Learn Something New Every Day!

Posts tagged ‘California Poppy’

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 7: Finding Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge

I needed a day out in Nature! 

“I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.”   John Burroughs

 “Wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit.”   Edward Abbey

I continued my Search for Spring by driving into the hills southwest of Maricopa, California.  My goal was to find the Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge.  It is closed to the public, but the roads that run along its perimeter promised great views of the area.  There was a slim possibility that I might see some Condors soaring on the thermals, but that did not happen on this cloudy gray day.

One set of directions I found online said to take Klipstein Canyon Road until it connects with Cerro Noroeste Road that parallels the wildlife refuge.  Only Klipstein Canyon Road no longer allows the public to traverse its entire length.  The few miles I traveled were pretty and rather desolate but also offered some flowers and birds. I even enjoyed the occasional “Private Property” signs.

Greater Roadrunner

California Quail

I finally found Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge via Cerro Noroeste Road. This route was also rather isolated and punctuated with occasional flowers and grand vistas.  Next year, I will drive this route a bit earlier in the year when I bet more flowers will be in bloom.

Horned Larks Were Around Singing, But Not Getting Very Close

Cerro Noroeste Road eventually looped onto Mil Portrero Road and then Cuddy Valley Road, leading me up to Pine Mountain before hitting I-5 to drive home.

All in all, I found some great views, a few flowers and a couple birds.

It was a wonderful afternoon!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A FEW QUOTES ABOUT THE POWER OF NATURE

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”   Albert Einstein

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”   Claude Monet

“We do not see nature with our eyes, but with our understandings and our hearts.”   William Hazlitt

“Adopt the pace of nature:  her secret is patience.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”   Margaret Atwood

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.  There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”   Rachel Carson

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 3: Anza Borrego Desert State Park

Wildflowers are erupting all over California this year, thanks in great part to the rains that are finally coming and coming—as well as intermittent days of unseasonably warm weather.  Super Blooms are being touted in many places.  One that was praised early in March for its Super Bloom was Anza Borrego Desert State Park, not far from San Diego.  By the time I was able to get down there, I expected the flowers would be starting to wane, but I was hoping there would still be some impressive color.

I was not disappointed.

Anza Borrego Desert State Park is located within the Colorado Desert Region and is comprised of 600,000 acres.  The park stretches across three counties and is the largest in California as well as the second largest in the contiguous United States.  It offers extensive hiking trails as well as some paved and many unpaved roads that help visitors find its hidden treasures.  To see the range of places to visit and potential sights to see explore these websites.

I kept my visit simple, driving in from the south on CA 79-S, eventually traveling on Montezuma Valley Rd. and Palm Canyon Rd.  My path led me up about 2400 feet over a little mountain range and then back down about 2000 feet to the little town of Borrego Springs that sits in the middle of the extensive state park. The vistas, even without flowers, were impressive.

I felt I was on some version of the Yellow Brick Road since the way was lined with yellow for what seemed like miles.

I visited on a Tuesday, and it was busy!  I am thrilled that so many people want to see wildflowers, but I really prefer them not to visit when I do. (Others never cooperate on this point—drats!)   I never made it to the Visitor Center because it looked to be about an hour wait just to be able to look for a parking place.  I don’t do that sort of thing!   I also did not wander onto hiking trails.  But sticking to the scenic driving route helped me find some great blooms—so I was very happy.

The most prevalent flowers were the yellow Brittlebrush as shown above, but others were evident as well.

My favorites are the cactus that were in bloom:  The red bloom of the Beavertail cactus, the green spine and red plume of the Ocotillo, and the burgeoning new spines of the Chollo in preparation for its blossoms.

TOPIC P: California Poppies

I missed seeing them this year.  It is not that I did not go looking for them.  I typically see them near Gorman as I travel south to Los Angeles along I-5.  But this year, they were not really there to be enjoyed, except in small isolated blooms deep in the fields.  I even checked the state natural reserve in Lancaster.  Not many there this year either.

one poppyI am talking about California Poppies.  This delightful little flower is the state flower, and it usually is evident along the highways in the spring of each year.  Each bloom is not very big, maybe 1-2 inches in diameter with several sprouting together out of one plant. They are a vibrant yellow gold color that screams for attention in the hills.  They typically share the hillsides with cream puffs, lupine, and other wildflowers.poppy

poppies and cream cups

poppies and lupine_0001

poppy and fddle stick

poppies medium

lupine too

dadThis year, however, the January temperatures were too low and the annual rainfall was too minimal to produce a great batch of California Poppies.  Typically, the highways are littered with them.  And hills and hills of them are evident at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR in Lancaster, off Highway 138.  I have been there many times to view these natural wonders.  The Reserve offers 8 miles of trails through the hills amongst the flowers.  My dad and I visited there several times, just to enjoy the flowers and take some pictures.

When they are in bloom, they are magnificent:

Vista 1

vista 2

“Simply to see a distant horizon through a clear air—the fine outline of a distant hill or a blue mountain top through some new vista—this is wealth enough for one afternoon.”  Thoreau

vista 3

vista 4

I am always amazed and delighted when the flowers come back every February to May even as I am puzzled about how their appearance can be so varied each year.  I have always known it is tied to the rains—or lack there of.  One year, the rains came, but the grasses sprung up earlier and thicker than usual and choked out the flowers.  Lots of things can happen to impact the blooms.  Recently I read “Called Out” an essay by Barbara Kingsolver and her husband Stephen Hopp in her book Small Wonder—and it addressed this exact phenomenon.  In that essay, they were talking about the wondrous displays of wildflowers in the Arizona desert and explaining how they keep blooming year after year, but the same explanation applies to California Poppies as well.

fence

poppies and lupinemedium hills 2

Simply put, Kingsolver said, “God planted them.” She then offered a more scientific explanation. Apparently the plants ensure their own survival through the variety inherent in their seeds.  Some seeds bloom faster or longer than others, or need more water than others, or are content to wait for years before blooming than others; the seeds are not all the same! Some years might be impressive, others not so much, but the next year is always a possibility. More officially, “Desert ephemerals. . . [stash] away seasons of success by varying, among and within species, their genetic schedules for germination, flowering, and seed-set.”  Each year, more blooms are likely because each species has a “blueprint for perseverance” that guarantees that wildlflowers—like the California Poppy—“will go on mystifying us, answering to a clock that ticks so slowly we won’t live long enough to hear it.”

I appreciate knowing there is a scientific explanation to support my hope that the poppies will keep blooming year after year. And I applaud the wonder of nature every year when they do bloom.  I can only imagine how magnificent the sight was for John Muir over 100 years ago, when it was not hills and hills of gold, but miles and miles of gold.

Here is how Muir described it:

“One shining morning a landscape was revealed that after all my wanderings still appears the most beautiful I have ever beheld.  At my feet lay the Great Valley of California, level and flowery, like a lake of pure sunshine forty or fifty miles wide, five hundred miles long, one rich furred garden of yellow Compositae. And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flowerbed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant it seemed not clothed in light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.”

medium field 1

medium field 2

Wouldn’t that be wondrous to view?  Still, I will be content to see whatever flower show blooms each year.  I am hopeful 2014 will be a good year once again.  What are your favorite wildflowers?

Tag Cloud