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Archive for April, 2019


“If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.”   Hal Borland

“Trees are Earth’s endless effort to speak to the listening heavens.”   Rabindranath Tagore

Have you hugged a tree today?  You really should.  It is National Arbor Day!  This holiday was initiated in Nebraska in 1872.  To commemorate that first holiday, one million trees were planted.  Incredible!  President Nixon made Arbor Day an official national holiday in 1972.

But even without the holiday, trees are wondrous and deserving of our praise and protection. Trees have been around for over 300 million years, and currently, there are over 60,000 known tree species.

The most practical benefit provided by trees is the production of oxygen.  An average size tree produces enough oxygen in one year to keep a family of four breathing.  If the world population would plant 20 million trees, we would be gifted with 260 million tons of oxygen as well as the removal of 10 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Trees are our survival!

I am also drawn to trees for their beauty and serenity.  There is a spirituality evident when visiting the trees that helps bring me peace and contentment.  I implore all of us to do our best to protect the trees, even planting more and more each year.  Happy Arbor Day!

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“In nature, nothing is perfect and everything is perfect.  Trees can be contorted, bent in weird ways, and they’re still beautiful.”   Alice Walker

“God wrote the Gospel not in the Bible alone, but also on trees, and in the flowers and clouds and stars.”   Martin Luther

“God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand tempests and floods.  But he cannot save them from fools.”   John Muir   WE MUST

“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air, that emanation from old trees that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”   Robert Louis Stevenson

“Under trees, the urban dweller might restore his troubled soul and find the blessing of a creative pause.”   Walter Gropius

“A man has made at least a start on discovering the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows full well he will never sit.”   D. Elton Trueblood

“Just touching that old tree was truly moving to me because when you touch these trees, you have such a sense of the passage of time, of history.  It’s like you’re touching the essence, the very substance of life.”   Kim Novak

“If you cut down a forest, it doesn’t matter how many sawmills you have if there are no more trees.”  Susan George

Here is one final demonstration of the miracle and wonder of trees.  This video is a time-lapsed showing of an acorn starting its growth into a mighty oak.





I wanted to participate in the Lens-Artist Photo Challenge 40: Something Different, but I could not think what to post.  See, I am a creature of habit.  No matter what the season, I tend to take photographs of nature.  If it is Spring, I must be taking pictures of flowers.  Nothing different there, other than changes in the colors on the hills or a flower blossoming from bud to full bloom.

Yesterday, I was out about town running some errands.  And stopping to take some photos of pretty flowers found along the way.  Again, nothing different there. Except that these are different flowers than I have posted recently.

As I was stopped for one errand, however, I thought, “Hey, I could photograph this—that would be different.  I do not usually photograph this.  In fact, I doubt if very many people do at all.”

My something different, therefore, are these photos.  I have cropped them a bit, but I have done nothing else to the image.  Can you guess what these photos represent?

Maybe this last photo will help you guess.

Yup, I was driving through a car wash.

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“I try to give people a different way of looking at their surroundings.  That’s art to me.”  Maya Lin

“Creativity involves breaking out of established patterns in order to look at things in a different way.”  Edward de Bono

“Being different gives the world color.”  Nelsan Ellis

“You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own.  It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.”  Paulo Coelho

“Be less afraid to be different.”  Alex Sharp

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.” Margaret Mead

Spring on the Carrizo Plain 2019

A couple weeks ago, I headed to the Carrizo Plain, not quite making it to the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  The drive was gorgeous with gold splashed across the Temblor Range.

Even if there were no color, the Carrizo Plain is incredible to behold.  It is the largest single native grassland remaining in California.  It stretches approximately 50 miles long and up to 15 miles wide.  Viewing the open vistas of the Carrizo Plain is like looking into the past, when much of California was undisturbed grasslands.  It boggles the mind!

Today’s drive was dreary and cloudy, but still remarkable. There were some shifts and additions in the color evident in the hills. The golds were still there, but purple and magenta were also popping up demanding attention.  Alice Walker’s famous quote could really apply to all the vibrant colors that dance across the hills in the spring:  “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”

Some California Poppies




The intersection of Highway 58 and Seven Mile Road still offered a great display of yellow splashed across the Temblor Range.  This is where this year’s first drive ended.

On this second drive, I continued on Highway 58, heading toward Soda Lake Road and the Carrizo Plain National Monument.  It was a dreary overcast day with heavy cloud cover.  But the roads were still fun to drive, the vistas were magnificent, and the flowers demanded attention.

Owl Clover

A Refreshing Breeze Was a Constant Companion

Milk Vetch

Owl Clover

Munz’s Tidytips

What eventually became the National Monument started in 1988 when 82,000 acres of the Carrizo Plain were purchased in order to preserve the grassland.  In 1996, the area was officially labeled the Carrizo Plain National Area.  Then, in 2001, President Bill Clinton officially made the area a National Monument.  By that time, the preserved lands had increased to almost 250,000 acres.


Baby Blue Eyes

This is a distant view of the Temblor Range from the far end of Seven Mile Road where it intersects with Soda Lake Road.

Aerial View of Soda Lake
Google Image

A major feature of the Carrizo Plain is Soda Lake, which is located on the southwest side of the Plain’s northern section. The lake—when full—covers an area of 4.6 square miles. It sits at 1,900 feet and is comprised of two large basins and 130 smaller pans.  Officially, Soda Lake is “a shallow ephemeral alkali endorheic lake.”  Basically, it is one of the largest alkali wetlands in natural condition left in California.  When the water from a wet winter recedes, a salty crust is left on the surface. Soda Lake Road, itself, parallels the lake and stretches from Highway 58 in the north to Highway 166 in the south, covering at least 25 miles. You can hike out toward the lake, if you are so inclined.  I am impressed enough just driving along it for miles and miles.

Below is a distant view of Soda Lake from the intersection of Highway 58 and Seven Mile Road.

Soda Lake Road is an intense drive: some sections are paved, but most of it is hard-packed dirt covered by ruts and potholes and even some washboard sections. Drive carefully but enjoy the scenery!

I saw and heard several meadowlarks, but they refused to be photographed.  This sparrow did cooperate for a few photos.

As I headed home, it began to rain. Refreshing end to a nice day!

If you have never visited the Carrizo Plain, add it to your bucket list.  There is still some time this year when the color should stay vibrant.  Or put a visit on your calendar for next spring.  Of course, any time of the year you can hike and appreciate the open grasslands, including seeing some painted rocks left years ago by indigenous tribes or wandering literally on a section of the Andreas Fault. It’s an incredible place.

This is a helpful article about traveling to the area. Johna Hurl, Manager of the Carrizo Plain National Monument, does not use the term superbloom. Instead, she simply says, “It’s springtime in Carrizo.”

NOTE:  I have identified the names of wildflowers when possible.  I am not 100% certain all my labels are correct.  There are several that I would just call “pretty flowers.”  If you can share some names or corrections, please do so.

Red Rock Canyon Wildflowers

California’s Red Rock Canyon State Park has some striking red rock formations.  Even if you have never visited this 27,000 acre park, you might recognize its buttes and cliffs since they are frequently used in westerns and science fiction movies.  Once there, you can really imagine a cowboy riding out to the horizon.

I visit this wonder periodically.  It is situated about 80 miles east of Bakersfield, making it less than a two-hour drive.  Its stark beauty is evident year round, but the area is especially beautiful in the spring when the wildflowers are in bloom.  My Spring 2015 visit showed extensive carpets of desert dandelions at the park’s Ricardo Campground as well as miles of globe mallows along Highway 14.  My Spring 2017 visit offered a greater variety of wildflowers, but the wide carpets of color were not evident.

This year’s visit was colorful as well, sort of a combination between my last two visits.  There were some small stretches of desert dandelions and goldfields as well as a variety of other wildflowers popping up here and there.

Goldfields were the most prevalent

Rabbit Brush

Joshua Trees


Chollo Cactus

Owl Clover

Common Fiddleneck

Pretty White Flower

Blue Fiesta Flower

Great Valley Phacelia

Desert Dandelion

California Chicory

Dusty Maiden


Great Valley Phacelia

What can I say?  It was another great spring afternoon!

NOTE: I have tried to name the various flowers I saw that afternoon.  I am confident on most–but not all–of them.  If you can share any names or corrections, please do so.  Thanks.


State Route 178 basically connects Highway 99 with Highway 14, traveling about 75 miles.  It seems to have a bit of an identity problem as it changes from a freeway to local streets, then back to freeway and eventually back to a county road and finally a freeway again.

The section of the road just east of Bakersfield where 178 heads into Kern Canyon as a narrow 2-lane road is one of my favorite drives.  The stretch ascends the lower Sierra Nevada and offers plenty of sharp turns and steep drop-offs.  It travels along the Kern River and past Lake Isabella, offering some wonderful vistas and open fields. The road eventually reaches the almost 5,000 foot Walker Pass, before heading downhill to Highway 14.

This Spring—after a very wet winter—State Route 178 offers some wonderful color in the hills and along the roadside.  Although there are some turn-offs available, so slower cars can get out of the way of the crazy people zooming through the canyon, there are not many scenic stops where one can snap a photo or two.  Much of the road’s beauty, therefore, stays as beautiful memories, but I can always snap some photos.

The roads and vistas are always impressive, especially when so green from all the rain.

There are a couple spots where drivers can stop and enjoy glimpses of the Kern River.

The best feature of this drive in the spring are all the flowers.  This year, the variety seems greater than in past years.

Caterpillar Phacelia

Common Fiddleneck

Great Valley Phacelia

Baby Blue Eyes

Mostly Lupine

Mostly California Poppies


San Joaquin Blazing Star

Although the colorful fields lessen as the road ascends toward Walker Pass, there is still a bit of color as well as some Joshua Trees in various stages of bloom.

Rabbit Brush

Joshua Tree

I love this drive!


“Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world.”   Virgil A. Kraft

“When spring is dancing among the hills, one should not stay in a dark little corner.”  Kahlil Gibran

The other day I headed out to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve to find some poppies.  I was very successful!  This year is proving to be another Super Bloom.

I drove to the Poppy Reserve via Tehachapi and Rosamond and then on into Lancaster.  There are usually some poppy fields along Avenues D and I before getting to the Poppy Reserve.  This year was no different. Intermixed with the poppies were some small patches of Fiddleneck, Goldfields, Baby Blue Eyes, and the start of Lupine.

John Steinbeck (East of Eden, 1952) was accurate in his description of these fields of color: On the wide level acres of the valley the topsoil lay deep and futile.  It required only a rich winter of rain to make it break forth in grass and flowers. The spring flowers in a wet year were unbelievable. The whole valley floor, and the foothills too, would be carpeted with lupins and poppies.”

John Muir was rather poetic: “When California was wild, it was the floweriest part of the continent.”

The closer I got to the Poppy Reserve, the greater the crowds.  Cars were parked along the roadside as people wandered out into the fields.  Such traipsing is technically not illegal on land outside of the Reserve.  I would have been in line about an hour to get into the Reserve itself and start looking for parking.  Too many people.

I really prefer the flowers!

“Every natural object is a conductor of divinity and only by coming into contact with them. . . may we be filled with the Holy Ghost.”  John Muir

 “April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.”  Shakespeare

Spring breezes are a constant companion when out enjoying the poppies.  John Keats noted the same thing:  Through the Dancing Poppies stole a breeze most softly lulling to my soul.”  

I headed home via I-5, so I could drive the Gorman Post Road.  Poppies and Lupine are usually in bloom along this short stretch.  This year, they have not fully arrived yet.  Only one or two poppies were evident and a plant or two of lupine were not yet in full bloom.  The hills were mainly covered by Kern Tarweed.

It was another delightful spring afternoon.

This post is my response to Lens-Artist Photo Challenge 39: Hello April.

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