There is gold in California.
More to the point, goldfields are blooming in California Valley. Also flowering are tidy tips, poppies, lupine, fiddleneck, shooting star, owl’s clover and baby blue eyes.
This year’s rains graced the arid Carrizo Plain National Monument with rare green grass and a brief explosion of wildflowers destined to fade once hot weather arrives. April traditionally is peak wildflower viewing; park officials said Thursday the flower show appears to be reaching its height this week and next week with a spectacular display that’s been missing in recent drought years.
Normal annual rainfall in California Valley is 7 to 10 inches. This year, about 11.5 inches of rain has fallen, PG&E meteorologist John Lindsey said.
This past Sunday, the usually quiet valley buzzed with the sound of bees and enthusiastic wildflower fans carrying field guides, cameras and clinking metal water bottles. The smell of pollen filled the air as older hikers pulled on sun hats and children ran down the trail.
Water lapped the shores of Soda Lake — a desiccated salt pan this time last year — and endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizards hunted for bugs.
“You’ll never see it like this again,” Steve Akers of San Luis Obispo said of the fleeting beauty. “It’s going to be different in five minutes. It will be different tomorrow.”
The easiest access is via Highway 58 east from Santa Margarita. From there, the drive is about an hour and 15 minutes. About 44 miles from Santa Margarita, turn right at Soda Lake Road. Then continue another 10 miles south to the Soda Lake Overlook.
You’ll never see it like this again. Its going to be different in five minutes. It will be different tomorrow.
Steve Akers of San Luis Obispo
If you want a break on the way, stop at Shell Creek Road for more wildflower viewing. This popular spot is about a half-hour, or 20 miles, from Santa Margarita. Keep in mind that this area is not publicly owned and respectful appreciation helps.
There are no services between Santa Margarita and the Carrizo Plain, so fill the gas tank and bring snacks.