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Travelogue: Carrizo Plain National Monument, CA

We caught the superbloom! If you haven’t been following the news coming out of the Bureau of Land Management’s California office , I’ll explain what that means.

Following the nigh drought-ending rainstorms that pummeled California this winter, a so called “superbloom” of wildflowers is happening across the state. Such an extensive bloom of  wildflowers hasn’t been seen in California since  2005!

As both a photographer and someone who just plain loves flowers, I was eager to see this rare occurrence. We’ve been tracking the bloom since we first learned of it and knew we wanted to intersect its path at some point. With that in mind, we left Mojave National Preserve and made our way across the central valley through Bakersfield and up into the Temblor Range on the other side.

The central valley was an interesting experience, partly because it reminded us so much of Texas. Hundreds of flat acres of cropland, sprawling cattle ranches, and oil fields? History of severe drought? Yep, sounds quite a bit like parts of our home state. None the less, the miles-long pistachio and almond groves were a real sight to see.

On our way through the Temblor Range, we were struck by how many beekeeping operations we spotted in the hills. Ryan’s brother is a beekeeper and we spent about six months of last year parked next to his hives (yes, the bees made pleasant neighbors), so our appreciation for bees and their keepers has grown immensely. Seeing so many hives tucked into the rolling hills was awesome!

And then, rather suddenly, we found ourselves looking at Carrizo Plain National Monument, and miles of bright yellow wildflowers in every direction!

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Superbloom!

Since the forecast cited rain the next day, we heeded the signs warning that the road to KCL Campground is impassible in wet conditions, and headed for Selby Campground instead. Unfortunately many other people had the same idea and we struck out in finding a site in the campground itself. Instead we found ourselves parked on a steep downhill grade in the overflow parking area at a nearby trail head. It wasn’t the most comfortable of parking spots, but we made do for the night.

The next morning we woke to find that the predicted rain was on its way, and with miles of unpaved road followed by some steep slopes to traverse, we had to make an early start. We were fortunate to beat the rain long enough to photograph the wildflowers and for us to get a sense of this incredible place.

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Thunderstorm on its way!

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Early morning hike in Carrizo Plain

We met some native Californians who told us how different Carrizo Plain looks during the summer when its dominant feature, Soda Lake, dries up leaving a salt flat that creates the impression of flickering mirage. We saw no trace of that landscape during our visit – instead seeing only tall grasses brimming with wildflowers, birds, and even small herds of antelope.

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View of Soda Lake at Carrizo Plain National Monument

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Of course we pulled over to snap some photos.

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The thunderstorm made for great photos, but poor driving conditions.

To find out where wildflowers are currently blooming in California, there’s a hotline maintained by the Theodore Payne Foundations for Wildflowers & Native Plants with details updated every Friday.

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