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major wildflower bloom

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major wildflower bloom

Postby SSSdave » Tue Feb 17, 2015 11:21 am

A heads up to those who enjoy our California spring wildflowers. The best wildflower bloom in the state as I write is not where enthusiasts would expect and by time current species blooming fades which will be soon, only a few like this photographer will have experienced it. And most of those will be equestrians because they frequent Pacheco State Park more than hikers.

I've been visiting the park during wet springs for a dozen years. It is not well known by the public in part because it is a new park created in 1997. Also its season of beauty is the short February thru mid April period while the rest of the year it is unpleasantly dry and brown like other inland Coastal Range parks. Also unlike its far better known Diablo Range cousins Mount Diablo State Park, Coe State Park, and various other county parks and open space areas, the park is a longer drive, even a full hour from San Jose. And oddly its early season flowers always bloom a few weeks before those in other SF Bay Area parks. The park easily has the most aesthetic blue oak savanna of any California public lands and parks with many trees of windswept form. Its 3 most common trees are blue oak, coastal live oak, and buckeye.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=560

Why does the park have an exceptional bloom now? Because an increasing seed bed built up over the past few droughty seasons. Then the area received much rain in December that started clocks of all the early blooming species. Then the two big warm storms of early February dropped a full 4 inches in the park's rain gauges according to a park worker I spoke with. I hiked the area 3 days after the storms and it was quite soggy with mushy trails and water seeping everywhere out of its grasslands. Without those storms given the dry warm January, there would have been a modest crop of stunted plants. Instead padres shooting stars and blue dicks have suddenly come out massively. Wildflowers in this park are never everywhere but rather patchy. Even in the wettest years there are considerable areas with just green grass. But that grass makes its landscapes magical in midday light glowing intensely green. And there are good numbers of California buttercup, miner's lettuce, and johnny-jump-ups. Also other scattered species as California poppies, purple sanicle, lomatium, mosquito bills, fiddleneck, gooseberry, and popcorn flower plus several others. Vast numbers of stunted filaree plants are yet to flower and it is still a month too early for goldfields.

The shooting stars form primarily in dense patches near the top of northern aspects of ridges. Areas of blue dicks dominate sunny south facing slopes and one will also see poppies there near sandstone outcrops. The best flower swaths are now about the junction of South Boundary Loop Trail, Canyon Loop East Trail, and Canyon Loop West Trail which is a good 3.5 miles out from the parking lot and photographic light is best between mid morning and early afternoon. Thus some wisdom to start hiking early morning right after the park opens at 8am. It is an exceptional park for those who enjoy leaving trails and hiking crosscountry and is rather safe an easy to do so. There are however barbed wire fences used to restrict its grazing cattle though can always be negotiated by crawling under at usable spots.



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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Feb 18, 2015 2:34 pm

Thanks for the information! I have hiked in Henry Coe Park at peak wildflower bloom and it is wonderful. I was worried, with lack of rain, if some of the streams are dry? I usually do one early hike each year in Henry Coe.
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby maverick » Wed Feb 18, 2015 4:54 pm

Thanks Dave! Seems like Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is starting up earlier too. All we need is
a few more storms hitting north of LA and we could see a good year at Carrizo Plains too, but that probably
isn't going happen.
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby SSSdave » Thu Feb 19, 2015 12:43 am

NWS forecast is for a breezy wind from the north to ramp up after tomorrow Thursday morning and last beyond this coming weekend. Also some storms on the horizon for the end of the month next week thus waiting for a calm day could be frustrating at this point. That would make photography impossible for large images like the below. Of course that is why there is a large windmill farm just east of this area. Best wildflower areas are of course on top of hills and ridges.

The below are padres shooting star, dodecatheon clevelandii ssp. patulum, with a few yellow hued johnny-jump-ups, viola pedunculata, lower center. Blue oak, quercus douglasii, are the dominant tree at the park. During late winter tiny new leaves appear and are a wonderful bright yellow green when fresh like on the tree at center while the tree at right is not showing any leaves yet except for those of a couple of parasitic mistletoe. Later the leaves enlarge and color matures to a dull blue green and by then the canopy hides most of the oak branches making them less aesthetic. Thus February to mid March is the best time to image blue oaks as well as its cousin the valley oak. And if one is lucky there just may be some flowers in the grass too. In the background far left is a mix of blue oak and coast live oak.

I was out 3 days last week and breezes were very light each day that is uncommon so I really lucked out and have numbers of strong images. Although the below is a 2x2 stitched panel, it was made from 12 frames as each panel was a blended focus stacked set of 2 to 4 shots.

Image
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby SSSdave » Thu Feb 19, 2015 4:18 pm

Jet Stream forecast has moved the stronger winds further northeast. And latest NWS forecast below now reflects that so this weekend may be workable at least for Saturday though Sunday Jetstream forecast still looks breezy. So will likely be there myself again when the gate opens at 8am. Want to get out to the most remote zone of the park near Nun Lake that is about the only area I haven't explored.

David
--------------------------------
MOUNTAINS OF SAN BENITO AND INTERIOR MONTEREY COUNTY INCLUDING
PINNACLES NATIONAL PARK-
110 PM PST THU FEB 19 2015

.TONIGHT...
.FRIDAY NIGHT...CLEAR. LOWS IN THE UPPER 30S TO LOWER 50S. NORTH
WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH.
.SATURDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE 60S TO LOWER 70S. NORTHWEST WINDS
5 TO 10 MPH.
.SATURDAY NIGHT...MOSTLY CLEAR. LOWS IN THE UPPER 30S TO MID 40S.
SOUTHWEST WINDS 5 TO 10 MPH.
.SUNDAY...SUNNY. HIGHS IN THE 50S TO MID 60S.
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby Rockyroad » Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:08 pm

Thanks for the tip on Pacheco State Park.

I was also surprised at the early bloom of wildflowers, especially along the foothills of highway 180 on our way to SEKI last weekend (my first time traveling on 180). I don't know whether this is typical of 180 but the flowers alongside the road were dense and colorful and seemed to span quite a distance. Here is a blurry photo taken from the moving car.
Image

As we headed east, the flowers up the hill were also beginning to bloom. We pulled over to snap this.
Image
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby ERIC » Thu Feb 19, 2015 8:24 pm

As part of the 180 expansion they heavily seeded wildflowers throughout the right-of-way. I'm a fan.
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby ciclista » Sun Feb 22, 2015 10:48 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Thanks for the information! I have hiked in Henry Coe Park at peak wildflower bloom and it is wonderful. I was worried, with lack of rain, if some of the streams are dry? I usually do one early hike each year in Henry Coe.


Coe is really good right now. My wife and I backpacked to Kelly Lake 3 weeks ago, and bikepacked to Mississippi Lake last weekend. The wildflowers are improving, and the grasses are about 90% filled in, with most about 6-8" high. Even if it doesn't rain for several more weeks it will keep getting better. Cast a Horny Toad deep for the bass. They're still cold, but hungry.
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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby SSSdave » Mon Feb 23, 2015 12:07 am

Yeah some areas of Coe are likely looking nice and expect will get better in next few weeks.

Saturday February 21 turned out to be better than forecast with light breezes from the east. Hiked all the way to Nun Lake (4.5 miles) then cross country along south boundary, 10+ miles. Areas west of the spine have some goldfields. Now long list of species can be found including areas of California poppies about rocky outcrops. Myriad johnny-jump-ups in opens grasslands that in places are spectacular. Shooting stars in more exposed sunny areas starting to go to seed while those in less exposed oak woodland areas still increasing. In shady woodlands dense miner's lettuce super lush and areas of beautiful Henderson's shooting stars. Anyone going offtrail should be wearing waterproof breathable shoes or gaitors because grasses have lots of dew on them during mornings that stays wet all day in oak woodland areas.

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Re: major wildflower bloom

Postby ciclista » Mon Feb 23, 2015 9:21 pm

Did you fish in Nun Lake?
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