Many places around Southern California are experiencing not only a bursting of wildflower blooms but also the congestion, traffic and bad human behavior that is an unfortunate byproduct of such a dazzling display of native flora.
Don’t let that stop you for witnessing one of nature’s greatest shows. Go out there and show the world how to appropriately spend a day with the flowers by modeling and inspiring good behavior. Keep the drones and dogs are home (poppies are toxic to canines) and “Don’t Doom The Bloom.” Walk on only marked trails, resist the temptation to pick flowers or seeds and take away only photos and memories. Your thoughtful enjoyment today will assure others will have the same joyous experience.
One of the best spots to see California poppies, our state flower, is the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, a state park that encompasses 1,700 acres with some spectacular views from easy sloping trails.
North of Los Angeles from the Highway 14, getting to the Reserve is a relatively quick drive; it’s about 15 miles west of Lancaster. If you can, arrive early for parking spots since there are only 450 official spaces inside the Reserve. Reserve hours are from 7am to 7pm. There is parking alongside the highway, but you will have to hoof it into the Reserve. (Watch where you park as citations will be given out.)
If you don’t park and pay for a daily fee, consider supporting the Reserve with a purchase in the Visitor’s Center – t-shirts, postcards, wildflower seeds, books, whatever strikes your fancy. Many of those working behind the counters and cash registers are volunteers who have been dealing with the throngs of people. Show them some love along with a smile and a THANK YOU.
Boxes of free trail maps are available for visitors, but it’s highly unlikely you will get lost since the landscape is easy to navigate. There are longer loops for the more adventuresome visitors; just remember, you are at a higher elevation (about 2600-3000 feet) so you may get a bit dizzy from the attitude and not necessary the explosion of color surrounding you.
Yes, there is more color here than the golden orange of poppies. You’ll see violet-toned lacy phacelias, deep purple wild hyacinths along with delicate white popcorn flowers and yellow fiddlenecks unfurling their coils of flowers. Bumblebees are having a feast day and the painted ladies of recent butterfly fame are still here flittering and nectaring above the blooms.
Other wildlife is nearby but hidden. It’s rattlesnake season which is another good reminder for visitors to stay on trails. Self-created paths also create visible scars on the landscape and disrupt plant roots and the small critters that live there. The views from the trails are awesome. No need to go off-trail.
In between snapping photos, posing for photos and looking at your photos, stop for a moment to consider the scene that is playing out before you. On a scale of 1-10, officials are charting this season’s bloom to be a 9.5 in terms of spectacular-ness. Our last true superbloom was in 2008 and there are many years where only a few flowers make it through a freak spring heat-wave or poor winter rains.
What you are witnessing may not appear again for years, maybe decades. All in all, the bloom will last about a month, albeit in different stages. Keep your conversations light and minimal. Drink in the view, the lightly perfumed air and the call of the Western meadowlark. Let the swirl of colors remind you of the natural joys of Southern California. Enjoy!
New this year are self-guided cell phone spots!