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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

Fiddleneck

Phacelia

Goldfields

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.

A Delightful Spring Afternoon

It was the second day of Spring, and I was not incredibly optimistic about having a good day looking for wildflowers.  It had rained the day before and was—in fact—still raining into the morning.  The rain was expected to stop by about noon, but it was still cloudy.  My goal was to get out to Carrizo Plain National Monument, but since it is traversed by a combination of paved and dirt roads, I knew I would not drive on those roads until they had time to really dry out.  Afterall, four cars were stuck in the mud last week.

The best I could do would be to head towards the Carrizo Plain National Monument  and just see what I could find.  I started on some county roads heading out to pick up Highway 33 near McKittrick; that road becomes Highway 58 as it heads out toward Seven Mile Road.

I drove about 65 miles to get out into the beautiful hills.  Some more color started to appear in the fields as I moved closer to McKittrick.

The color on the early part of the drive was nice but not really spectacular.  The clouds, however, were incredible–they made it a good afternoon even if that’s all I saw.

The greatest color was evident around the intersection of Highway 58 and Seven Mile Road.  Yellow seemed to be everywhere, with occasional spots of purple, white, and orange.

There were no poppies and lupine on these hills.  They are my favorite, and I should see them when I visit the Poppy Preserve in a few weeks.  In these hills, Goldfields, Great Valley Phacelia, Common Fiddleneck, and Milk Vetch provided the color.  They are pretty!

Fiddleneck

Some Nice Little Purple Flowers

Goldfields

Milk Vetch

Great Valley Phacelia

It ended up being a wonderfully colorful afternoon.  I look forward to driving out to Carrizo Plain National Monument in the next couple of weeks.  This year’s bloom could rival the 2017 Super Bloom.

Wildflowers in Death Valley 2016

El Nino has brought rains to California over the last several months.  More rain is still likely, so maybe—after enough rain and extensive snow pack throughout the year—the state’s long, long drought will start to subside. I certainly hope that the drought comes to an end sooner, rather than later.

IMG_8774But I am also hopeful that this year might generate some impressive wildflowers. 

In late March 2015, I saw some great wildflowers in Mojave’s Red Rock CanyonThe California Poppy Preserve is hopeful for a good bloom this year, again in late March or April.  Thus far no extensive blooms are evident in the park or on the Gorman Hills along the Grapevine.  I figured I would start my hunt for wildflowers in about a month.

Then I heard about the 2016 Superbloom erupting in Death Valley.

A Ranger posted the above YouTube video on this year’s blossoms in early February.  Even though I did not notice the video until late February—so the blooms would have started to fade—I decided I would head to Death Valley for a wildflower adventure.  If nothing else, I knew from my Death Valley trip last spring that I would enjoy the great scenery and fun curvy steep roads.

IMG_8590I started my trip, heading east on Highway 178.  Its route along the Kern River is always lush and green after a good rain.  This year, California Poppies adorn the hills and other wildflowers jumped out along the roadside.

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Lupine

Lupine

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Yucca

Yucca

My quick detour through Red Rock Canyon confirmed it was too early for extensive flowers this early in the spring.  About all I saw were the yellow blossoms of the Creosote Bushes that dot the area near the Visitor Center and an occasional Yucca starting to bud.

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Creosote Bush

Creosote Bush

IMG_8701The next day, when I first started into Death Valley, I did not see much color.

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Eventually, gold and purple bushes dotted the roads, but the color was still minimal.

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Golden Evening Primrose

Golden Evening Primrose

IMG_8749Just as I was thinking the Superbloom must be over, I hit a stretch along Highway 190 where Desert Gold bushes spread out across the fields.  Although the blossoms were rather muted and starting to wane, they were quite impressive as they stretched across field after field throughout the park.  Other wildflowers jumped into view at various places, adding to the colorful palette.  Obviously, the Ranger was right:  If this more extensive blanketing of color only happens about once every ten years, my trip to Death Valley was well worth the effort.  The wonder and diversity of nature is always impressive!

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Gravel Ghost

Gravel Ghost

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Phacelia

Phacelia

Red Mat

Red Mat

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Cream Cup

Cream Cup

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That's a Woman Out in the Field

That’s a Woman Out in the Field

Desert Gold Sunflower

Desert Gold Sunflower

IMG_8971The next day I headed home, traveling Highways 14 and 58 through Tehachapi.  Once again, some California Poppies and a few other wildflowers painted the hills and roadsides.

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Desert Dandelions

Desert Dandelions

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Gravel Ghost

Gravel Ghost

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California Poppies

California Poppies

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All in all, it was a beautiful and colorful couple of days!

NOTE:  I’ve done my best to give the names of some of the flowers, but if you can add a name or make a correction, please do so.  Thanks.

Do you have any favorite places you visit to see wildflowers in bloom?

SOME QUOTES ABOUT WILDFLOWERS

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like a stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.”   John Steinbeck

“No matter how chaotic it is, wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere.”  Sheryl Crow

“Love is like wildflowers; it’s often found in the most unlikely places.”  Ralph Waldo  Emerson

“It is easier to tell a person what life is not, rather than to tell them what it is.  A child understands weeds that grow from lack of attention in a garden.  However, it is hard to explain the wildflowers that one gardener calls weeds, and another considers beautiful ground cover.”  Shannon L. Adler

“There are as many ways of loving as there are people, and that wildflower variety is the great beauty of this dimension of existence.”  Rumi

“Wildflowers are the stuff of my heart!”  Lady Bird Johnson

“The more often we see the things around us—even the beautiful and wonderful things—the more they become invisible to us.  That is why we often take for granted the beauty of this world:  the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds, even those we love.  Because we see things so often, we see them less and less.”  Joseph B. Wirthlin

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness.  God is the friend of silence.  See how nature—trees, flowers, grass—grows in silence, see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence.  We need silence to be able to touch souls.”  Mother Teresa

“There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”  Henri Matisse

“Earth laughs in flowers.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.”  A. A. Milne

“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter. . . to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in the spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”  John Burroughs

A Couple Last Views from Death Valley Superbloom

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