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SPRING ON THE CARRIZO PLAIN: 2023

HAPPY EARTH DAY!

Spring is definitely here in all its joy and wonder!

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”   Oscar Wilde

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day He created spring.”  Bernard Williams

“Spring is when life’s alive in everything.”  Christina Rossetti

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

A good place to appreciate the glory and beauty of spring as it spreads across the land is the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County, California. Measuring roughly 50 miles by 15 miles, these native grasslands are the largest remaining in California. Within this area, 246,812 acres are designated as the Carrizo Plain National Monument. 

The color slowly starts showing up along Highway 58, heading to the north entrance to the Carrizo Plain.

Such a swatch of color in the hills along Highway 58

Near the intersection of Highway 58 and Seven Mile Road, yellow blooms seem to spread across the whole Temblor Range.

A short video look at the Temblor Range
Another video view of how far the color stretches

Soda Lake Road showcases flowers along its sometimes unpaved route. Well, of the 46 miles of Soda Lake Road that connects Highway 58 and Highway 166, about half is not paved. Its gravel foundation is often riddled with deep ruts and potholes. But do not let that aspect of the road deter you from taking this splendid drive.

Heck, I go slow anyway to gawk at flowers and stop for photographs.

Video of a colorful stretch of Soda Lake Road, looking over to the mountains.

Winds are a constant companion.

Closing in on the south entrance to the Carrizo Plain. 

“If Spring came but once a century instead of once a year, or burst forth with the sound of an earthquake and not in silence, what wonder and expectation there would be in all hearts to behold the miraculous change.”  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was a glorious, marvelous, wonderful very good day!

NOTE: I think these are the names of the flowers included in this post: California Poppy, Molonopia, Baby Blue Eyes, Valley Phacelia, Tidytips, Milk Vetch, Owl Clover, and something blue on a tall stalk.

IT’S EARTH DAY. AS MUCH AS WE CELEBRATE THE BEAUTY AND WONDER OF OUR EARTH, WE ALSO NEED TO DO WHAT WE CAN TO PROTECT THIS WORLD.

JUST DRIVING AROUND

Whenever it was raining when I was a kid—and I complained about getting wet—Dad would say, “Just run between the raindrops!”  That’s what I’ve been doing over the last several weeks as I ran errands. Running between downpours.  Still always looking for the beauty of Nature!

A few flowers are finally popping up around town.

Clouds are always fun to watch.

One day, a Clowder of Cats caught my eye.

This clowder of cats lives in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. There seemed to be about 10 of them, but only a handful ventured out to explore. There is one big cardboard box in a field behind a fence that seems to be their home base.  I am hoping someone at the restaurant is taking care of these kitties, especially during these cold wet nights. They do not seem under fed—and are so cute!

“Cats come and go without ever leaving.” Martha Curtis

“Time spent with cats is never wasted.”  Sigmund Freud

“If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.”  Nan Porter

“In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have never forgotten this.” Terry Pratchet

This biggest one seems to be Mama.  She wandered by a few times, very slow and nonchalant.

This one was mostly staying behind the fence with several who never ventured out at all.

This little grey tabby was the most curious.

These two—Yin and Yang—were almost always together.

On another day, I took a Selfie, as I arrived for my tax preparation appointment. (I’m in the car!)

It was good news overall (getting back about $250, combining federal and state totals as well as tax prep fees).  I had to celebrate since Krispy Kreme was just a few blocks away. [Isn’t it against the law—or at least un-American—to not buy donuts if you drive right by a Krispy Kreme?]

The clouds that day were gorgeous, even when it rained off and on. 

When the sun did peek out, a full rainbow came into view.

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you have to deal with the rain.” attributed to Dolly Parton

“Rainbows have a way of making the world seem right.” Anthony T. Hincks

A friend (thanks BLR!) has a phone with fancy editing options—so she took the ugly buildings out of this photo. 

The day ended with the rainbow anchored right over my apartment complex.

“Maybe you should stop looking for the gold and just appreciate the rainbow.” Unknown.

HAPPY SAINT PATRICK’S DAY!

AN AFTERNOON OF CONTRASTS

I did not get out into Nature much in 2022 because I had some minor health issues that impacted my independence and mobility.  But I am now getting back to a more active routine.

It’s been a long dry year.  Until recently.

In 2023, it has been raining and raining, helping to undermine the ongoing drought being felt across California.  The hope is that a great wildflower bloom will erupt any time now.  In some places down south, flowers are already showing. 

I decided to take a little drive, just needing help from a friend to actually get in the car.  I can do everything else:  pick up lunch at a drive thru, maneuver into decent parking places to get some photos, wait patiently while enjoying the beautiful scenes, even getting myself and walker out of the car once home.  It was a good afternoon.

Being a long weekend, there were some other folks out and about, enjoying the Wind Wolves Preserve. But I was mostly alone and could ignore the others and simply enjoy the solitude.

I was hoping for the start of a growing display of wildflowers, but very few were evident.  Little pops of yellow were all I could find.

But the hills were delightfully green and the skies were blue.

I avoided people but enjoyed the company of some prairie dogs and a few birds.  Most of the birds—including meadowlarks—were heard but not seen. The meadowlark photo is from here in an earlier year. I have never yet seen a Kit Fox or Tarantula, but maybe I will get lucky on future trips.

Overall, it felt like a nice early spring day.  But the drive home reminded me that winter was still lurking.  As I crested the road into the mountains, the temperatures dropped, the vistas were dusted in a bit of snow, and the sun was muted behind some clouds.

 But I also drove right by some almond orchards as they are starting to blossom. Gorgeous!

Overall, it was a great afternoon of contrasts.  I hope to make more drives over the next several weeks to see more and more blossoms as they dance across the hills.  

A Little Jaunt to Monterey

It has been quite some time since I took a little vacation in Nature. Not just because of COVID. The last two springs, wildflowers have not been extensive. In fact, it felt almost like Nature had been holding her breath and waiting for the world to get back to normal—like everyone else.

Last week, I finally decided I really needed to get out and about. My car was in good shape, I was fully vaccinated, and the state was slowly opening back to business as usual.  I drove to Monterey, CA, just to spend some time enjoying the ocean—and maybe seeing some flowers and redwoods too.

The hotel offered some pretty flowers around the grounds.

My first goal was to take a drive along State Route 9 to Big Basin Redwoods State Park.  My review of online information suggested the park was accessible, even if camping was not an option. However, the drive was beleaguered by extensive construction delays that eventually closed access to the park itself.  I did see a few glimpses of the forest area from the road, including some evidence of the fire that wracked the area not long ago.

The best part of this trip was enjoying the power and beauty of the ocean.

This Great Blue Heron welcomed me early in the day.

This Black Oystercatcher was hanging out on the rocks. It took me a minute to notice him out there.

Of course, across from the coast there were hills and flowers–and even some Mule Deer that refused to pose.

As usual, Cormorants hang out on Bird Rock, along with an occasional Brown Pelican. The Pelicans were flying by all afternoon, but they refused to alight anywhere and pose.

California Gulls were around as well.

The ocean views and crashing waves are always wondrous and mesmerizing.

The sunset was glorious too.

Nature always brings me peace, a spiritual connection with all of life.

The Beauty of Flowers

“Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson

“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower.  I want them to see it whether they want to or not.”  Georgia O’Keeffe

Flowers are incredible.  They bring beauty and hope to the world. And that is certainly something we need more of now in the world, but especially in America. I appreciate this week’s Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #101—One Single Flower as a prompt to share some of the magnificence of flowers.  To see flowers from all over, visit the other responses to this week’s challenge—you will not be disappointed.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”   Audrey Hepburn

“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”  D. H. Lawrence

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

“Every flower blooms in its own time.”  Ken Petti

“The flower that follows the sun does so even on cloudy days.”   Robert Leighton

“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.”  Henry Ward Beecher

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.”   Luther Burbank

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

“Flowers are the music of the ground, from earth’s lips spoken without sound.”  Edwin Cerran

“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”  Oscar Wilde

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

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.”  Lady Bird Johnson

“Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small.  We haven’t time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time.”  Georgia O’Keeffe

“If we could see the miracle of a flower daily, our whole life would change.”  Buddha

Friday on the Carrizo Plain

I just love when clouds produce shadows!

Friday, a friend and I took a drive out towards the Carrizo Plain. (The Carrizo Plain National Monument itself was closed).  We figured the drive would not show the spectacular color of the 2017 Super Bloom.  Heck, we were not even certain we would find any color at all.  But we knew the drive—with its hills and vistas, its trees and rock formations—would be beautiful enough.

Besides, it was just nice to get out for a drive along a desolate road through the countryside.

We left Bakersfield, taking Highway 58 heading west toward Carrizo Plain.  Initially, there were some purple blooms lining the road.

Eventually other small groups of flowers started to pop up.

 

We took Soda Lake Road, heading past Soda Lake to Highway 166 and back home.  That road—part paved, part not—always has some great vistas.  Today the distant hills seemed to have some especially distinctive variations and shadows.

There were a few flowers along the way as well.

That’s Soda Lake in the distance.

This is the little blossom out in the fields–its size is smaller than a dime.

This little butterfly was a lovely surprise!

Heading home we finally saw another car–and we stayed at a safe social distance.  We did wave, however!

It was a great day!

A LITTLE NOTE:  Today (May 20) would have been my dad’s 100th birthday.  Hard to imagine.  This pandemic would have been hard on him, even though he was a world-class worrier.  He would have enjoyed taking this drive with me as we often took little nature treks together.  Of course, I would have had to convince him that such a drive is indeed essential, so okay to take given the safer at home rules.

Dad out on a little adventure.

Mom and Dad together out on a little adventure.

Dad passed in 2014.

I always feel like Dad is with me in spirit on my nature treks!

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!)

CELEBRATE NATURE: Earth Day 2020

IT’S EARTH DAY’S 50th ANNIVERSARY TODAY

DO SOMETHING TO CELEBRATE!

“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

This year, with the pandemic making life scary and crazy, we need Nature more than ever. We need its beauty, variety, and solace. We also need to take time to value its many lessons:  patience, strength, hope, wonder, and spiritual connections.

Now more than ever, as we are asked to stay home and stay safe, it is important to find ways to keep Nature a part of our day to day lives. Play in your yard, walk in a garden or along a trail, feed the birds, play with pets, share flowers, plant vegetables.  You can even watch shows about Nature or work to help improve the protections for the Nature that is all around us, but that is too often overlooked.

One of the ways I am celebrating is by sharing some of my favorite Nature Photographs as I wait until I can take another Nature Trip.  I would love to head back to any of these wonderful places.

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, ‘This is what it is to be happy.’”   Sylvia Plath

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”  Lao Tzu

Views of Fall Color near Bishop, CA

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity.”  John Muir

Views of Yosemite National Park

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

Views near Carrizo Plain National Park, CA

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.”  Henry David Thoreau

Carmel Valley, CA

Drive through Redwoods, CA

“I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?”  Vincent Van Gogh

Grand Tetons, WY

“My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature.”  Claude Monet

Views near Red Rock Canyon State Park, CA

“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”   Hans Christian Anderson

“Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature.  It will never fail you.”  Frank Lloyd Wright

Mono Lake, CA

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Mt. Whitney, CA

Mt. Shasta, CA

Crater Lake National Park, OR

California State Poppy Preserve

Views of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

“We see God face to face every hour and know the savor of Nature.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

ONE AFTERNOON: Two Drives

I started the day in the early afternoon, heading first to June Lake, but I figured there would also be time to head out to Convict Lake as well.  It was a good afternoon!

I love the June Lake Loop Drive (Highway 158).  The best color depends on finding the best week to go exploring.  My first drive on this scenic byway, the leaves were long gone, but even barren aspen trees are pretty.  Last year was a pretty good year.  This year, I visited in the second week of October.  Some pretty fall colors were out there, waiting to be appreciated!

I do love aspens!

Views of Grant Lake

Heading back to the hotel, I took a short drive out to Convict Lake. I had not driven this road before. Since it was just a short jaunt to the lake, I wandered on down the lane. It’s an area that is worthy of more time and attention.

This inquisitive little guy stopped to say hello.

I’ve never really enjoyed fishing, but this does look like a great way to spend an afternoon.

GREAT RESOURCE:  As I planned this year’s trip, I stumbled onto California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Color Map (Inyo & Mono Counties).  It highlights 22 scenic spots where fall color is likely to be found.  I visited some new spots this year, but have more places to see in future years.

Big Pine Country

This year, in the second week in October, I started my trip to the Bishop area to appreciate the lovely show of fall colors evident in Nature.   When to visit is always a bit of a crap shoot, but others had been posting wonderful photos, so I headed out a bit earlier than past years.  I also planned to visit some other canyon drives rather than just checking out the June Lake Loop Drive.

My first stop this year was a short one wandering a bit into Big Pine Canyon.  It was already late afternoon when I started.  I was tired and still needed to secure a hotel, so this was a quick trip. I basically stayed on Glacier Lodge Road and did not even go all the way to the Lodge.  Short, but pretty drive!

GREAT RESOURCE:  As I planned this year’s trip, I stumbled onto California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Color Map (Inyo & Mono Counties).  It highlights 22 scenic spots where fall color is likely to be found.  I visited some new spots this year, but have more places to see in future years.

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