Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Carrizo Plain - Finally Some Wildflowers

The Carrizo Plain, a National Monument administered by BLM, is usually rather plain. Despite its reputation for wildflowers, I've never seen any on several bicycle rides through the Carrizo Plain in the spring, here are two trip reports from the TDLP that went through it. 


or here: https://rolandsturm.blogspot.com/2014/04/

But 2017 was different:

Usually, it looks very desert-like, although technically the Carrizo Plain is classified as semi-arid grassland. Whatever vegetation may grow (not much) is used by cows and there is an abundance of abandoned oil wells (no commercially viable oil has been found here). Like 2014, this is the main road through the valley:
Soda Lake Road, spring 2014
Near Soda Lake Road, same time of year, in 2017

The Tour de Los Padres was scheduled for April, but I took my KLR a bit earlier to make sure I don't miss the flowers this year and they were really impressive. There was a lot of traffic along the main road in the valley, many other people wanted to see the wildflower, but that would have made biking rather unpleasant - the deep sand in the road is tedious enough by itself and lots of cars doesn't improve the experience. 

Most people stay in the valley and are a bit disappointed because there isn't that much to see. I was asked a few times where to see the spectacular wildflowers they had seen on TV or newspapers, but the answer was disappointing to them: You have to go over the range or into some of the canyons. That involves hiking and/or a more off-pavement capable driver. Most cars could make it out on the road into the Caliente Range, which is just a steep dirt road with a few ruts. I camped up there for the night.

I checked out a few side canyons, generally didn't see anybody there. 

Some got gnarly enough that I left the moto and hiked up further. It's good to have motorcycle boots that are also comfortable for walking.

Made it to the top, on foot. 

Caliente Range with fewer wildflowers 


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