Full disclosure first, I am a wildflower nut.
There is something so amazing about seeds that hibernate for years, waiting for the perfect time to bloom before going dormant for years again. Wildflowers are nature's fireworks and as we are rediscovering this year, California is one of the best spots in the world to see them.
No doubt by now you have seen some orange poppies here and there in your area but the real show is in out of the way places mostly undisturbed by people and animals. The Carrizo Plain National Monument in San Luis Obispo County is one of those places. Totally and completely quiet and undisturbed for years, until the wildflowers go off. This is one of those years.
I used to work on the Central Coast of California for years and had many chances for stories or just passing through to see California Valley off Highway 58 in many different seasons. Two stories that stick out are the unreal heat they get there, a high valley drenched in sunshine routinely hit 100 degrees and was the hottest spot around so we checked it out. Yup, it was really really hot and the locals were excited to talk about it.
Side note: this fun sunny fact was not lost on energy providers and California Valley is now home to massive solar panel sites. Another story I was there for was a grasshopper invasion. Seriously. Long story short is that a huge number of grasshoppers took over the town and were eating all the plants. Fruit plants are cherished because it's such a long drive to town to get fruit so many grow their own. Like I said it's a quiet place, but an unbelievable opportunity to see California as it was. Rural, quiet, and very very friendly.
This takes us back to the wildflowers, no doubt one of the best times of the year there is right now when the flowers come back. The directions are pretty easy: Take I-5 South to 58 West, take Soda Lake Road South and eventually you are there.
My top tip is to make sure you have everything you need there really isn't anything out there. You need a full tank of gas and bring food. I remember one diner at the turn off but the hours were odd and just don't count on it being open. The other thing to remember is there is that a lot of the open land...is private. There is some ranching there and one thing ranchers hate is people walking through gates and letting the cows out. So wait until you get to the Carrizo Plain National Monument so you don't run into any issues. Finally remember that these flowers are fragile so stick to the well worn paths...trust me you can't take a bad photo here and trudging 200 yards into a fresh field of flowers isn't going to make it that much better.
This is a rare chance to see something really special and something we don't know will last forever. John Muir famously talked about walking for miles and miles through orange poppy fields in the Central Valley, how many of those places are left? This is one of those places, enjoy it and think back to a time when much of California looked like this during spring. Rivers loaded with salmon and bears and a place that was truly wild.
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