An explosion of color from the Wild Flowers as Spring comes to the CARIZZO PLAIN NATIONAL MONUMENT in Southern California.
Isolated from the busy freeways, about an hour east of San Luise Obispo, is the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Fifty miles long and fifteen miles wide, it is not a monument in the sense of a bronze or plaster statue, but rather a huge grasslands with a dry alkali bed of water known as Soda Lake. This is the largest remaining alkali wetlands in Southern California and it is named Soda Lake because as the water evaporates, the chemicals become concentrated leaving dried sulfates and carbonates, resembling baking soda on the surface.
While the spot is known to nature lovers and birders, most people have never heard of it and it is definitely off the well traversed tourist route.
Last year the secret was out when this part of the country burst into color with an explosion of wild flowers seldom seen before and no one can predict when it will happen again. The reason for the profusion of flowers was the unexpected heavy rains that were experienced in the winter and spring following a period of drought. It became known as “Superbloom”, and the Instagrammers and Facebookers went into overdrive capturing the exceptional images.
Wild flowers in a remote corner of California are not usually “my thing”, but there were so many dramatic reports in the papers, urging people to go before the flowers passed their prime, that I decided to go and see what this was about.
Leaving the 101 freeway at Santa Margaretha, a small hamlet that is in a time warp and worth a stop for refreshments, I followed the directions that were supplied by the Wild Flower Hotline. What they did not mention was that the GPS works only sporadically after one leaves “Civilization”and to have excellent directions before setting out.
Arriving, there was a small building where I was able to get more information, but I knew I had arrived because the plains were alive with color, yellow coreopsis, purple phacelia and blue lupins seemed to dominate, expanses of flowers, bending in the wind like soldiers. Never ever have I seen such a profusion of wild flowers blanketing the flats, the hills and the ravines. It was a photographers dream and there were people with camera gear capturing the mile after mile of colorful landscape.
Becoming engrossed in the experience and trying to find as many fields of flowers as possible, I lost sense of time until I realized the sun was getting low and it was time to leave and find my way back to the freeway before dark. There are vast expanses with no humans and it is easy to get lost especially as dusk falls. Ask me how I know !! There are some road signs but it is very remote with no street lights and poor GPS reception. Fortunately I found a Fire Station and the firefighters set me on the course back to civilization untilI I was able to reconnect with the GPS.
This year when I checked the papers and websites for news of the California Wild Flowers, every report said the wether conditions had not been favorable and last year’s “Superbloom” will likely take years to be repeated.
Was it worth it? Absolutely.
If ever you read that it is a good season for the wild flowers, don’t hesitate. It is an unforgettable experience. Through the Wildflower Hotline, it is possible to find out different areas where the Wild flowers can be seen, their varieties and best time to view them.