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Posts tagged ‘wildflowers’

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?

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.

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

Yarrow

Chollo Cactus

Owl Clover

Common Fiddleneck

Pretty White Flower

Blue Fiesta Flower

Great Valley Phacelia

Desert Dandelion

California Chicory

Dusty Maiden

Goldfields

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.

A DRIVE UP ROUTE 178

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

Goldfields

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!

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.

A Little Glimpse of Spring

“The day the Lord created hope was probably the same day He created Spring.”  Bern Williams

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

It has been a long hard winter. In California, that means we have had a lot more cold and rain than usual.  Other parts of the country have been hit even harder with extensive storms and floods—and resulting tragedies.

Tomorrow is the official first day of Spring.  Finally. I expect we are all ready for the promise and hope of the season. Of course, just because it is the Spring Equinox does not mean the storms of winter will just stop. In fact, in my area, a late storm is expected that day.

But eventually spring will be here in full bloom.  Maybe not tomorrow, but soon.  Already glimpses of spring are popping up all over.

In fact, these fruit-tree blossoms are already waning, as foliage takes over.

Blue skies are gorgeous along the hills near Gorman, California.

These flowers are starting to emerge around my apartment.

The other day I took a lovely drive through The Wind Wolves Preserve.  The hills were green, the breezes were blowing, and a few wildflowers were hiding out in the fields.  It was a delightful afternoon.

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

“Springtime is the land awakening.  The March winds are the morning yawn.”   Lewis Grizzard

This Road Runner was, not unexpectedly, running along the road!

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THE HOPE OF SPRING

 “It is spring again.  The Earth is like a child that knows poems.”   Rainer Maria Rilke

“Come with me into the woods.  Where spring is advancing, as it does, no matter what, not being singular or particular, but one of the forever gifts, and certainly visible.”   Mary Oliver

“You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep spring from coming.”   Pablo Neruda

“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.”   Victor Hugo

“Always it’s spring and everyone’s in love and flowers pick themselves.”   e. e. cummings

“If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”   Percy Bysshe Shelley

“The promise of spring’s arrival is enough to get anyone through the bitter winter.”  Jen Slelinsky

“No winter lasts forever, no spring skips its turn.”  Hal Borland

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

“Spring won’t let me stay in this house any longer! I must get out and breathe the air deeply again.”   Gustav Mahler

 “Blossom by blossom the spring begins.”  Algernon Charles Swinburne

“I suppose the best kind of spring morning is the best weather God has to offer.”   Dodie Smith

“Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat.” Laura Ingalls Wilder

“A kind word is like a spring day.”   Russian Proverb

 “Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light.”  Theodore Roethke

Memories of Summer: Tioga Pass Road (August 2017)

Super Bloom 2017 was truly magnificent!  I took several little trips around California that spring, enjoying the wondrous blooms that seemed to be almost everywhere:  Carrizo Plain, Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and California Poppy Preserve were some of my favorite stops. I visited Yosemite National Park in June, hoping to see some wildflowers there as well.  My first stop was Yosemite Valley.

For the rest of that Yosemite trip, I had planned to drive across Tioga Pass Road to see what might be in bloom.  The road closes for winter every year, usually opening again by late May, so I did not foresee travel problems.  In 2017, however, the road did not open until the end of June.  Thus, my plan for driving over the pass had to wait.

I tried again in August on a beautiful sunny day, and the drive was wonderful.  The route started near the Big Crane Flat Road, taking Highway 120 east, traveling about 90 miles from Yosemite Valley to the Eastern Entrance to Yosemite. The initial easy ascent into the mountains showcased some great wildflowers.

As the elevation increased, the flowers gave way to trees, rocky hillsides, and eventually open vistas.

Olmstead Point is always a great place to stop and park.  There are even some short hikes that start from this parking area.  The views are incredible. I especially liked the big boulders that seem to be randomly scattered across the hills like marbles, awaiting for someone to come back and play.

Moving further east, Lake Tenaya came up alongside the road.  It is the largest natural lake in Yosemite National Park that is so close to a roadside.  If you take the time to stop and explore, there are some hikes in the area as well.

 

Highway 120 finally travels past Toulumne Meadows, my favorite part of the drive.  This sub-alpine meadow sits 8,755 feet high.  Although flowers were not extensive, the meadows were beautiful and expansive.

 

At various stops along the meadow, I took some videos to capture the panoramic sense of the meadows.

Moving beyond Tuolumne Meadows, the route finally reached Tioga Pass, at an elevation of 9.943 feet. Then it was a steep decline the six miles to the Eastern Entrance. The road passed Tioga Lake before connecting with Highway 395.

 

ANY DAY ANYWHERE IN YOSEMITE IS A GOOD DAY!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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