Archive for March, 2019

March 25-27  Pinnacles National Park

I am glad to escape San Francisco. The novelty of lots of rain, while bringing us out of drought, has worn off. I want wildflowers. The general theme of this trip is revisiting southern Utah. Our trip itinerary began with one location – visiting Daffodil Hill in the Sierra Nevada foothills. It is a privately-owned place that has thousands of daffodils and is supposed to be spectacular. I planned for us to go there for a few days and then head to Utah on I-80. That means going over Donner Summit, with an elevation of about 10,000 feet. A few days before we left, I discovered that Daffodil Hill is still closed because all of the rain has delayed the bloom. On top of that, there were weather warnings about lots more snow at Donner Summit, possibly on the day we were leaving. Sometimes I-80 shuts down with heavy snow. It was chancy.

What to do when you want to avoid snow? Head south! So new plan. We are going to hit all the bloom spots we know about in California. The revised California itinerary now includes Pinnacles National Park, Paso Robles, Carrizo Plains near Bakersfield, the Poppy Preserve near Lancaster and the Mojave Desert.

Loading the Lazy Daze worked out well. Although sprinkles were forecast, we hauled stuff out of the house in dry weather. I will miss our garden in the back yard; everything there is thriving with all the rain we’ve had. But I’m looking forward to this trip.

The drive to Pinnacles, 120 miles south of San Francisco, was quick and easy. As soon as we were south of San Jose, the wildflowers began to appear. The hills are a million shades of green. It is spectacularly beautiful.

Pinnacles is very popular and hard to book on the website. They have closed quite a few campsites because large limbs are falling from the oaks in the campground. I managed to find a space for our first 2 days. It’s a large open space but the real bonus is we are watching a large family of Woodpeckers nearby. They are very noisy and flit back and forth between two large oaks and a wooden telephone pole. They are nesting and somehow squeeze themselves into small holes.

We brought out our new chairs and snacked on nuts with a tot of Glen while we watched all of the birds. Pinnacles is famous for their huge, endangered Condors but as usual, we didn’t see any. After that, I walked over to the Visitor Center and checked in. I found out that Wednesday was available for our campsite, so I ponied up $18 and got us a third night here.

It was sunny and warm, so we took a walk through the meadows adjacent to the campground. The grasses were luxuriant but it’s still a little early for wildflowers. The walk ended at a quick flowing stream too big to jump over. There was a few skinny limbs thrown across it but I didn’t want to balance my way over them and we hadn’t brought the hiking poles. So we ambled back to the campground.

Miner’s Lettuce

It was cloudy Tuesday morning and it began to shower a little as we got ready to hike the High Peaks Trail. It is 5.1 miles long and has an altitude gain of well over 1,000 feet. This would be our first hike in quite a while. I’ve been having some trouble with my legs and feet and have been taking it very easy on them to see if I can get them to feel better. So this was a test hike, although a pretty strenuous one.

It was cool and cloudy when we started out so I brought several levels of clothing. As it turned out, I walked mostly in a long-sleeve shirt and only put on the rain jacket when it sprinkled.

High Peaks Trail

Indian Warriors

Everything was very green but we didn’t see many flowers till we had risen quite a bit. Turn a corner and boom! Poppies!

We got to a nice overlook and took a break. There weren’t all that many people on the trail, which was a nice surprise. Then we started up the high part of the High Peaks Trail. This particular part is steep with several staircases cut into the rock. There are railings on the narrowest parts. But it’s worth it because the views just keep getting better.

Shooting Stars

We ate lunch in a narrow crack and could look east and west towards two different landscapes. After that, the long downhill progressed. My legs were hurting, but not too badly. The hiking poles helped temper the strain on the legs. The weather was so pleasant – not too hot and not too cool. Plus, the clouds added interest to the images.


We crossed paths with more people coming up as we descended. Many of them weren’t sure where they were going or how far the trail went. The map and the trails signs are a little confusing. After stopping at a few more flower spots, we reached the bottom and made it home in time for coffee and this years batch of chocolate chip cookies. And, oh my, did that shower feel good.

Wednesday, we lounged about in bed and watched the grasses blowing in the wind. One small tragedy: a small bird smashed into our window and died. Dave moved it to a tree stump, so that nature could take its course a little away from our home.

We eventually got up and did darn little the rest of the day. We did manage to walk over to the Visitor Center and I found the names of a few wildflowers I couldn’t identify in my flower references. By luck, we found they carried It’s It’s, an old San Francisco treat, with 2 oatmeal cookies pressing in on ice cream. That “sandwich” is then coated in chocolate. That will be tonight’s treat.

March 28-30 Santa Margarita

We couldn’t stay at Tobin James Cellars in Paso Robles so we went further south and stayed at an expensive KOA in Santa Margarita, a little south of Atascadero. It’s a rustic place with various terraces spread out on a steep hill. There’s a row of RV’s here, a yurt there, a wooden cabin down the hill. It’s expensive – $59 per night. That amount would be more acceptable if the electricity didn’t keep going out and if the WiFi worked consistantly. But the big attraction here is an emu named Kevin Hanley! (Just kidding, Kevin Hanley, an emu doesn’t have a last name. It’s just Kevin.) There was a woman with 3 little kids trying to feed Kevin without getting too close to his large beak. Emu’s make an unexpected growling sound. Not sure if that indicates pleasure or anger. Kevin didn’t care for me. He would accept food from Dave and the kids but not from me.

Kevin, the Emu

We got up early on Friday and headed out for Shell Creek Road, flower central in this area. The road was gorgeous in an orgy of various shades of green. The morning fog was hanging over the hilltops.  We weren’t seeing a lot of flowers, however.

The dearth of flowers abruptly ceased when we reached the beginning of Shell Creek Road. There were so many cars parked along the side of the road that I thought perhaps a photography workshop was going on. But it was just a lot of flower photographers like us.

There were cows munching peacefully in the first field. They were not impressed by the fact that the field was full of brilliant yellow flowers. Looking up the road, I could see that the flowers went on and on. So we put on our sunhats and began to walk.





Desert Dandelion, I believe

Owl’s Clover

Tidy Tips

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll notice a theme here. Almost all the flowers are yellow, with a few little purple one poking around. This changed when we got about a half-mile down the road. All of a sudden, the Baby Blue Eyes began showing up. That’s when I started to feel like I was inhabiting a Monet painting.

Baby Blue Eyes

There was one small patch of wildflowers that comprised an entire color palette. It was amazing. I felt overwhelmed by the beauty.

It’s hard to believe, but this amazing panorama dwindled away after about a mile and a half. Then it was back to rolling green hills with bare-branched trees. We drove up about 15 miles to the end of Shell Creek Road and headed onto Gillis Canyon Road, a “not a through road” we had visited several years ago.  I had noted it on our trusty California Atlas. It rewarded us on this trip. A scrim of yellow-gold glowed on the hills. It was lovely and the road was empty. The flower seekers didn’t know about this one.

Gillis Canyon Road


The road turned into a dirt track and we eventually ate lunch, did a five-point turnaround and headed back down. One hill was terraced, either by farmer or cattle, and big healthy bushes of lupine grew in orderly rows. It was getting more cloudy and we tried to position ourselves as the sun moved around the hills.


When we got back to a bigger road, we started to head home, quite a ways away. Somehow we ended up on CA-229, a very narrow road that wound through green hills. For many miles, there were no turnoffs, no homes, no way to get off it. I wouldn’t want to drive it in the LD but our Rav4 navigated it easily.

The winding CA-229

We finally made it back to our remote spot and had a quiet night.

On Saturday, we had a date with Susan and Fred Miller at Joe’s Other Place in Templeton. This is a place that knows how to do breakfast. It was nice to catch up with Fred and Susan, learning how life is lived in the Atascadero area. Fred told us that CA-229 is a great road for a motorcycle.

We didn’t do much else that day; Dave has a pinched nerve in his neck and wanted a down day. So we did some grocery shopping and I did a small load of laundry. We went to see Kevin the Emu. He moved as far away from me as possible. He wouldn’t even respond to Dave. He kept a good distance from both of us and preened.

We worked on our blogs but couldn’t upload because the park WiFi was down and phone reception was inadequate for use in uploading. Another quiet night.


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