It’s wildflower time once again. A couple of days ago I was driving through the countryside, when I was struck by the absolute beauty of the wild Lupine flowers that are in bloom now.
I realize that it may not seem very macho for a guy to carry on about wildflowers, but I can’t help it. Wildflower season is here with a vengeance and I love it. Even though freeways are probably the antithesis of beauty, I really enjoy the profusion of Golden Poppies amidst the carpet of emerald green at the occasional off ramp. The new adopt-a-freeway program is a great idea and sure makes the roadsides prettier.
Further afield, now is undoubtedly the absolute best time of the year to visit the Mother Lode and enjoy the magnificent wildflowers. If you’ve got a couple hours of free time and some film in your camera, drive for an hour or so toward Yosemite Park for one of the prettiest drives you could ever find. Whether you take River Road from Ripon, Highway132 out of Modesto, or Highway 140 out of Merced you’ll see enough wildflowers to delight your senses. One of my favorite trips is to take Highway 120 through Escalon all the way up to Yosemite Park. Turn off of Highway 120 through Yosemite Valley and return down Highway 140 through Mariposa and Merced. Pack a lunch and picnic along the Merced River in Yosemite Valley. I guarantee that you’ll see enough wildflowers to restore even the most frazzled soul. I suspect the Psalmist, David, knew what he was talking about when he tied green pastures and still waters in with restoring one’s soul.
If you want to get away from the car and aren’t afraid to take a little hike, then I’d recommend parking your car at Savages Trading Post at the mouth of the South Fork of the Merced River about 5 miles west of Yosemite Park. Take the trail that starts at the Trading Post, and hike upstream (south) for about 2 miles. You will get away from car and bus traffic, soak in the fresh air, the wildflowers, and the views of the South Fork cascading below you. With each step it seems as though I can feel the knots in my muscles unwind a little more.
To enjoy your hike even more, you might want to stop at the library before you leave and pick up a book on wildflowers. Even better yet, buy your own copy in Yosemite Valley or at one of the many shops in the towns along the way. In addition to one of the many great wildflower books, you might want to get “Discovering Sierra Trees” by Stephen Arno, and “Treasures Of The South Fork” by my friend, Ralph Mendershausen. Both books are paperbacks and will fit right into a daypack with your picnic lunch. My copies have become yellowed and dog-eared through decades of use. If you really want to get into reading about the region the hardbound book “Sierra Nevada” by Verna Johnston is a super source that covers everything from plants and animals to geology and history.
Almost all of my favorite wildflowers are present in the South Fork Canyon. In addition to the our state flower, the California Golden Poppy, there is also the striking Mariposa Poppy (actually the Mariposa Lilly) which is a beautiful cream color. The blue and purple Lupines decorate the South Fork in profusion, as do the dainty purple Shooting Stars and Brodeas. If you look along the little seasonal creeks that flow under your feet along the South Fork trail, you’ll see the stately red wild Columbines. Although the flowers are breathtaking, try not to pick them if you can. Bring your camera instead. Even the lousiest photographer can take some beautiful pictures, believe me, I know. You can select some of your best shots, enlarge them, and mount them on you wall, where your friends will marvel at their beauty and tell you what a great photographer you are. Besides, those great pictures you took, will still be beautiful on a cold and rainy night years from now, reminding you of the great time you had on your Spring wildflower hike in the Gold Country.
Until Next Week,