Tuesday, March 31, 2009

SLO Bloom

I recently drove my son to Cal-Poly (California Polytechnic State University) in San Luis Obispo (aka SLO) after his spring break of sleeping, hanging out with the ranch cat, and overall recharging. We took a side trip over the Santa Lucia Mountains to see the spring wildflowers on Shell Creek Road off Highway 58, about 19 miles east of Santa Margarita. The later has some excellent delis to fuel your botanical wanderings.

<--- goldfields & baby blue eyes ---

--- tidy tips --->

The carpets of goldfields, tidy tips, baby blue eyes, California poppies, lupines, Indian paintbrush, and chia were fab the last weekend in March and many people were jigging between blooms like giant, wingless insects. Lots of photographers, some painters and a few tailgate parties. Nature Ali has lots of Shell Creek photos with wildflower id.

<--- shooting stars ---

We found the rocks and flotsam on the sandy floodplain above the creek just as attractive. Shell Creek is so called because of the fossilized shells it deposits. By the variety of the rocks we found (my guesses are sandstone, obsidian, granite, and fossils), it must carve through many different aged beds. The properties along Shell Creek Road appear to be privately-owned cattle ranches and a winery, but most of the roadside is not fenced in as if to accommodate this unique spring break crowd.

Further back from the road are fences and No Trespassing signs which should be respected. Some previous visitors had spun donuts on the road and left some bottles, but the daytime visitors we saw were respectful and happy to be among the wildflowers.

<--- ceonothus ---

I kept thinking there should be snakes out on those crumbly hillslopes, but we saw none, so perhaps it was not warm enough yet. Nor had the occasional blue oak trees above the wildflower fields popped their wavy green leaves.

We looped back towards SLO on Pozo Road in the La Panza Range and then on various Forest Service roads, the later due to a wrong turn while being distracted by colorful hillsides. As I've claimed many times, "I have never been permanently lost." Red Hill and McGinnis Creek Roads were somewhat narrow with switchbacks and culverted creek crossings, but not bad for Forest Service Roads probably because they had been graded since the last rains.

Signs on Pozo Road as you enter the Forest Service lands warn not to travel them in rainy weather due to possible washouts. Another sign along the way suggests you "Slow your sweet a__ down". Black Mountain and Parkhill Roads are even paved probably because of a communications outpost at the top of Black Mountain Road.

The trick when navigating Forest Service roads is to follow the old folks in the Pontiac Le Mans, assuming they are locals visiting a favorite old haunt in their retirement comfort car rather than lost tourists - that would be us. I drive a Subaru just to cover such mistakes when my wanderlust strikes. My son is game for exploring backroads, especially when he is driving a sturdy manual vehicle, whereas my sisters tell horror stories about my wayward routes.

<--- chia, old & new ---

In the La Panza Range, we saw fields and hillsides of shooting stars, fiddleneck, miner's lettuce, blooming ceanothus brush and the occasional dirt biker. Also a few longhorn cattle and a flock of turkeys with several toms doing their fantail strut next to the county road while the hens cackled.

I found myself most attracted to the dried seedheads of the wildflowers from last year contrasted with the bright blossoms or fresh leaves of this year. It's like figuring out a colorful puzzle.

<--- new buckwheat leaves ---

--- threadlike buckwheat seedhead from last year --->

Thanks to the rains and warm spring sun for rejuvenating these wildflower fields and us over spring break.

<--- down & out at the end of the quarter ---

--- upright & outstanding in the field at the end of spring break --->

--- sheep on the Cal-Poly campus taking spring break SLO-style ---
"Slow your sweet baaaaa down."

1 comment:

  1. Ha! La Panza range! Panza is your belly fat...I wonder who lived there to garner the name?


Comments let me know to keep on sharing what's happening at the Dipper Ranch. You can either use an existing account or choose "Anonymous" by clicking the arrow after the "Comment As" box. Your comment will appear after a delay to allow screening of spam.