FINAL BOATS OF 2013: If timing is indeed everything, then it had a sharp eye on the third week of October, at least where the government shutdown and the Channel Islands National Park is concerned. National parks across the country began re-opening in earnest on Oct. 16 and 17, dates that were especially meaningful to people with an eye to visit particular locations among the five Channel Islands. Why? Because the company that has made runs out to the islands for decades -- that would be the famous Island Packers, of course -- goes to the outer islands with less frequency. Sure, if you want to hop an Island Packer boat in Ventura or Oxnard and call upon Santa Cruz Island that day, you probably can, or Anacapa Island. They're the two that are snugger in to the mainland. But the outer islands -- Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel -- get far less boat- and foot- and everyone-traffic, which is just the way some visitors like it. And fans of the Outer C.I. like to catch their boat on time, meaning this: They're in luck. Island Packers announced, just hours after the shutdown got shut down, that the final 2013 trips to the outer islands are set for the weekend of Oct. 19 and 20.
DUNES, WEATHER, AND BLUE-FOOTED BOOBIES: Even first-time visitors to any of the islands will rhapsodize about distinct differences, but bet on a few key sights at the outer islands. White sand dunes are a favorite part of Santa Rosa, and faaaar out San Miguel is known for its "ever-changing conditions." And will you spy some of the Blue-Footed Boobies that were seen around the chain in September? Best have those binocs on hand just in case. And if you can't make an outer islands boat, a trip to Anacapa or Santa Cruz is truly gorgeous, wind-sweptian, and wave-pretty. Plus, there are often surprises. You heard about the Great Whites spied by a recent Island Packers boat?
For all the islands and their particular boat schedules and times, click.