Vacation Day 3: Wildflowers Along Bear Creek Road

Sergeant Margie and Tidy Tips. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.
Sergeant Margie and Tidy Tips. Copyright © 2016 Mary K. Hanson. All rights reserved.

Vacation Day Three.  I got up at 6:30 this morning, and then the dog and I went on another day trip.  During his lecture on Thursday, Andrew had told everyone about a ranch along Bear Creek Road that allows people to come onto their property to look at the wildflowers there.  So, today I went out to see if I could find the ranch.  I had to drive up to Highway 20 and then take that to where the 20 intersects with Highway 16.  Bear Creek Road is a dirt road that parallels Highway for a short  while and then head off into the foothills.

When I got to Highway 20 and started heading toward the foothills, I was surprised to encounter VERY heavy fog, but as I headed up a little bit in elevation I left the fog behind me.  I’d never been on Bear Creek Road before, and was a little worried about how well the Sebring would do on a dirt track, but it was a  surprisingly easy ride.  For most of the way the road is two cars wide (it only narrowed in a few places and over one short bridge) and it looked like it had been recently scraped, so there weren’t any potholes or trenches to maneuver the car around.  From the head of the road to where the ranch was it was about 12 or 13 miles, but you could only drive at 15 miles per hour, so it seemed like a long 12 miles.  All along the way, though, I stopped off here and there, and took photos of the flowers, so that added more time.

Along the way, I caught glimpses of an otter running along the side of Bear Creek, Meadowlarks and Kingbirds, a pair of Belted Kingfishers, a Killdeer, some Yellow-Billed Magpies, Song Sparrows, and lots of Red-Winged Blackbirds.  I got a few photos of some of them, but not all of them… here were a lot of cattle in the fields, and some of them came right up to the fences, were browsing or resting in the wildflowers, or had calves they were watching.  So, I incorporated them into some of my photos, too.  And I also came across a horse in a pasture near the road.

All along the way down the road there was a light smattering of wildflowers, but in other places, the flowers blanketed entire hillsides and fields.  Soooo many, and soooo pretty!  Yellow, pink, blue, purple, white… I found Yarrow, Blow wives, Fiddleneck, Mustard, Pineapple Weed, Tidy Tips, Indian Paint Brush, Owl’s Clover, Chinese Houses, Redbud, Larkspur, Blue dicks, Wallflowers, Poppies, Ithurial’s Spears, Bird’s Eye, Goldfields, Pepper Grass, several different varieties of Lupine (including yellow Butter Lupine), Sweetclover, Popcorn Flowers, Cream Cups, Indian Clover, Star Lilies, Slender Centuary, and more.  I took over 800 photos!

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As I was heading back out toward Highway 20, I passed a couple who had parked their pick-up on the side of the road and the wife was setting up an easel to paint the wildflowers.  I stopped an let her know that just another five minutes up the road, she could go onto the ranch to paint, if she wanted to, rather than looking over the fence at the flowers.  She was so excited and thanked me profusely for letting her know about the access.  Then she looked at her husband who was settling into a chair.  “You’re already set up,” he said to his wife, and she looked torn: to stay there or to go up the road?  I left them to it… I stopped off at the rest stop in Dunnigan and shared  sandwich and some grapes with the dog before continuing on home…

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Mary K. Hanson is an author, nature photographer and Certified California Naturalist living with terminal cancer.