Somtimes back luck can turn good. After having to give up our Coachella tickets (it's a long story), we wandered down to the Mojave Desert this past weekend anyway. Things couldn't have turned out better if we'd planned the trip months ago.
By accident, we hit the peak California poppy bloom in the Antelope Valley. If you're wondering if it's worth heading up to the Palmdale-Lancaster area, about two hour's drive from LA, to see the spectacular display, the answer is yes. I've seen some impressive SoCal desert wildflower blooms this decade (e.g., in 2005, when prehistoric Lake Manly reappeared in Death Valley), and this year is superb.
There were so many people out tramping about the poppy fields this weekend, we couldn't even get into the official California Poppy State Natural Reserve. So we just pulled off on a 4WD side road and went ambling beside the fields, which always reminds me of that scene in the Wizard of Oz. Just imagine when hundreds of hillsides across California were covered in these bright orange poppies. Early Spanish explorers were so gobsmacked that they nicknamed 'em montaña de oro, or mountains of gold.
Thanks to National Parks Week, our visit to Joshua Tree National Park was totally free, too. We hiked he Mastodon Peak Trail, starting from Cottonwood Spring. The beavertail cactus, yucca plants and creosote bushes were all alive with color. On the drive down through the park, we passed through the Ocotillo Patch, where those strange octopus-like succulents were sending forth their showy red flowers. Even a few of the Joshua trees were still blooming, with their creamy white blossoms.
If you've got time this week or next weekend, head to the desert. The wildflowers are putting on an amazing show!
Freebies! National Park Week, April 17-25
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Photo credits: Michael Connolly, Jr. & Sara Benson