It should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed my photographic journey over the years that the California Poppy is my favorite flower. Also known as the golden poppy, cup of gold, and California sunlight, nothing else evokes for me the sun’s brightness and warmth and a childlike sense of joy than eschscholzia californica.
So when I learned of the Antelope Valley California Poppy Preserve, I made a mental note that someday I would go there. In the interim, I sated myself with the poppies on hand along medians and Bay Area hiking trails. It did not help that the Internet had not yet been born and there was no ready way to find the preserve on my faded and un-indexed AAA-provided California road map.
Eventually, in 2010, a confluence of circumstances and Google maps took me to the place I had dreamed about for so long.
As I headed east on CA-138 toward Lancaster, I worried. I worried that the sun would not come out from behind the clouds, that I had missed the season, that my GPS would fail, that I would run out of gas, that a monster had eaten all the poppies, but most of all that I would be disappointed, the expectations having been built up so much in the intervening years. The “poppy song” stuck in my head as I churned up the miles along the unswerving desert highway:
Poppies, golden poppies, gleaming in the sun,
Closing up at evening, when the day is done.
Pride of California, flower of our state,
Growing from the mountains to the Golden Gate.
The GPS suddenly broke the monotony and announced a right turn onto 170th St. W in half a mile. I still couldn’t see any poppies but I nonetheless obliged.
Three minutes later, a left onto Lancaster Road and the horizon seemed to be tinged orange. The road jigged left, then right and then I was headed straight into a sea of orange. Not even at the preserve yet, I stopped along the side of the road along with everyone else and ran toward the fields that were covered with the orange goodness. There, we all proceeded to literally frolic.
I drove the last mile to the preserve fulfilled.