Escapes: Craving time by the water? Two socially distant trips guaranteed to refresh

Anacapa Island is for the birds. And cooped-up people.
The best view on Anacapa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park, may be from Inspiration Point, which looks out upon the island’s middle and western islets.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Welcome to the revamped Escapes newsletter!

I’m Rachel Schnalzer, an audience engagement editor at the L.A. Times and, as of today, Escapes travel writer. I’m honored to pick up the mantle from Christopher Reynolds and bring favorite destinations, advice and longer reads to your inbox each week.

The pandemic has changed travel, forcing many of us to consider road trips instead of plane rides and isolated campgrounds instead of crowded cruises. I look forward to navigating the new realities with you.


I also hope this newsletter will be the start of a two-way conversation between you, the reader, and me. If you discover a spot you’d like to share or have tips for traveling safely during this time, send me an email. As a writer, I get most of my inspiration from conversations with other travelers — my colleagues at the L.A. Times as well as kind strangers I’ve met in $4-a-night hostels. So, please reach out. I’d love for Escapes to be as much your travel newsletter as it is mine.

Each week, I plan to highlight destinations that might interest travelers in these virus-dominated times.

🏝️ Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island is for the birds. And cooped-up people.
The best view on Anacapa Island, part of Channel Islands National Park, may be from Inspiration Point, which looks out upon the island’s middle and western islets. The island is nesting place for thousands of western gulls.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

This tiny SoCal island “should be your next day trip,” writes Times staffer Christopher Reynolds. “So long as you know what you’re getting into.” Chris and his daughter, Grace, took a day trip to Anacapa, one of Channel Islands National Park’s smallest islands, and discovered a world that is equal parts beauty and brutality. The island is home to thousands of Western gulls, and if you visit in the summer, you’ll see the fledglings learning to fly and “gobbling up regurgitated food from their mothers.” Be prepared to see gull corpses, though, as most hatchlings never make it past their first birthday. Chris and Grace found their journey to be fairly low-risk, virus-wise, and he outlines how to make the trip if you’re interested in observing nature in all its glory. If you go, don’t miss the view at Inspiration Point, which is “worth the round-trip fare of $59 per adult.”

🛶 Hume Lake

Hume Lake on a summer day
Hume Lake offers stunning views and, more important, space.
(Rachel Schnalzer / Los Angeles Times)

I hopped in the car last weekend to camp at Hume Lake, tucked in the northern portion of Sequoia National Forest, about a 4½-hour drive from downtown L.A. What I found was, well, a tale of two campgrounds. I drove into Hume from the south on Ten Mile Road and passed a private campground, a stunning property packed with vacationers. It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a COVID-conscious trip, but as I rounded the lake, the crowds disappeared. My campsite was spacious, far from other campers, and close to the lake shore (shout-out spot No. 59!). I spent an idyllic 24 hours swimming in the lake and grilling at the site, happy to be far from large gatherings. Then again, the official word is that Californians should “avoid traveling long distances for vacations or pleasure as much as possible.” You should bear that in mind before booking a campground more than an hour or two from home.

🥾 Walking tours

Country Walkers guided tour
Prefer traveling by foot? Guided tours can be a good way to explore a new trail.
(Country Walkers)

A hiking or walking tour could be an ideal vacation opportunity during a pandemic. That may explain why travelers are signing on with Country Walkers, Backroads and other companies that offer walking and hiking tours in Zion National Park in Utah, Washington state’s Olympic Peninsula and other popular locations in the West. Brian E. Clark describes the precautions companies are taking to minimize the chances of travelers becoming ill. For example, Wildland Trekking participants must wear masks when they are not at least six feet apart. “People want to get away from cities now, and the wilderness is a great place to do that,” said Scott Cundy, Wildland’s owner. “They want to be able to breathe freely and relax for a while.”

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🚗 Looking for a unique experience?

Kobe Bryant murals across the Los Angeles area
Kobe Bryant murals across the Los Angeles area.
(Kobe Mural Instagram)

You’ve probably noticed the dozens of murals memorializing Kobe and Gianna Bryant that proliferated after they were killed early this year in a helicopter crash. So far, there are more than 300 murals across Los Angeles — and now, one devoted follower has made a map of their locations. If you’re a fan of No. 24 or just appreciate street art, you can use the website Kobe Mural to plan a road trip to spot as many murals as you can.

📰 What I’m reading

Vintage Royal Dutch Airlines poster
You can see this vintage Royal Dutch Airlines poster and more at the Los Angeles Public Library’s online collection.
(Los Angeles Public Library Travel Poster Collection)
  • Wondering what’s opened and closed in Los Angeles? As always, Christopher Reynolds and Mary Forgione have you covered.
  • Do you love vintage travel posters? The L.A. Public Library has digitized its impressive collection of old travel posters. Take a look and let me know your favorites!
  • Lots of parents wait to travel with their children until they’re sure the kids will remember the trip. Not TeAndra Taylor, who started traveling with her son Carson when he was 4 months old. Travel Noire profiled TeAndra and Carson’s adventures, as well as a book based on their travels, “Captain Carson Goes to Bali.”
  • “Travel is said to increase cultural understanding. Does it?” asks Ruth Terry, writing in National Geographic. Terry explores the idea that travel “might not be enough to engender the deep cross-cultural awareness people need now.”
  • Line dancing. Ten-gallon hats. And lots of George Strait. Tokyo is home to a long-standing country music subculture, writes Katherine LaGrave in AFAR. After reading this story, I put Little Texas Bar ‘N Grill, a Texas-style restaurant in Tokyo, high on my postpandemic bucket list.
  • All aboard in Brooklyn. Meet two adventuresome souls who took on the quixotic task of refitting a tugboat to make it livable. “Sleeping on Lucy is our peak happy place,” Lyndsay Caleo Karol told the Cut.

🏠 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons from home.

WindowSwap allows you to get a new view from your computer
Go window-hopping throughout the world this weekend.
(Window Swap)

Ever wonder what your life would look like if you lived in Dublin, Ireland, or Bangalore, India? Santiago, Chile, or Honolulu? Scroll through WindowSwap, a website where people all over the world can share livestreams of their window views. Feel like sharing your view? There’s an option to submit your livestream too.


📸 Reader photo

Each week, I’d like to feature a reader photo. I’m starting with Times engagement editor Adriana Lacy’s pretty shot of Ojai’s famous outdoor bookstore:

Tag me (@rachelizzzie) in your travel photos for a chance to be featured in an edition of Escapes.

An open road calls for music.
(Katie Moum)

🎸Road song

No journey in the West is complete without road tunes. I’d like to leave you with my favorite traveling song of the moment: “I Know the End” by Phoebe Bridgers. To me, no song better encapsulates the exhilarating freedom and occasional loneliness of a road trip across the U.S.

Safe travels, fellow adventure seekers ✌️