Wildflower alert!! Thanks to a record dry winter many parts of California are experiencing a pitiful wildflower season. Carrizo Plain, a typical wildflower hotspot, has posted on their website that there are zero blooms in the monument. Other usually choice locations around the state aren’t faring any better. However, March’s abundant rainfall has brought true spring conditions and blazing wildflowers to the central Sierra foothills.
The Merced River canyon is in full swing at the moment, the highlight being whole hillsides carpeted with poppies. For more information, check out Michael Frye’s blog. Further north, outstanding displays can be found in some off-the-beaten path locations along highway 108.
One great spot is the Red Hills, a small hiking and offroading area about 15 miles from Sonora. Exploring the Red Hills on Sunday, April 6th I found wonderful displays of multiple kinds of poppies, from large to small and deep orange to bright yellow.
The are also profuse lupine displays along the sides of Red Hills road and Sims road. I also saw hillsides covered with goldfields, and small patches of wally baskets here and there. Aside from the flowers the Red Hills also sports some lovely pastoral scenery. If you’re looking for easy access to flowers, the Red Hills is a great place to go right now. Map: https://goo.gl/maps/cJXgk.
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However, the best displays of flowers I’ve personally seen recently are on top of Table Mountain, an ancient lava flow which now juts up above the landscape near Jamestown. I hiked to the top of Table Mountain on Sunday, March 27th, and found the landscape literally carpeted with flowers.
Unfortunately I only had my iPhone with me, so forgive the quality of these shots, but they still show the incredible abundance of flowers up there. I saw paintbrush and blue dicks here and there, but the real smorgasbord was in the goldfields and the lupine. There were golden fields of goldfields stretching out across the rock, and in a few low spots the lupine ran like streams. I’ll be heading back there personally some time this week, depending on weather conditions.
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If you’d like to check out Table Mountain yourself drive to the end of Shell Road in Jamestown (map: https://goo.gl/maps/6SJ75). You can park there, go through the hiker gate, and follow the trail through an idyllic oak savanna about 30 minutes to another hiker gate. Alternatively you can drive through the car gate about 10 minutes down a dirt road (4WD high clearance recommended) to a second car gate, where the road meets up again with the hiking trail. From there it’s a moderate 15-minute climb to the top of the mountain. Watch out for the poison oak though; while it’s easily avoidable on the trail it covers either side with barely-contained fury.
The flowers appeared to be just about at peak in both locations this past week but I suspect that quality blooms will stick around at least through this weekend. So if you’re a wildflower hunter now is the time to head out to the central Sierra.