With the Spring Equinox and Easter now behind us, it feels like warm days and blossoms are just around the corner. (However, as I type this post, a blizzard is paralyzing the Eastern plains of Colorado and I-70 has shut down from Airport Rd. to Kansas.) I sit inside our home on this cool, Spring evening, and think of my journey through California and the Southwest’s super bloom last year. I can still feel the warmth of the sun and the brush of foliage on my calves as I hiked through fields of flowers, climbed coastal cliffs, and deciphered the desert’s magnificent beauty.
Just a little North, in the countryside West of the Sierra Mountains, trees don fruit instead of flowers, with bunches of oranges and lemons weighing down limbs. Olive tree branches blow gently in the wind. Almond and pistachio fields dominate areas, and strawberry fields spring to life in the many shades of red, with pickers working hard in the fields to satisfy hungry buyers. Early April will still see some snow in the higher elevations of the Sierras, and King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Parks are still monitoring plows. But soon the snow melt flows down the mountains, helping the rivers and creeks to feel full for a month or so before water restrictions begin once more in this normally arid space.
Circle back to the coast near San Francisco and you will see succulents such as ice plant with striking pink and purple blooms growing in the sand along the cliffs. The salt spray from the waves crashing on the rugged rocks brings a humid, lush environment, drenched with fog and mist most days. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area provides multiple options for dog friendly hikes and beach play, but bring your hoodie and umbrella, as San Fran’s constant temp is 55 degrees with always a chance of rain. The coastal cliffs cascade into the crashing waves below as you wind your way South on Hwy 1 along the Pacific Ocean, from Monterrey to Santa Monica. This section takes time, as it is one of the most stunning and isolating stretches of a California road trip. Between Big Sur and Los Obisbo, the only option is to keep going, as side streets to take you inland are rare. The curves are tight, hugging the cliffs, calling for a slower speed, and the scenery beckons you to calm and stay a minute. Many camp in state parks or stay at a hostel that’s in a lighthouse along the route. However you choose to experience this portion of the adventure, it is demanding of your time and attention. On one trip, we chose to stay in Santa Barbara with a boat charter booked to the Channel Islands National Park. We sailed through the thick marine layer, out to breathtaking hikes in the middle of the Pacific.
The multiple national and state parks, campgrounds, and viewpoints along the route give you plenty of profile picture worthy selfie options or landscape photos for this year’s holiday card. From the desert, to fruit trees, to the mountains, to the coast, a California Spring is one that will ignite your imagination. Twitter fills with tips about the latest blooms to have been spotted, typically using the #superbloom tag. I just did a quick search on this year’s tips, and it seems that Canyon View Reserve and Carrizo Plain National Monument are this weekend’s beauties. The tradition continues, even if it isn’t as explosive in blooms this year. If you go, enjoy, and please take a picture to send to me, if for no other reason than to make me green with envy for your adventure. I shall now return to my crisp, slowly awakening Colorado garden.