Trawling through the myriad websites listing the top destinations for wildflowers in California, you’ll eventually find mention of Carrizo Plain National Monument.
I’d first heard of the national monument early on my epic journey with Belle as I doused my head with water by the side of the road to get a modicum of relief from the heat that pressed down on me riding east on the Cuyuma Highway (CA-166) from Santa Maria out to Bakersfield. A brown sign up ahead announced the national monument and pointed left. As I got back on Belle and rode past the sign eager to get out of the heat, I nodded at it to commit the destination to memory.
Years later, while trawling through the myriad websites listing the top destinations for wildflowers in California, I came across mention of Carrizo Plain National Monument. A synapse fired and a memory popped into consciousness that had lain dormant for five years. And so it was that I made plans in the past-peak shoulder of spring 2010 to detour off I-5 on a road trip to Southern California to investigate Carrizo Plain.
I was woefully unprepared. I quickly discovered that the roads through the monument and to most of the interpretive sites were unpaved rendering them unpassable in the Civic Hybrid I was driving with its lower than low clearance. The disappointment doused my spirit as I limped along downtrodden to the edge of the pavement 12 miles in. On the way, I forlornly looked at the dirt track turn offs for Wallace Creek and Painted Rock that were closed off to me. Backtracking, I stopped at an overlook for Soda lake to seek some solace among the season’s remaining wildflowers. My spirits sank deeper as all I was seemingly able to manage was a bunch of blurred shots of unidentifiable flowers.
Back home, Carrizo Plain once again faded out of consciousness. It remaining so until this year, when the winter rains inspired me to once again trawl the websites that list the best destinations for viewing wildflowers in California.
I have still to make it back to Carrizo Plain. But this time, I’ll be ready. And I won’t forget.