Week 263: Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve

March 27, 2022

 AllTrails North Loop, Antelope Butte and Lightning Bolt Loop, 3.6 miles.

The blooming season for the poppy, California's state flower, runs from mid-February to mid-May and Barbara and I were determined not to miss their bright orange blanket this year. No lie, it's a long drive through the Angeles National Forest into the Antelope Valley to see poppy bloom at its natural best. However, this state-protected reserve tended by California Parks & Rec offers 7 miles of hiking trails with a panoramic view across acres of wildflowers with the mountains in the distance. Parks & Rec doesn't water or stimulate the flowers in order to keep the fields in their natural state, and though SoCal didn't get enough rain this year to produce a "super bloom," the fields we hiked through today were quilted with beautiful patches of bright orange poppies, alone or surrounded by goldfields and blue dicks in brunch grass. The golden poppy (eschschoizia Californica, "California sunlight, "Cup of Gold") was designated California's state flower in 1903 thanks to persistent efforts by Sarah Plummer Lemmon (1836–1923), a botanical rock star (Mount Lemmon in Arizona is named after her) who, after a short stint as a nurse during the Civil War, came West and dedicated her life to "botanizing the West Coast." Poppies curl up at night and open mid-morning, and we caught them waking up just as we arrived then stretching into full bloom as we hiked. After an hour or so, a strong wind began to gust and slowed our climb up the three rises on the trail, but we were also were treated to an overhead show of a murder of crows swooping and riding the wind. We followed AllTrails' map, following three trails that circle the east end of the Reserve taking us up and down three peaks before the last trail evened out during the final mile. Parks & Rec does a great job of maintaining and marking the trails, and offers a terrific phone link on their website with a complete map and info to create your own hike if you like. The Poppy Reserve is THE go-to spot for the poppy show, so if you're interested—go early or be prepared to wait in line for a parking space ($10 onsite.) But seeing Mother Nature's "fields of gold" is worth a visit. California Poppy Day is April 6! 




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