We made another trip out to the Carrizo Plain National Monument to go camping during the wildflower bloom this year. The flowers were everywhere. We managed to snag our favorite campsite but the whole atmosphere was so different from the last time we visited. It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places for a weekend getaway.
Sometimes you have a plan but then you are having so much fun that you just keep driving until you find yourself at a massive, beautiful waterfall. It’s so crazy how different Northern California feels than this dry desert I’m so used to. Give me all the moss and hazy mornings and damp air.
There are magical places with ancient creatures that make you remember how much has come before you and how much will come after. We drove high into the mountains where there was still snow despite it being nearly June. Everything felt lonely and still. The forest is a preserve and you can tell the folks who work there are so happy to share this rare beauty with you, to tell you all about the trees and how slowly they grow. The slowest ones live the longest they say, the ones found in the harshest of environments. The oldest living things on earth battling extreme frozen winters and intense wind. Their pine needles alone can live 30-40 years. We searched for the legendary tree considered to be the oldest, its location now a secret. It could have been any of them really, their twisting limbs and stunted trunks. Soon it will snow again and the road will be closed for winter; the trees safe in their desolate slopes.
We visited Lassen Volcanic National Park on a busy holiday weekend and yet it was still quiet and serene. The campsites were full so we headed into the backcountry despite some rain. I pledged to jump in one of the gemstone colored lakes but never found the opportunity. At our camp I hid in our tent to avoid rampant mosquitos and couldn’t sleep despite a long day of driving and then hiking into the wilderness. It was such a treat to find solitude in such a beautiful location without having to hike so high into the mountains as one would in the Sierras. There were so many geothermal areas to explore, we followed the trail of volcanos up through the Cascade range into Oregon.
Seemingly endless dirt roads and hardly any people. Quiet campsites with perfect sunset views. Pronghorns, tule elk, burrowing owls. Flowers even after spring is over. Salt flats and grasslands. Hawks, bats and kangaroo rats if your lucky.
I was nervous about this adventure because Santa Cruz island requires not only taking a small boat (I am prone to sea sickness) but also that you carry all your water for your trip. On the other hand, Santa Cruz Island boasted a chance for a secluded backpacking trip and a opportunity to see the native island fox.
We headed out for an overnight stay with friends in the early summer. The hike to the campground was relatively easy, even with the extra water. We spent most of the trip hanging around our campsite relaxing and doing some shorter hikes in the area. There were beautiful views of the sunset from our spot on top of the island.
Before we left camp in the morning we were lucky enough to see some of the petite island foxes. They clearly knew to come and scavenge the campground when people were packing up their stuff. Of course we didn’t feed them but they were not particularly scared of humans at all.
It is amazing how much this island has been able to come back since it was nearly devestated by human meddling. The island foxes are doing well and they’ve even reintroduced the Bald Eagles after successfully relocating the Golden Eagles that took over their territory.
On the boat ride back to the mainland we were treated to seeing a large pod of dolphins that swam along with the boat. It was a magical way to end a little island getaway.
We went on a wildflower scouting excursion to Joshua Tree a few weeks ago. The backcountry camping is great because you just have to hike over a mile away from any road, find a spot you like and set up.* We arrived just before sunset, hiked into the darkness and made camp. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise and, after breakfast, spent the day searching for wildflowers throughout the park. There were lots to be seen in the lower elevations and some were just sprouting in the higher areas. Getting a campsite can sometimes be tricky at this park since it’s so close to Los Angeles. Knowing you can just head out into the wilderness makes me want to visit every weekend.
*There are a few other rules, so check out the National Park site for details.