Author photo

By Mel Makaw
contributing writer 

Hart Memorial Park

Day Trippin' with Mel


March 18, 2023

Mel Makaw.

Wildflower color is already visible in the Arvin area.

One rainy day last week when I was suffering greatly from cabin fever, I decided I had to get out of the house, destination unknown. I just started to drive, taking the 58 West.

I've been thinking about writing a "where to see the wildflowers" column, since we're all hoping for a great season after all the moisture that's fallen, but it's still a little early in the mountains for that. In the lower lands, however, as I drove down the hill, I saw that wildflowers are already starting to pop up.

On a whim I turned off to go to Arvin. Sure enough, I was delighted to see lots of yellows and whites and purples, and even a few of the extra bright orange poppies. The season there has begun, and I think it will only get better and better.

Then on another whim, for no particular reason, I decided to go to Hart Park, just north of Bakersfield. It's been a favorite place of mine for years and I haven't been there since last summer; I decided to see what it was like on this winter day.

It turned out to be a most glorious day and a great decision. Out of the clouds and rain in Tehachapi, the sun was shining down there, and the sky was blue and full of big fluffy white clouds. The river was peacefully flowing (fuller than it's been in a long while); the grass was green and some of the trees were leafing out.

Several other people were enjoying the park along with me, although it was nowhere near as busy as I've seen it (I was there on a weekday this time; weekends are usually busier). Some were riding bicycles (there is a bike path nearby), some were picnicking, some were feeding the ducks. Some were just sitting by the river, some were walking their dogs, some were playing with a Frisbee. It could have been any Spring or summer day for outdoor activities.

I drove around and around (the park is 370 acres with lots of paved roadways through it), stopping to take pictures with my phone, stopping for a while to just watch the river, stopping at the lake to watch the waterfowl and the other people, and to use the facilities.

I looked for the peacocks that live in the park but never saw one (I did, however, hear their cries so I know they were there somewhere). I saw plenty of squirrels and birds and waterfowl, the skittish feral cats, and one very friendly raccoon who posed for a picture without letting me get too close.

If you go, take the 58 toward Bakersfield, exit on Comanche and head north. A few miles in there is a stoplight at the 178 – go through the stoplight and Comanche becomes Alfred Harrell Highway; follow the signs to CALM (3 miles). Hart Memorial Park is about a mile past the CALM complex.

There is no admission fee to the park, and while many of the restroom facilities are closed, some of them are open this time of year. There's plenty of parking all over the park.

Bring your own food and drink as there are no concession stands. Fishing is allowed in the two lakes and the Kern River; there are numerous picnic tables and fire pits in the park. People do, with caution, cool off in the river in the heat of the summer months.

Mel Makaw.

The Kern River can be beautiful and inviting, but it can also be dangerous; many signs in the park encourage caution.

I wished I'd brought a picnic that day, but I hadn't planned ahead for that. As it was, it was just a very pleasant and easy day to enjoy a kind of nature we don't get to experience here in the Tehachapi mountains. Green grass, lots of trees and critter activity, warmer temps and a river running through it.

I was reminded again of how nice it is sometimes, to: 1) just be spontaneous; and 2) just get out and sit in nature for a little while. No big plans, no big expectations, just a little change of scenery, just being there and enjoying the winter sun and the quiet, and the sound of the river, and the call of the birds and waterfowl.

Perhaps next up will be all about the wildflowers.

© 2023 Mel Makaw. Mel, Tehachapi writer/photographer and avid day tripper welcomes your questions, comments, and suggestions at


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