Part 2 of 3
We lived 90 minutes from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve for 21 years and never visited. We thought about it, but we always had an excuse.
“We’re too busy.”
“It’s too crowded.”
“It’s a bad bloom.”
So since we were passing by on our way back from admiring the wildflower super bloom at Anzo-Borrego Desert State Park, we decided it was time to stop and smell the poppies. We even spent the night in nearby Lancaster so we could do it right.
We arrived late in the afternoon and decided drive the 10 miles to the reserve before checking into our hotel. Lighting and weather conditions dictated by time of day can define a floral viewing experience. Ours was defined by a cold breeze.
While the poppy population was robust, the blossoms themselves were closed. The reserve looked more like a field of carrot-colored paint brushes amid California’s winter greenery than a blaze-orange carpet. Nice, but not stunning. After a brisk walk along the manicured trails, we headed back to town looking for a warm-up beverage, hoping for a better experience in the morning.
Morning arrived, sunny with no wind. We dawdled at the hotel and dined on Grand Slam fare at a nearby Denny’s while waiting for the overnight temperatures to rise, then headed back west on Avenue I.
As the hillside reserve came into view some seven miles from the parking lot, it was immediately apparent that the sky was bluer, the grasslands were greener, and the poppies were oranger in the mid-morning light. The color of the wide-open blossoms popped, as if an unseen hand wielding a jumbo orange crayon from the classic box of eight had left a thick Crayola smear across the landscape. Wow.
As we got closer, the disadvantage of an easy access super bloom became apparent. Parked cars lined the two-line highway near the reserve, with dozens of urban anthophiles drifting into the flowers at the base of the hill. And a line of cars with drivers willing to pay the $10 parking fee greeted us at the entrance. The trails weren’t packed – it was a weekday – but they were busy.
The only disappointment was the failure of many people to heed park rules to stay off of the flower beds and on the path. So many off-path selfies. And so unnecessary with poppies crowding the paths. The rattlesnake warning signs didn’t appear to help either, even when we saw two rangers re-locating a rattler away from parking and into the fields. People, behave!
Distractions aside, we were glad we finally stopped by. The orange carpet of poppies was lovely. And the harder you stare at the carpet, the more tiny accent flowers that come into view — fiddleneck, blue dick, red stem filaree.
No wonder the reserve is such a draw for Angelinos and passersby. It was worth the layover, but it was time to drive west to the Carrizo Plain National Monument – the super bloom less traveled.
Coming Soon: Super Bloom Part 3 — The Carrizo Plain Blows our Minds; Please Don’t Tell