Chasing the Tail End of a Super Bloom
Carrizo Plain National Monument, Santa Margarita, California
April 23-26, 2023

During the heavy rains in California this winter I started planning a super bloom getaway. This could be my chance, at last, to see all the famed spots for super blooms in both central and southern California. Traveling the super bloom circuit has been one of my fantasies as part of my nomadic lifestyle. I thought that without ties to a particular spot we’d be able to roam the West at will.

However, whether you’re nomadic or not, life has its demands and its own scheduling. Between car repairs, doctors and dentists appointments, helping others, work obligations and the extreme weather, our departure date for getting back on the road has been continually delayed. Fortunately, we’ve had a wonderful place to stay in Los Altos Hills during this period.

As April progressed into May, the super bloom has been beginning to fade, especially in the south, despite all the media coverage and hype. Lengthening days and warming weather spell doom for blooms. One place that was still producing flowers was Carrizo Plain National Monument (CPNM) in central California. We camped there for two previous super blooms so I knew what to expect and had a basic idea of the geography.

CPNM is one of the last natural grasslands in California to not have succumbed to agriculture or development. And grasses it is! Barely a tree can be found in the vast 250,000 acres. This means there is no shade and no natural escape from the brilliant sunshine. Overcast and cloudy skies make for easier living and better photography. But my visit included four days of clear blue sky with relentless, glaring sun.

Chris could not come with me so I went there alone in my little Subaru Impreza. Originally, I thought I would tent camp but then realized that the challenges of car camping in a place without shade, power or facilities would be too much for me and my photography gear.

There is not much close to Carrizo Plain. You have to drive for many miles for decent groceries and gas. But I did track down an isolated funky motel just seven miles from the north entrance and booked three nights.

I knew it was past peak. But I also knew, there would be some remaining colorful displays. Plus nature always has surprises in store. In a year of a super duper super bloom, I wanted to capture what I could.

On my drive there, I stopped along Shell Creek Road. A few of the meadows were covered with a solid carpet of yellows, oranges, fuchsias, blues, purples and, of course, greens. People repeatedly say that photos and videos can’t capture the experience of walking among the flowers. And it is true. Being surrounded, immersed by glowing colors and breathing their sweet fragrance is euphoric! The growing vegetation exudes a vitality and a direct transmission of joy that requires you to be present with feet on the ground.

And then, like everything, it all fades away until after the next winter rain.

(More will be posted . . .)

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