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Saturday, April 09, 2011

Bear Valley Trek

I know, I know. You're tired getting a bit tired of my annual tirade over wildflowers, right?

Well, tough Tidy Tips!

Tidy Tips

Wildflowers are damned near as exciting as birds, so to make up for it, they DO NOT fly away as you approach them. Isn't that amazing? Heck, I think it is. Anyway, early this morning I sat in my car, in the driveway, so excited about hitting the wildflowers, I couldn't sit still in my own house. I think it's 'cause flower pollen is sort of a derivative of hallucinogens. Anyway, my friends, the pair of Terrys made it over and soon we were OFF. No, not that kind of off, I mean we were on our way to beautiful (cause I say so) Bear Valley.

As very nearly hinted at above, the first flowers we saw was an old cattle coral full of tidy tips. On a distant little hill you can see the flowers are sort of orangy-yellow; those are Goldfields sort of a tiny daisy.

The first wildflower patch

The drive around Bear Valley is interesting. The first few miles run along a little creek that I imagine is dry most of the year. Right now it's lined with flowering shrubs that aspire to be Japanese Cherry Trees.

A few miles in we spotted Common Merganser, which are sort of ducks with teeth. No, really, that's a great description; toothy ducks. If you click on the photo below you'll just be able to make out the green headed drake and his red-headed sweetie.

Common Mergansers

After you leave the creek the drive goes up hill where you hit some huge pastures, sprinkled with loads of wildflowers: butter and eggs (Johnny Tuck) an adorable parasite and a nice spattering of blue Larkspur.

Terry checking out the pale yellow Butter and Eggs

Sprinkling of Goldmeadows, and the odd violet or larkspur

Just for the fun of it, Mom Nature stuck a few little yellow Violets, so cute, they have loads of different names: Johnny-jump-up, Yellow Violet, Yellow Pansy, Wild Pansy and the best name of all, California Golden Violet. Don't you wish I'd spent a little time taking a better photo of it? Yes, me too.

California Golden Violet

Independent Larkspurs dotted the Pastures

Then we drove along a long stretch of road, with me driving on the wrong side of the road, not to piss off other sightseers of which there were only a few anyway - but because I was looking for the Adobe Lilies, a rare early season wildflower. Unfortunately those lovelies finished up and dropped out of the picture a couple of weeks ago. They may not fly, but you still have to sneak up on some flowers pretty early in the season if you hope to see them.

Ahead of us we could see the largest stretch of valley - and TADA! There were were flower patches down there - I'd been worried we were arriving too early - or too late to see any flower spreads.

You can see white patches of flowers
on the right in the valley ahead

The Terrys and a field of dreams... er... Cream Cups

The valley flats are the bits that thrill me the most. There's something about seeing flowers drifting out onto the distance - hypnotically beautiful.

I like to imagine there are no fences, or houses, just wildflowers

Some year I will have to take wildflower photography seriously and take some time in capturing their beauty. Just now I'm still like a silly child, racing from one patch of blooms to the next, barely taking the time to focus or even aim my camera. Some day I'll calm down a bit and take my time. Some day I'll get nice photos with no sun bleached blooms and no fuzzy edges. Some day I'll then turn around the camera and photograph the pigs flying by.

Click here and hunt down Cream Cups,
Owl's Clover and Bird's Eye Gilia

Surprisingly, there were few California Poppies

We were, I think, too early for large orange spreads of California Poppies. There were wet bits of land that sprouted yellow buttercups that grew in what looked like dark green rushes. Oh, and there were cattle - fat happy cattle and tiny calves, free to graze and lick up those tasty Cream Cups. I envied the cows!

The Gateway to the Bear Valley Ranch

We stopped for a fantastic lunch, which was BBQ'd for our picnic lunch by Terry (not Terry, the other one). Yes, I get confused too. We had tri-tip steak on cibata bread - yummy.

After our lovely lunch we left the flats, headed into the hills, curling eastward again. The hills passed are very rocky and are great fodder for the imagination.

Doggy Head Mountain

Once you're headed up hill, there are a whole new variety of wildflowers to peek at. Ok, some are a repeat - we found loads of Larkspur hugging the hillsides.

Larkspur hug the hills

We found a little patch of chia, yes, chi-chi-chi-chia! A species related to the chia pets. I have grown a re-seeding patch of this species in my yard, because I love that it was a food species for the Valley Indians. The chia seed when wet forms sort of a gelatin coating that is rich in protein, and is kind of crunchy. I haven't harvested mine for food yet, but I get a kick out of it popping up all on it's own annually.

Wild Indian food: purple flowering Chia

Also lining the hillsides were bush Lupines. There were also teeny little mini-lupines that weren't more than 3 inches tall, and yellow lupines that looked like tallow candles and were half way in size between the bush and mini-lupines.

A bush Lupine framed against the sky

Bright Orange Wallflowers also stood as tall as candlesticks, and they seemed to exclusively like slopes.


I think our Bear Valley drive through, once we got there, took maybe three hours. Aside from the showy spreads of Cream Cups, Bird's Eye Gillia and Purple Owl's Clover, there were tiny and sometimes weird flowers to enjoy too. Here's a weird one - Purple Sanicle, so strange, it hardly looks like a flower at all. Odd yes, but as worthy of a day's driving as any of the other wildflowers we saw at Bear Valley. All in all, it was a nice day for enjoying Mother Nature and, come to that, my friends the Terrys!

The Bizarre little Purple Sanicle

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