Wildflower Watch – 2010

We don’t make it out every spring – but we try! This year, we took some time last Friday for a drive over the mountains behind Santa Barbara (actually, we drove around, preferring the coastal route) in search of this year’s crop of wildflowers. There is a narrow, winding, pot-holed road that travels steeply up hill to the Figueroa Mountain campground in the Los Padres National Forest. On the way out of Los Olivos, a delightfully sleepy small town in the Santa Ynez Valley, you take Figueroa Mountain Road out past the horse ranches and small farms – where the pastures this time of year have pretty much given themselves over to the golden wild mustard that is ubiquitous in this section of the California coast and coastal valleys.

The red-winged blackbirds LOVE this mustard, whole flocks of them flitting across the flowered tops of the plants, singing their lovely songs. The mustard grows in and around and under the oaks that line the hillsides of this area – where the hillsides haven’t been completely taken over by vineyards, of course. (They, too, are lovely to look at – but in a very different way to the almost primeval oak scrublands that are natural to this area of the world.)

The bright yellow, almost chartreuse hue of the mustard fields is lovely to see, both at a distance and up close and makes a nice introduction to the climb up to different kinds of wild floral extravagance.

Just when you think there is no hope for the lovely orange and blue of lupine and California poppy, the road takes a bend that brings you to a steep cliffside that is literally covered with blooms. We’ve seen it denser than this year, but the colors of both flowers were exceptionally clear and vibrant in 2010. And maybe in another week or so, the density will rival that of previous years, as the taller bush-lupine has not yet made its contribution to the color display.

As always, it warms the heart and lifts the soul to see these glorious examples of God’s creative genius. A half day drive can bring amazing grace and healing into our sometimes too-busy lives and we are grateful for the gift of color, the ruggedness of hillsides, the warmth of the sun and the chance to be vagabonds for a few hours.

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  1. We have enjoyed this drive many times and have missed it this spring. Thanks for sharing. The photos are beautiful.