Our Desert Jewels
ANTELOPE VALLEY CALIFORNIA
Text: Robert Griego
Photography: Denise and Robert Griego
John Steinbeck, in his epic, East of Eden, said, "These too are of a burning color – not orange, not gold, but if pure gold were liquid and could raise a cream, that golden cream might be like the color of the poppies."
I've always admired John Steinbeck's writing, falling in love with, Of Mice of Men, Cannery Row, and of course The Grapes of Wrath. But honestly, I had never heard his infamous quote about poppies until our good friend, Doug, recently brought it to my attention.
Staring at the poppies from every angle, Steinbeck's words became the focal point for my camera.
Time was meaningless as my knees touched the earth. The poppies appeared to be dancing in the Antelope Valley breeze.
Welcome to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve!
It is important to grab the park brochure full of information. Again, learning something new, the brochure stated, "The California Poppy was named the State Flower in 1903." The Ranger at the entrance station is patient, answering my questions. "You have a great day, enjoy those poppies," as he waved us through. Denise has that smile of anticipation, while I concentrate on driving.
Our first stop was the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center, where we are pleasantly greeted. Obtaining more information about the trails and park rules, meant to protect all the fragile wildflowers. It is important to stay on the designated trails to protect the wildflowers while exploring the Poppy Reserve.
The giant Joshua Tree immediately captures my attention. Its spring bloom is fragile, beautiful, and the perfect guardian to welcome us to the magical fields of California Poppies.
Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center,
blends with the natural setting of the reserve.
The Park Brochure shows numerous trails, and we select the Tehachapi Vista Point Trail, if only for its name, and the immediate view of the California Poppies on the horizon, below white clouds.
Tehachapi Vista Point Trail is a park favorite.
Poppies – Poppies – Poppies.
Within moments, I'm on my knees again talking directly with the poppies who are reaching toward the sky. I'm lost in their beauty.
They command curiosity. Their presence makes me feel alive. I'm in awe. There are other flowers too – Lupine, Fiddlenecks, and Goldfields that dance for attention.
Poppies reach for the morning sky.
Poppies dancing in the wind.
Staying on established trails protects the wildflowers.
Nature is delicate, perfect.
Fiddlenecks and poppies in harmony.
Bush Lupin grace the slopes.
Delicate Fiddlenecks cause me to take a deep breath.
Honestly, my knees are now hurting. Nature close up has its consequences. It's time to capture the broad landscape of wildflowers framed by nearby hills and in the far distance, the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains. They are truly California's majestic wildflowers. One final glance and we bid them adieu.
I'm sure Steinbeck struggled as well, as he so eloquently depicts the Californa Poppy in East of Eden.
The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains are magnificent.
ON TO THE ARTHUR B. RIPLEY DESERT WOODLAND STATE PARK
The Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park is 7 miles from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Park. The Ripley Nature Trail meanders along the park's 1/4 mile self-guided nature trail.
We find the desert solitude, uplifting and a unique experience. Be sure to grab the park brochure that will take you on a journey along with twelve posts full of interesting facts about this Desert State Park, established to protect and preserve an impressive stand of native Joshuas and junipers, which once grew in great abundance throughout the valley.
The Tehachapi Mountains that can be seen in the distance capture my attention.
Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park is free.
Enjoy the quiet desert.
Interpretive displays tell a story.
The Ripley Nature Trail is full of wonder.
Post #4: The silver-leaved Blue Sage is very fragrant.
I love the Joshua Trees in bloom.
"Is that a giant Road Runner?"
"Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt."
– John Muir.
BACK TO LANCASTER FOR AN EVENING ALONG THE BLVD
There are numerous dining venues along the BLVD and we select Don Sal Cocina and Cantina which is a hop-skip-and jump from our room for the night at the Marriott Residence Inn by Marriott. Both offer exceptional experiences.
We like this hotel as it's on the BLVD, with spaciously full amenities, and within walking distance to popular restaurants and other attractions along Lancaster's historic BLVD.
We select the Residence Inn by Marriott after a full day of exploring Antelope Valley.
The Residence Inn is located directly on the BLVD.
'Sacred Movements' by Amandalynn.
The murals along the BLVD are mind-blowing as I gaze at my favorite, 'Sacred Movements.'
"Till next time," I whisper.
OVERVIEW: PLANNING YOUR VISIT
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is easily found in the Antelope Buttes 15 miles west of Lancaster, CA. This 1800 acre State Reserve was established to protect superb displays of native wildflowers, and of course, the California Poppy. The Poppy Reserve Live Stream provides a glance at current conditions.
The California Poppy was named the State Flower in 1903.
THINGS TO DO
The best time to visit the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is anytime between mid-March and early May but can vary widely depending on Mother Nature. I like the early morning and if the wind is blowing, capture the Poppies dancing.
There are 7 miles of trails, including a paved section for wheelchair access. Carry the park map and water.
The Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center provides educational displays of many of the plants and wildlife found on the Reserve including an orientation video.
There are shaded picnic tables with panoramic views over the valley.
Arthur B. Ripley Desert Woodland State Park is located 7 miles west of the Poppy Reserve with free admission.
HOURS AND FEES
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is open sunrise till sunset, daily year-round.
The Parking Fees:
- $10 per vehicle
- $9 per vehicle with a senior on board (62 and over)
- $5 per vehicle with DPR Disabled Discount Card
- $50 small busses (9-24 passengers)
- $100 large busses (25 or more passengers)
For more information, see www.parks.ca.gov