Springtime might be the best season in Southern California. It's that time of renewal, when the daylight is noticeably longer, t-shirt weather returns, and flowers start blooming, both in the trees and on the ground. On rare occasions (sometimes once a decade), when winter conditions have been just right, spring treats us to a wildflower super bloom. A variety of colors blanket hills and valleys of the desert regions, and some of the amazing views seem almost psychedelic.
Not wanting to miss this rare event, we packed up on a Friday night and drove almost exactly 100 miles southeast, from L.A. to Temecula. There, we got a little bit of shut-eye in a motel, then woke up before the crack of dawn to hike an area called Walker Canyon.
The super bloom was no secret: even at 7 AM, the row of cars parked near the trailhead stretched for literally a mile, lining both sides of the road. Sometime during our walk to the trailhead, access to Walker Canyon Rd. was closed off, and all incoming traffic was being rerouted. New arrivals had to park at an outlet mall, four miles down the highway, and pay $5 (each way) to ride a shuttle. That's how busy it was on this particular morning.
A lot of people, eager to start taking photos, and others waiting on the rest of their group to catch up, made the trailhead really congested.
Fortunately, it didn't take long before the path diverged. We took the one less traveled by... and you know how it goes: that made all the difference.
Our particular path slowly rose in elevation and, a couple times, we stopped to cool down in the morning breeze. From here, we watched some selfie-takers in the canyon below head off-path and roll around among the flowers. It's always frustrating to see people who either don't know better or just don't care. Patches of plucked and trampled wildflowers damage the habitat and can take years to recover. According to the experts, invasive plants sometimes take over in those vulnerable areas.
With nature being interconnected in the way it is, the same conditions that created the super bloom also spurred a massive migration of Painted Lady butterflies. A steady wave of the insects zipped by during our hike, on their journey from Mexico to the Pacific Northwest and back, which takes about six generations to complete.
After our legs felt like jello, we made our descent, and walked the mile back to the car. I was certain we had earned a big, guilt-free, juicy burger and fries, so we headed to Temecula's Old Town for lunch. It sure was hoppin' on this weekend afternoon. If we hadn't made a quick u-turn, we might still be driving around, looking for a parking spot, to this very day.
It just so happened that a couple from our L.A. crew was in the area for a wedding, so we met up with our friend who didn't need to be at the venue early (Hi, Natasha!) for some wine tasting. I'll review Temecula wines another day, but I generally enjoy them.
When it was time for our friend to head to the wedding, we then met up with one of my childhood friends (Hi, Courtney!), who lived in the area at the time. It happened to be her employer's "customer appreciation day", and we were invited on over to join the party. It was great catching up, and the free tamales, tacos, and horchata were just an added bonus.
Overall, the day couldn't have worked out better, and it was one that reinforces this view: springtime might be the best season in Southern California.
"Exploring: A Wildflower Super Bloom in California" - March 2019, media added March 2022
Written by Justin Kilmer, Reviewed for a Credit by Janine Kilmer
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