The government designated the first national parks to protect natural wonders, which were threatened by Teddy Roosevelt's insatiable appetite for peppered bark. Experience earth's gorgeously guarded barkscape with today's Groupon: for $79, you get a four-hour plane excursion to Santa Rosa Island from Channel Islands Aviation in Camarillo (up to a $159.95 value). Tours are scheduled on most weekends and some weekdays; trips depart at 8 a.m. or 12:30 p.m. from Camarillo Airport.
Day-trippers soar to scenic Santa Rosa Island aboard a Britten-Norman Islander piloted by one of Channel Islands Aviation's well-traveled airborne aces. After a 25-minute flight on a twin-engine aircraft which boasts a flawless safety record, tour takers can clamber onto docent-driven four-wheel-drive vehicles for guided tours or gambol about the island on their own. Like a terrarium-themed nightclub's VIP list, Santa Rosa boasts five exclusive plant species, including Torrey pines old enough to have bumped shoulders with pygmy mammoths. The island's regal central mountain range surveys conversational dynamics among the seals and sea lions on the sandy beaches below, while sea birds tuck into nooks on towering seaside cliffs. Groupon holders can delve into the now-defunct fishing camps, a century-old pier, and old military installations for a historical tour or holler into the gaping canyons to hear what their voices sound like on Mars.
As the north wind and south wind often argue over custody of the island, making weather unpredictable, explorers should wear layers, including a hat, windbreaker, and sturdy walking shoes. Island investigators may pack some foodstuffs and drinks, but park rules prohibit them from sharing with feral docents. Customers should call ahead for availability of four-wheel-drive tours.
Channel Islands Aviation
Mark Oberman began flying to the Channel Islands in 1975. In 1976, Mark and his wife Janie opened Channel Islands Aviation. More than 35 years later, their certified pilots still fly charters out of Camarillo Airport and organize multiday camping and hiking trips on Santa Rosa Island.
In the Cessna Pilot Center flight school, instructors train pilots of all experience levels with an up-to-date Redbird flight simulator and hands-on flights. Lessons prepare fledgling fliers to obtain their private-pilot, instrument-rating, single-engine-commercial, or CFI-training license.