacophony of angry gull chatter filled the air…

It was lonely sitting on the dock waiting for the boat to return, even with the two beefy rangers who had escorted me there. Still, I’d be the first one onboard. And I had my heart set on one of those deli meat sandwiches, which, if it was rough on the way back, I was willingly going to share with everyone on deck.