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Wildflowers


April 2008
Iam often told I'm the flower of my family, although I'm not sure if it's a compliment or if everyone just thinks I'm a blooming idiot. Speaking of bloomsthe Kern County wildflower season is here.

The "active relaxation" craze is red hot, and nature tourism is one of the fastest growing participation sports on the planet -- with activities like wildflower viewing heading the list.

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A good trip is also a bit like going on safari, only this smells better.
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The Board of Trade receives hundreds of calls each spring from people wanting to see color. They come from all over the state. For us locals, it's a simple daytrip. The last couple of seasons have been disappointing due to poor weather, so this time around I strongly suggest taking advantage of the opportunity (I also strongly suggested laying the points and taking New England in the Super Bowl, so take that for what it's worth).

Kern County's diverse landscape means no matter where you are, there's something in the neighborhood to see. Because of that diversity, the types of blooms are often unique to where you are. Better yet, a short drive can mean you'll see something totally different than what you see from your own back porch.

Kern has its share of wildflower "hot spots." The Kern River Valley is a prime site to see the much-sought California poppy and the local variation the Kernville poppy both of which seem to love the hillsides along the north side of Isabella Lake. State Route 178 though the canyon is a prime spot to see poppies, lupine, and other splashes of color.

If you're a desert rat, check out the Joshua trees east of Walker Pass. We see the tangled masses year round, but seasonal blooms add a great accent. Jawbone Canyon, Short Canyon, and Red Rock Canyon State Park play host to some distinctive growth. Desert versions of chicory, dandelions, and sun cups are worth a glance.

The valley has its own treasures. The Highway 99 corridor is usually the first to take off as almond orchards turn a bright pink. Then the poppies come out, especially along Bena and Rancheria roads. In good years, the Grapevine turns gold with poppies and coreopsis, while lupine gathers in huge pools of blue at the foot of the pass.

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Not to be outdone, the Carrizo Plain National Monument (30 minutes west of Taft) is a great spot to see things like fiddleneck, larkspur, and thistle sage.

Most sites are easy to reach by car, but if you're looking for more of a guided tour, the Kern River Preserve at Weldon offers periodic wildflower hikes for those who want to get up close and personal. Call (760) 378-2029 for times and dates and bring your walking shoes.

Finding flowers isn't enough. There are rules. While it's everyone's right to enjoy the wildflowers, it's also everyone's responsibility to protect them. Picking them interferes with pollination and reduces their numbers (besides, it's illegal). The best way to save them is with a camera.

A good trip is also a bit like going on safari, only this smells better. Conditions change in a hurry, so pull the Boy Scout routine and be prepared. Make sure every member of your crew has water, a hat, a camera, bug repellent, and a light jacket.

The wildflower season is often short. Keeping abreast of current info is a big key to enjoying the small window of opportunity. The Board of Trade's seasonal hotline operates 24/7 at (661) 322-WILD and on the web at www.VisitKern.com. Another great resource with an emphasis on Kern County is Nature Alley, found on the net at www.natureali.org.

For more things to do in Kern County, visit the Board of Trade's web site: www.VisitKern.com

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