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Posts tagged ‘Lupine’

NATURE IS ESSENTIAL

“It seems to me that the natural world is the greatest source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest. It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.”  David Attenborough

It has been a long spring, made worse by this COVID-19 pandemic and the decisions telling all of us to stay home to stay safe.  We are frequently reminded that we should only be venturing out for what is essential.  Of course, for most, “essential” tasks revolve around obtaining food, water, medications and healthcare.  But for me, what is truly essential includes much more than these basics!

What exactly does essential mean? According to The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, something is essential if it is “of utmost importance, basic, indispensable, necessary.”  Some obvious synonyms would be fundamental, cardinal, vital.  Anything that is essential has a sense of urgency and importance.  It is the key thing that keeps one going.

FOR ME, NATURE IS ESSENTIAL. 

Trips into Nature keep me going, make me feel calm and grounded, link me to the miracle of life that is all around. With this long pandemic-shrouded spring, I really needed a trip into Nature.  My plan was to spend the day driving the back roads in and around the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster.  But just before I was set to leave, I saw a news item that said the roads were barricaded to keep people out.  Drats.

My guess is that hordes of people may have descended on the area over the weekend, trampling the fields, crowding the roads, and otherwise ignoring social distancing. After all, it was the first good-weather weekend since this ordeal began.  Or it could just be a random edict.  Either way, my plans were being undermined—and that would not do.

I NEEDED A TRIP INTO NATURE.

My new plan was simpler, just drive to Gorman at the Grapevine and wander the Gorman Postal Road.  If flowers are in bloom in the area, they are usually there too.  It was a glorious afternoon.

California Poppy

“The earth laughs in flowers.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Spring is Nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s Party!’”  Robin Williams

Lupine, One of My Favorites!

“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon the verdant green hills is the most perfect refreshment.”  Jane Austen

“An understanding of the natural world and what’s in it is a source of not only a great curiosity but great fulfillment.”  David Attenborough

Great Valley Phacelia

“Unless we are willing to encourage our children to reconnect with and appreciate the natural world, we can’t expect them to help protect and care for it.”  David Suzuki

“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.”  John Muir

“On earth there is no heaven, but there are pieces of it.”  Jules Renard

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

“When one tugs at a single thing in Nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”  John Muir

This little guy did not cooperate at all for photos.  The butterflies in the area never even paused anywhere!

“Nature is not a place to visit.  It is home.”  Gary Snyder

“The happiest man is he who has learned from Nature the lesson of worship.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Kern Tarweed (maybe)

“They are much to be pitied who have not been given a taste for Nature early in life.”  Jane Austen

I always love it when there is a nice spring breeze wandering the hills as well.  (Sorry I forgot to turn off the radio.  At least I am not singing along!)

YOSEMITE IN MAY

It is always a good time to visit Yosemite National Park.

My last trip was about a month ago, just before Memorial Day.  A storm was predicted, but the threat of rain and winds rarely stops me.  It ended up being a great trip.  Even though it was a little cloudy and foggy at times, the crowds were not as large as they could be and some wildflowers were still lingering along the road.  I even saw some Dogwood Blossoms!

My visit was not long. I only wandered Yosemite Valley a couple afternoons, entering and exiting the park on Highway 41 via Wawona as well as on Highway 140 from Merced.

Along Highway 140

A few California Poppies were evident.

I always like seeing Indian Paintbrush.

 

I had not seen much Lupine this year, so enjoyed finding these along the road.

Along Highway 41

More Lupine!

Tunnel View

In & Around Yosemite Valley

 

I do like Lupine!

I love this little spring erupting along side the road.

All of a sudden, one stretch of road was blanketed in fog. Lovely.

Along the Merced River

Relaxing Near a Pond

A Brewer’s Blackbird, I think.

Two Acorn Woodpeckers were busy on this stump, but it was quite far off.

Here’s a better view of an Acorn Woodpecker, seen a few weeks earlier in Bakersfield.

Some Wild Irises.  I love these!

These Two Mallards were pretty active.

An American Raven

Some Dogwood Trees Were Still in Bloom

It was a great trip! 

I am contemplating a drive over the Tioga Pass later this year.  But I am not sure when.  The Tioga Pass—which usually opens by late May—is finally open, a little bit now.  Vehicles can travel the road for an hour each morning and then again an hour each afternoon. No services are open and no camping or parking are allowed.  When Tioga Pass fully opens, there is some planned road maintenance that needs to happen.  Maybe September?

Where is a place in Nature you return to again and again?

Mt. Hood Scenic Byway

When my friend and I were driving into Portland, we saw views of Mt. Hood off in the distance.  Knowing we were going to explore the Mt. Hood Scenic Byway sometime in the next few days, we did not stop to get photographs.  Bad call.  Clouds and haze settled in for several days, so seeing Mt. Hood again did not happen.

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Mt. Hood, however, is an impressive peak, even if not visible.  The Multnomah Tribe named this volcano Wy’east. But in 1792, the peak was labeled Mt. Hood by a member of an expedition exploring the Columbia River. In notes, the peak was described as “A very high snowy mountain. . . rising beautifully conspicuous in the midst of an extensive tract of a low or moderately elevated land.”  “Very high” is a good description since Mt. Hood is a bit over 11,200 feet high. It is the highest point in Oregon and the fourth highest point in the Cascade Range. Although officially considered a “potentially active volcano,” it is typically considered dormant.

The Mt. Hood Scenic Byway was a beautiful drive, even though I did not see Mt. Hood all day.  The drive is a rough circle, taking Highway 26 southeast out of Portland, then picking up Highway 35 north, and eventually taking Interstate 84 west back to Portland. The clouds were consistent throughout most of the day, and there was even a little rain.

Along the Columbia River on I-84

The route drove through the small town Rhododendron, Oregon, and found some namesake flowers, even though it seemed the end of the season.

The roadsides wove through some little canyons bordered by trees and impressive cliffs.

 

The wildflowers were gorgeous! I especially enjoyed the Lupine, Indian Paint Brush, and Dogwood.

(Does anyone know what this flower is?)

There was a little campground with some pretty fields and Dogwood trees.

Late in the afternoon, I took a side road, following a sign for Lavender Valley. It was not as big an area as I had hoped, but it was rather picturesque.

It was a good afternoon.

SUGARLOAF RIDGE STATE PARK (April 2018)

Sugarloaf Ridge State Park is part of the California State Park System.  Well, it was.  Several years ago, in a cost saving move, several parks were dropped from funding.  The park is now run by Team Sugarloaf, a group of five non-profit organizations. There is a nominal day-use fee.

The park is under 10 miles from Santa Rosa is about an hour from San Francisco. Nestled in the Mayacamas Mountains where Napa and Sonoma Counties merge, Sugarloaf Ridge State Park contains the headwaters of Sonoma Creek.  The creek runs through the park’s gorge and canyon, through a meadow and beneath scenic rock outcroppings.  There are 25 miles of hiking trails as well as some camping spots.  It is a great little hidden treasure!

I first visited Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in late April, hunting wildflowers.  An article had noted that the wildflowers were impressive this spring, somehow in response to the wildfires that permeated the area in late 2017.  The article was right.  In fact, the area leading to the park was pretty as well, passing through some vineyards, open fields and even neighborhoods where flowers were also in bloom.  I also stopped at Trione-Annadel State Park, a few miles further down the road.

The drive to the park offered some pretty views and flowers.

Inside Sugarloaf Ridge State Park:

Inside Trione-Annadel State Park, there were no wildflowers along the road, but the greens were delightful, peaceful, cool.

If you have not yet visited these wonderful state parks, add them to your To-Do List.  Next spring would be a good time for a visit.

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 10: Yosemite National Park

I love Yosemite National Park. 

“The most striking and sublime features on the grandest scale, is the Yosemite.”   John Muir

“A perfect day would be to get into the car, drive out to Yosemite and go camping.”  Michael Steger

“It is all very beautiful and magical here (Yosemite), a quality which cannot be described.”  Ansel Adams

Since it is such a great place, I was not surprised to learn that there were 5.2 million visitors to the park in 2016.  I was surprised when I visited Yosemite near the end of May—but before Memorial Day—that all those people were there ahead of me on the main roads and taking up every single parking space.  Well, okay not all of them.  But at least about half!

Basically, it was crowded.

However, I was still able to find the dogwood blossoms that were the ostensible reason for my visit this spring.  (But does one really need a reason to visit Yosemite National Park?)  There were other flowers as well and lots of water!  Despite the crowds, it was a glorious trip.

“In every walk with Nature, one receives far more than he seeks.”   John Muir

As I entered Yosemite near the Wawona Inn, I was greeted by fields of lupine.  This hardy purple bloom kept me company throughout most of the drive throughout the park.

Dogwood Trees lined the roads, allowing wonderful glimpses of the blossoms floating among the leaves.

A drive through the park is always full of gorgeous vistas and delightful surprises.  On this trip, some spring blossoms and wonderful ferns popped up here and there along the roadsides. Of course, they were not so easy to photograph.  But the vistas were as peaceful and engaging as usual.   

The Merced River was wonderful, mercurial.  It still offered some peaceful pools that compel visitors to sit on its banks and appreciate life and nature.  But on this visit, the Merced also rushed past, even overflowing its banks periodically during the last several weeks given all the rain and snow melt this year.  I loved hearing the Merced rush by!

“Down through the middle of the Valley flows the crystal Merced, River of Mercy, peacefully quiet, reflecting lilies and trees and the onlooking rocks; things frail and fleeting and types of endurance meeting here and blending in countless forms, as if into this one mountain mansion Nature had gathered her choicest treasures, to draw her lovers into close and confiding communion with her.”   John Muir

The numerous waterfalls, of course, are also magnificently full this year.  What a delightful spring treat!

Upper Yosemite Falls (1430 feet):

Bridalveil Falls (617 feet):

If you have not visited Yosemite National Park, do so.

You will not be disappointed.

Please, consider speaking out and doing what you can to make sure all our national parks stay protected not just for us all to enjoy but because of their cultural and historical significance.  They are indeed precious.

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“The parks do not belong to one state or to one section.  They have become democratized.  The Yosemite, the Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon are national properties in which every citizen has a vested interest; they belong as much to the man of Massachusetts, of Michigan, of Florida, as they do to the people of California, of Wyoming, and of Arizona.”  Stephen Tyng Mather, 1st National Parks Service Director

“Maybe you weren’t born with a silver spoon in your mouth, but like every American, you carry a deed to 635 million acres of public lands.  That’s right.  Even if you don’t own a house or the latest computer on the market, you own Yosemite, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and many other natural treasures.”  John Garamendi

“I can’t help thinking that if the American West were discovered today, the most glorious bits would be sold off to the highest bidder.  Yosemite might be nothing but weekend homes for internet tycoons.”   Nicholas Kristof

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!

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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 6: Lupine, Poppies & More, oh my!

“EARTH LAUGHS IN FLOWERS.”   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Two of my favorite wildflowers are Lupine and California Poppies.  They are both so bold and bright that when they make an appearance, you have to notice them.  A great place to watch for their first appearance each spring is driving I-5 over the Grapevine.  When patches of orange paint the hills, it is time to start exploring the area with more diligence.

A great spot to find a closer view of wildflowers is on the Gorman Post Road, near the top of the Grapevine.  This year was no different, but the poppies were not as evident as usual.  The lupines, however, were flanking the road along with some other colorful blooms.

Fortunately, the California Poppies were taking over the fields en route to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve State Park.  According to the staff, the east side of the park was where poppies were most likely to be found on its actual grounds. When a friend and I were there on a weekend in early April—as predicted by the staff—it was almost impossible to get into the parking lot and past the entry kiosk.  We chose not to wait at least an hour to be able to look for a parking space, especially since we had already been sitting for close to an hour on the adjacent roads.  I’m really not crazy about crowds.

On a Weekday–Weekends The Cars Would Be Ten Times Worse

These Distant Hills Are Officially Part of the Preserve

The poppies, however, do not simply grow in the Poppy Preserve.  Their audacious color erupts along the roads and throughout the fields in the whole area surrounding the park.  And the poppies are joined by some other blooms as well.

Several Stands of These Pink Trees Were Blooming Along Lancaster Road

If you have not wandered by Gorman and then on Lancaster Road toward the Poppy Preserve, the time to get out there is now.  You will be rewarded with seeing some of the boldest and brightest wildflowers around!

“People from a planet without flowers would think we must be mad with joy the whole time to have such things about us.”    Iris Murdoch

“For myself I hold no preference among flowers, so long as they are wild, free and spontaneous.”   Edward Abbey

“I must have flowers, always and always.”   Claude Monet

“How does the Meadow-flower its bloom unfold?  Because the lovely little flower is free down to its root, and, in that freedom, bold.”  William Wordsworth

“Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’”   Robert Orben

“It is Spring again.  The earth is like a child that knows a poem by heart.”   Rainer Maria

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 4: Carrizo Plain National Monument

CARRIZO PLAIN NATIONAL MONUMENT

“Spring is Nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party!'”   Robin Williams

“The day the Lord created Hope was probably the same day he created Spring.”  Bernard Williams

The first time I visited Carrizo Plain National Monument was in April 2016.  At that time, I was impressed by its vastness and stark views, and I enjoyed the occasional blossoms alongside the road.  The history and geology of the area are fascinating as well.  The park ranger advised I come back in March next time if I wanted to see more flowers.

She sure was right.

I visited the Carrizo Plain a couple times in March 2017, once with a friend.  (Our photos are intermixed a bit in this presentation.)  The flowers were absolutely tremendous. I drove in from the north, taking Highway 58 to Highway 33 into McKittrick.  Soda Lake Road runs through the park, eventually connecting to Highway 166 and the drive home.   Near and far, color was everywhere.  This year’s wildflower display is surely a Super Bloom!

The main road through the Carrizo Plain wanders back and forth between paved and unpaved, but—no matter what—flowers are strewn along the way adding color and variety.  Wind was a constant companion as well.  The breezes really kept the flowers and grasses dancing across the hills.

The hills, of course, are alive with color.  I especially like the occasional patches of pink and orange that popped out amidst the more typical yellow, green, and varying shades of blue and purple.

Soda Lake is at the heart of the Carrizo Plain, There is a hill that offers an overlook of the lake as well as a boardwalk that lets visitors stroll lakeside.

 

I have not identified all the flowers in bloom on my visits, but some of the main ones include Brittlebush, Blue Phacelia, Creosote Bush, Fiddleneck, Milk Vetch, Baby Blue Eyes, and then some sort of Daisy, something pink, and perhaps California Bluebell.  Lupine and California Poppies finally started to blossom along Highway 166.

Blue Phacelia

Brittlebrush

Fiddleneck

Baby Blue Eyes

Milk Vetch

Some Sort of Daisy? Maybe a Version of Desert Dandelion?

Juniper Berries

Creosote Bush

California Bluebells?

I Love the Grasses

These Lupine and California Poppies were captured on the steep curves of Highway 166.

If you have not yet visited Carrizo Plain National Monument, get there fast.  You might catch the end of this year’s Super Bloom.  Definitely add visiting here to your plan for next spring.

NOTE:  I am never 100% confident in my flower identifications.  If you can make corrections, please share your expertise in the comments.  Thanks.  Whether I can name them or not, these wildflowers are incredible!

SEARCHING FOR SPRING, PART 2: Wind Wolves Preserve

 

By mid-March, I was looking for specific destinations as part of my search for spring wildflowers.  I noticed a local newspaper article beckoning visitors to the Wind Wolves Preserve.  This preserve is one of twelve maintained by the Wildlands Conservancy.

Wind Wolves Preserve was established in 1996 and is comprised of 93,000 acres, offering a visitors center, hiking trails, and a campground.  What is most surprising to me is that it is situated nearby off the Maricopa Highway—and I had not noticed it before.

I took the 45 minute drive and had a delightful excursion, seeing definite signs of spring everywhere I looked.  Perhaps not a Super Bloom, but a wondrous day nonetheless.  I took a friend out on another day—and although the hills were a bit more muted in color, a few new flowers were in bloom alongside the road.  And we just stayed on the scenic drive.  Just imagine what wonders would be discovered on the hiking trails!

This Meadowlark gave a nice little serenade.

The hills offered delightful vistas and some vibrant colors.

The fields were full of blooms and even some wildlife.

The Wind Wolves Preserve is a great place for a family to come to experience nature in a calm, beautiful setting.  If you have not yet discovered this place, add it to your must-visit list.  A good place to start would be the Wind Wolves Preserve Facebook page.

GO BE AMAZED!

An Afternoon Drive: Windy

“Who has seen the wind?  Neither you nor I:  But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by.”  Christina Rossetti

 “Life is full of beauty.  Notice it.  Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling faces.  Smell the rain, and feel the wind.  Live your life to the fullest potential, and fight for your dreams.”  Ashley Smith

With the El Nino rains this year in California, the promise of wildflowers is in the air.  Even though the Antelope Valley California State Poppy Preserve was saying the poppies were not yet out in great numbers at their facility, I decided I would go check the area out.  After all, color had already splashed across the hills near Gorman, California, an area that I would pass en route to Lancaster and Antelope Valley.

IMG_9426IMG_9429By the time I got started, it was already early afternoon.  The weather changed a bit as clouds moved in and the winds picked up. Overcast is not the best weather for seeing wildflowers since many—like the poppies—do not fully open on dark and dreary days. The winds were picking up too.  Strong winds undermine taking photos. But I kept with my afternoon plans.  After all, I love watching breezes dance across the fields and the clouds were likely to be great.

As expected, the hills near Gorman showcased lupines, a few poppies, and some pretty views of the open road.

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As I merged onto Highway 138 (Lancaster Road) heading toward the Poppy Preserve, the number of flowers in the fields diminished.  But the clouds were enticing and patches of yellow goldfields were evident along the way.

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There was not much color around the entrance to the Poppy Preserve on this visit.  (Past years have been pretty impressive.)

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The winds were great this afternoon.  I even (finally) thought to practice using the video feature on my camera.  I did forgot the videos record sound as well as pictures, so there is some silly music in the background.  But you can also hear the wind rustling about.

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It was a great afternoon!

Do you have somewhere you love to drive on a leisurely afternoon?

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QUOTES ABOUT THE WIND

“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”  Charles Dickens

“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”  John Ruskin

“There is muscular energy in sunlight corresponding to the spiritual energy of wind.”  Annie Dillard

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”   William Arthur Ward

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”  Henry Ford

“Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind.  The real you is loving, joyful, and free.  The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.”  Don Miquel Ruiz

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”  Bruce Lee

“I love the feeling of the fresh air on my face and the wind blowing through my hair.”  Evel Knievel

“A great wind is blowing, and that gives you either imagination or a headache.”  Catherine the Great

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.  To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.”  Oliver Wendell Holmes

“I was born on the prairies where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun.  I was born where there were no enclosures.”  Geronimo

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”  William Butler Yeats

“The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes; their written language is too difficult for human minds, and their spoken language mostly too faint for the ears.”  John Muir

“When one has faith that the spring thaw will arrive, the winter winds seem to lose some of their punch.”  Robert L. Veninga

“Poetry is the impish attempt to paint the color of the wind.”  Maxwell Bodenheim

“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.  The answer is blowin’ in the wind.”  Bob Dylan

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