The Annual Search for Wildflowers

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For almost as long as I can remember, every spring I am out backpacking or camping in search of wildflowers, as I documented last year. This year, we are apparently in the midst of El Nino, meaning we could have one of our best displays in 10 years or so. Time will tell. Over the past few weeks I have been wandering around our deserts looking and waiting. So last week we took off for a few days of camping and observation.

Joining us was my son, Joe. Joe is now 29 and doing the things that young adults do. But he still backpacks and camps, as acorns don’t fall far from the tree. And we get together from time to time to share outdoor adventures. Joe went on his first camping trip at the age of 6 months and was around 5 when he did his first backpacking trip (under his own power) with me. Those were the formative years, and part of my parental responsibilities was to teach him all things camping and backpacking as well as I could.

He is now a biologist, spending his days outdoors. He spent several years working to protect Desert Tortoises in California, Nevada, and Utah. Now there are lots of things he can teach me about deserts. For example,

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I thought this was a burrow, but Joe said it’s a shallow dug out by a black-tailed jackrabbit to rest, cool off, and stay hidden from predators. Jackrabbits are hares and don’t live in burrows. Hell, I didn’t know that. Anyway, back to the subject of this post.

WILDFOWERS

This annual fascination with wildflowers really has nothing to do with flowers. It’s about renewal, warming weather, and simply wandering about in nature. If I just wanted to go take a peak at some flowers I would simply watch the Internet waiting for someone to write about a location about to bloom, drive to said popular spot when the flowers start to bloom, stop along some roadway or vista point, snap a few pictures, and then return home. Actually this is happening right now in Death Valley, so I’m not going there… too many people rushing out to take a few snapshots; just as the term implies — a snap of the whole. Nope, you can’t see much from a car, road, or vista point. You have to walk. And walk a lot. Better, you need to spend days and nights out in nature.

When you walk through the land you become part of it. You learn more. This is what the annual wildflower search is about. All of us have a finite number of years on this planet, and statistically I only have 13 years left. So, I am going to spend as much time outdoors as I can — flowers or no flowers. Fortunately I have been doing this all my life, so there is nothing to regret. Of course, I knew there wouldn’t be much in the way of wildflowers to see on this trip. But I saw a lot. To many people a desert view like the one below is just wasteland.

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Walking through the land will allow us to start seeing the smaller parts of it while we still have an eye on the larger distant landmarks.

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We need to look closer. Sitting and looking around shows us more. Lying down and looking around brings you closer and more is seen.

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In contract to this cactus, Deserts (and mountains) are wonderful places to view the night sky and huge remote sky objects, something we also did. Think about this, in winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the Orion Constellation is one of the sky’s visual gems, probably similar to what ancient peoples saw. Orion is 1,600 light years away from earth. A light year is about 6 trillion miles in distance. So what we were seeing actually occurred 1,600 years ago! It sure beats sitting at home watching a football game or anything on TV.

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

It may be an El Nino year, but our local deserts have only seen 62% of our average winter precipitation and February was a little warmer than normal. Neither are ingredients for a “super bloom” year. But whatever we get in the way of flowers, I’ll take and enjoy. Our deserts are now turning green and some plants are beginning to flower.

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Since 2012 I have been using a Sony RX100 M1 compact camera. It’s a tremendous camera and a favorite of many over at backpacking light.com. Although Sony is now up to the M4 (model 4) I have upgraded yet. Maybe Santa will bring me one this Christmas 🙂

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