Take a flowery April drive
On the Bright Side
April 2, 2022
Weatherwise, March is supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb, or at least that is what the ol' almanac tells us. But our weather is so mixed up these days I'm not sure that old saw cuts wood anymore.
We did have a couple of lion-like days in March, if you count the wind and cold temps as lion-like, and we also got a couple of glimpses of warmer lamb-like weather to come. Another old saying is that April showers bring May flowers, but we've also already seen a bunch of wildflowers all over the lower elevations.
So we're in April now, and March is behind us, but the early wildflowers are still coming. Hopefully at our higher elevation, if we do get some of those April showers, we'll still get some color right here in town.
Meanwhile, though not a super bloom year, there are plenty of wildflowers to see near us if you can afford the gas to go see them. Here are a few of my favorite wildflower drives:
In the Antelope Valley, from Highway 14 on the north end of Lancaster, take the "I" Street exit and go west, following the signs to the Poppy Preserve. You won't, however, need to get into the preserve to see the poppies. Across the street from the entrance to the Reserve is a field that often gets covered with poppies; you can also see the splashes of brilliant orange color on the surrounding hills all around. Do go in the Preserve, however, to see more poppies and to learn more about them at the Visitor's Center.
From the Preserve, if you come back to 110th Avenue, turning to the south you'll go to the Lakes area – Elizabeth Lake and Lake Hughes – and you'll pass fields of poppies and goldfield and be treated to hills of color around the lakes.
If you continue west past the Poppy Preserve, you will eventually end up at a stop sign at "D" Street, which is also Highway 138. Go west on 138 about 30 miles to Gorman at I-5; along the way you'll drive through Joshua trees and more flowers, including fields of poppies and lupine, popcorn and goldfields.
At I-5, turn north (to go through Gorman on your way back toward Bakersfield); the hills to the east of the Interstate are often covered with huge bright splashes of orange and yellow. When my folks first moved to California years ago and saw the color on the Gorman hills, they couldn't imagine what it was. When they realized it was wildflowers, they could hardly believe that either, but they drove back by Gorman every year just to see the sight.
NOTE: Gorman can be a spectacular place to view wildflowers but I haven't been there yet this year and I wonder if the flowers there will come later due to its higher elevation. I plan to check it out later this month.
You can come back to Lancaster on 138 (things look different when you go a different direction on the same road), or you can go on toward Bakersfield. Take the 202 exit (Bear Mountain Road) and follow that through Arvin. Just outside Arvin, on your way to Highway 58, is another area of incredible waves of color. Because it is a lower elevation, people have been oohing and ahhhing over the blooms since early March, and they don't last forever.
Highway 58 will bring you back through the Tehachapi Mountains for more color on the hills, which may be coming later this month.
And if you're out and about, don't forget the desert flora. I love to take Oak Creek Road and Willow Springs-Tehachapi Road to see some wonderful desert color. Sometimes you have to look close to see the ground-hugging, tiny but colorful wildflowers – those patches of yellow are tiny goldfield, but you'll also see some white and purple flowers – and you can also see the Joshua tree blooms without half trying.
The lower elevations might have the flowers first, but patience is usually rewarded in the Tehachapi Mountains – the hills in Cummings Valley (as seen from 202 on the way to Bear Valley Springs) can rival just about any other spot for wild and colorful floral grandeur in a good year.
Aren't we lucky that Mother Nature puts on such a glorious show in Spring, so close to, or sometimes right in, our own backyard?
© 2022 Marilda Mel White. Mel White, local writer and photographer, has been looking on the bright side for various publications since 1996; she welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.