#75, See Wildflowers
I have been hearing all about the “superbloom” of wildflowers in Death Valley and I have been trying to work a trip into my schedule, but a four hour drive there and a four hour drive back just doesn’t work very well in a single day. Not only did I not want to leave teenagers for that length of time, I was also a bit worried that the wildflower bloom might have already peaked. I didn’t want to go all the way out there only to find that the flowers were done.
If you’re wondering why I don’t wait until the weekend and take the teenagers with me, you must not have teenagers. There comes a point when demanding that they join in wildflower viewing sounds ridiculous, even to me.
I did a little more research and I found a website called DesertUSA which has daily wildflower reports. I was pleased to learn that one individual had spotted wildflowers less than two hours away in the Antelope Valley on Highway 138 as recently as Monday. Knowing that the California Poppy Reserve is not far from the spotting, I decided that would be a good place to start.
I woke up at 5:00 am and hit the road. I wanted to arrive at the California Poppy Reserve just as the sun was rising, so the light would be good for photographs. I got there just in time.
I parked the Jeep in the lot. No one was there. I left a $10 bill in the self-registration envelope, grabbed my coffee, my camera, and headed up a trail that said it was a 1.2 mile loop. Either it was much longer than that or I dillydallied a lot, because the loop took me a couple of hours.
There was a nice showing of California Poppies on the hillsides, but as the sun wasn’t completely up yet, the flowers weren’t open. They were beautiful to look at, but not exactly their photogenic best. The first part of the trail is shaded by hills, but yellow and blue flowers were in abundance as well.
(Please allow me a two second frustrated YELL that my photos do not represent the splendor of my view. I am learning photography slowly. AAAAARRRRGHHHH. Okay, I’m done yelling. Thanks.)
Otherwise, I had a perfect morning. The air was fragrant and the birds were calling to one another. It was so quiet that I looked around with alarm when I heard a whoosh whoosh sound. It turned out to be the flapping wings of crows overhead. I’ve seen lots of crows before, but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard their wings moving through the air like the blades of a helicopter.
I kept an eye on the ground for rattlesnakes and occasionally I would sit on one of the freezing concrete benches along the trail. Before long, I saw two hikers in the distance. They were moving slowly so they didn’t catch up with me.
I enjoyed the cool air. The stillness and the solitude settled me. I had been there an hour when I realized my jaw was unclenching. I hadn’t felt stressed, but it isn’t always something I recognize. I took a deep breath.
I decided to hit the road again and see what I could see. I took the highway toward Lake Hughes and within fifteen minutes I was in wildflower heaven.
The hillsides were covered.
I loved driving my Jeep through the winding roads while listening to Indigo Girls and the Eagles. I braided my hair and rolled all the windows down. I felt as though I could explore this way for months, maybe years. In a shaded section of road, I stopped and picked up pinecones the size of my head. Pine sap got all over my hands and I had to rub hand sanitizer into them to clean them.
I saw these horses near the road and one stopped to pose for me while roosters with long red and purple tail feathers crowed in the distance.
I saw a pair of lizards that stood still long enough for me to change lenses, but apparently not long enough for me to get them in focus.
Seeing the wildflowers today brought back happy childhood memories of touring these same roads with my mom and my stepdad. I’d be squeezed into the back of our VW bug and we’d sing along to Paul Simon and make picnics of cold chicken, sliced cheese, and Triscuits.
I have driven my own children thousands and thousands of miles across the U.S., while we listened to Coldplay, and ate in funky diners or ate Dairy Queen soft-serve cones dipped in chocolate.
I hope when the kids are grown and the pressures of adulthood become a bit heavy, they will remember the joys found on a country road, in the open air, with good food, good music and a mom who loved them like a rock.
(She loves me, she loves me, she gets down on her knees and hug me, Oh, she loves me like a rock.)
289 days to go!