Rising to the Challenge…

The San Francisco Bay became a hotspot for the corona virus and 7 counties in the area banded together to issue a “stay home order.” That was a week ago, followed only a few days later by California’s Governor Newsom ordering all residents to “shelter in place” and leave home only for essential trips. Today the state confirmed 2,382 cases (experts say there are more awaiting testing or test results) of Covid-19 zooming up from 565 last week. In our county alone the cases (86) have jumped >85% in a week. (source: Calif. Dept of Health)

We are among the “vulnerable” so my husband and I comply (as do most people.) Tomas was a little slow – insisting on Day 2,one last trip to the hardware store for wood to repair our deck; he needed a project. I’ve been doing some spring cleaning and gardening when weather permits (its unseasonably cold for March). A writing project, long on a back burner, is propped on my desk as well.

I draw some comfort from a friend who wrote “this too shall pass.” That is surely true, but when and at what cost? Epidemiologists think our local legislatures may have acted swiftly enough to tamp the worst of the outbreak in our area and a few other states.
We are lucky that we have some well-educated state governors and smart officials with moral fiber who– unlike the present US administration – listened to the experts. On January 22 Trump boasted “We have this totally under control” and a White House advisor a few weeks ago claimed “we have contained this.” How could they, when in 2018 he eliminated the National Security Council’s global health unit (our warning system for pandemics), the Center for Disease Control funding was cut by a third, and Hospital Preparedness within Health and Human Services cut by half? (Source: Time Mag.3/2020) Several high level government health positions have yet to be nominated, 3 yrs. into his term. Hence we were not prepared for a pandemic. There’s a saying “Poor planning on your part…..constitutes an emergency” …in this case on “we the people.” (Thus concludes my rant.)

Surprisingly time passes in our semi-confinement and we are not bored yet. The saving grace is we are allowed to go outside for exercise and to walk the dog.

A few days ago we went to our little “secret beach” and we were still the only ones there. Then when the sun came out, we decided to hike a local trail that often has wild flowers and not well-used in the past. That was then and this is now. The first clue was some traffic on the rural road, followed by lines of parked cars 100’s of feet from the small parking lot. With every one off work and home with their kids, they decided to enjoy nature just like us. It was strange sharing the trail with so many, but only one young guy refused to yield the 6-feet of “social distance” (in spite of my waiting and saying “excuse me”). We saw few flowers, but on the drive home I did find a field of poppies – alas on fenced private property, so we could only enjoy it from the road… but oh my!

Profusion of colorful poppies

How are you and yours faring in your corner of the world?

More California Wildflowers 2019

The ubiquitous California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) and a fiddleneck to the left.

Now that the drought has broken, California is bursting with wildflowers. These pictures were taken in two areas south of the San Francisco Bay Area.

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There were carpets of baby blue eyes (above) in Canada del Oro– although this is a subspecies that is white rather than baby-blue. Contrast the colour with this one from Pacheco Park.



Woodland star –Lithophraga affine. Flowers are approx. 3/4 in. or 1 cm. across.



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Pacheco Park also had hillsides covered in blooms. The dominant species were shooting stars and violas.



This species of shooting stars, Dodecatheon clevelandii, takes on different colours.

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“To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour” – William Blake


My husband and I drove up to California’s “Gold Country” last week, specifically to hike a trail along Buttermilk Bend on the South Yuba River.

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The dog  scared us by running downslope to swim.  I had visions of throwing myself into the raging water to save him, but he was smart enough to find a pool and avoid the rapids.

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The wildflowers were fantastic – both in the abundance of display and diversity of species.

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For over a mile you could hardly take a step without discovering something.

Even the pipevine swallowtail butterflies were having a field day – they were everywhere.

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There’s Gold in them Hills: Wildflower Season

It’s wildflower season again and after years of drought the blooms are making up for lost time.  I choose the Gold Country (California foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mts.) this year as a hot spot.  We started near Yosemite and made our way north on HW 49 – and various floriferous side roads. 

California poppies (Eschscholzia californica)  and gold fields (Lasthenia californica)

The discovery of gold in 1848 sparked the largest mass migration in U.S. history.  Prospectors moved from one strike to the next along rivers and streams .  Today there are remnants of diggings, rusting machinery, stamp mills and old camps. There are historic towns and wonderful plant diversity.  The California golden poppy has replaced the “gold in dem der hills.”

Gold fields a common sight in spring.

The small flowers above,aptly named “gold fields,”  are in the daisy family.

Sh star hw49_pse1196

Shooting stars- Dodecatheon hendersonii

I found a field of shooting stars too.

Numerous creeks flow out of the foothills of the Sierras and into rivers that eventually join the San Joaquin River, one of California’s largest. 

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Below is the Stanislaus River.Stanislaus_pse1230

Old bridge over the Stanislaus. A sign says it was covered to make it last longer.  In the foreground are the remains of an old stamp mill, which crushed rock for extraction of gold ore.covrd bridge Stanislaus_pse1232

Many wildflowers have evolved to root in serpentine soil and gravels – which are toxic to most other plant life.  This is Bitter root – Lewisia rediviva (named after explorer M. Lewis of Lewis and Clarke fame).Lewisia r_pse1185

I was hunting for one particular wildflower I’d never seen: a fawn lily,  Erythronium tuolumnensii – and was excited to find it….  The thrill of the chase.

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Fawn lily –  Erythronium tuolumnensii


Below: wait for it – it’s a brief  slide show ( or click if feeling impatient 😉 )

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Lupins and goldfields in front of snickering horse.

Is that horse sticking his tongue out at me?


horse grin_pse1224Yeah pretty funny trying to ruin my shot. (I did not photo-shop this horse – he really was mocking me.  So disrespectful!)

The one(s) that got away 😉 :  I had some fabulous photos of a place famous (with botanists anyway) for wildflowers near Yosemite Park.  That night I downloaded over one hundred photos to my laptop and was going through them, deleting those that were out of focus etc. and taking pleasure in the ones that were sharp.  Long story short, my laptop died and I’d deleted the photos in the camera card to make room for the next day’s findings.  I paid a computer guy to retrieve them and he found everything else – that I had already backed up, except those photos I had driven many hours to take.  Ah well another year, and excuse for another trip!

Wildflowers near Skywalker Ranch

We went up Lucas Valley in Marin County (north of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco) to see what was blooming and were amply rewarded. Walking up the Loma Alta Trail by Big Rock we found:numerous yellow lilies with blue gilias,

Calochortus luteus & Gilia capitata

Calochortus luteus & Gilia capitata

Sidalcea diploscypha Marin_psE0096

Sidalcea diploscypha

       A few sidalceas…


and clarkias.

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Clarkia amoena

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Collinsia sparsiflora

Across from Skywalker Ranch, the Chinese Houses (Collinsia sparsiflora) were still blooming, but passing their prime (it is late for them anyway!)

Skywalker Ranch is home to (George) LucasFilms of Star Wars fame. Built as a movie-makers retreat out in the countryside, it is a working production facility and includes a huge technical sound building.

T&G Skywalker_psE0122 Skywalker Ranch in the background with my dog and husband (aren’t they handsome?)  in the foreground. The flowers are mostly yarrow (close-up below).

Yarrow Pt Reyes 05psYou never know what you will discover when you explore country roads and trails. (But as you can see, in spring, my blog becomes a forum for my wildflower photos)  🙂


The California Deserts (Mojave and Colorado) are unique and fascinating places, with many plant species and wildlife that are found nowhere else on earth.

When I first went looking for wildflowers in the desert over 20 yrs ago, one had to carefully to plan where to refuel and stock up on water and food. Lodging was dodgy so we camped. None of these is a factor anymore. Highways quickly get you where you want to go and pit stops like Mojave have become towns. The scary thing is that little desert towns have become cities. (Palmdale has an IMAX now!) All this means development – and loss of wild lands (and loss of wildflowers). Solar panels cover acres ( a double edged sword I’ll discuss another time).

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Large numbers of these caterpillars were busy eating wildflowers – I hope they become beautiful butterflies!

Near Red Rock Park.

Near Red Rock Park. The line below the rocks in the back ground is a highway, the linear feature below that is the California Aquaduct heading towards L.A – and in the foreground are purple phacelia and white camissonias.

There is a certain to beauty to desert landscapes and, as you can see, it is not a barren wasteland, but has its own ecosystem. The slides below were taken in the Mojave, just east or southeast of where the Sierra Nevada Mountains die out, near Red Rock.


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I have hundreds of pictures – the trick is choosing the right ones. Don’t you hate to go to someone’s house and realize they have 300 slides of their trip to Disneyland with the kids and they haven’t even culled the out-of focus ones! (Rule of thumb: one slide/minute thus 60 is generally plenty for friends or a talk.)

I have emphasized wildflowers ( and some  wildlife) because it is spring, but the rocks and sand dunes are interesting in themselves.

Have you ever visited a desert?

DESERT LANDSCAPES – the missing photographs!

For some reason the slide show meant to highlight the post today did not show up. So let me try that again!

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These pictures were taken in Mojave Desert in southern California where the San Gabriel foot hills merge with the desert floor.

Are you surprised by the colour?