THE EPHEMERAL MAGIC CARPET: VISITING CALIFORNIA’S SPRINGTIME WILDFLOWERS
I have two favorite places that I return to each spring season when I am in California:
Death Valley – The flowers of Death Valley are set in the vast and majestic context of the desert, spreading out beneath snow capped mountains in the distance.
Carrizo Plain – More accessible, the Carrizzo Plain offers a colorful carpet of flowers undulating over a Super Mario Bros. landscape that is closer to the San Francisco and Los Angeles regions than Death Valley.
Trip report: March 29, 2008
My flower-thirsty friends and I set out down I-5 after work on Friday evening to drive towards the supposedly impressive flower cabal on and around the Carrizo Plain. I’d been following the reports of this season’s bloom, and the timing seemed right for a trip down the yellow poppy road in our rented Ford Explorer, the William and Clark of automobiles, no doubt.
In the morning, we stopped in the exquisite town of Shandon and stocked up on picnic supplies (sausage / cheese / Tecate beer) and headed down the road in search of nearby flowers. We followed our instincts and made a left (south) down Highway 41. Some hills were showing signs of color. Promising.
It was a pleasant ride through some grape vineyards, but we hadn’t come to the mother lode yet. Tensions ran high. Some inter-Ford disagreements on direction came up. Turning left down Wood Canyon Road, things got very promising.
A slight bend in the road opened up an unforgettable vista. We had struck orange oil.
We spent the day enjoying our unhealthy picnic while swimming in a pool of poppies. Unforgettable.
After we were flowered-out, we took advantage of the proximity to Paso Robles by heading straight to the soon-to-be-closing tasting rooms of the Paso Robles wineries. A perfect end to a perfect day fueled by flower power and Mexican beer.
Trip report: March 29, 2004
The Carrizo Plain is named so in honor of ____, while Death Valley is named in honor of, well, death. Death Valley conjures up stark images of parched, cracked plains and sandy dunes. I’d never expect to see such a colorful display of flowery expanse in this, the driest place in the USA.
Laurie and I would begin our voyage entering the park from Death Valley Junction just southeast of the park. Each year, the most impressive flower bloom can be found near the southern entrance of Death Valley National Park. Along Route 190 and just about two miles north of the park entrance, there are two wide plains that generally fill with flowers each March and April. It makes for a wonderful gateway into one of America’s most surreal national parks.
Check the reports each season to get up-to-date information about which areas of California are worth visiting during the wildflower season.