Place: Audubon Kern River Preserve, Lake Isabella, California
Coordinates: 35.668814, -118.305661
Length: 1.5 miles
Last spring came early to the California deserts and the bloom was strong and spectacular. After visiting the big desert bloom in Death Valley last February we decided to return via Hwy 178 that passes the mountains by Lake Isabella and along the Kern River. It is a very beautiful drive, but a slow one - the road is narrow and winding, and had only one lane for each direction. And past the mountain pass there would be the long hours of driving through the Central Valley. In short, we were looking for a place to stop and do a little hike and a lunch picnic. The place that called us from the map was the Audubon Kern River Preserve - a small nature area between the road and the river.
We found the place and parked on the gravel lot that was already green with grass sprouts. A few shaggy building stood next to the parking lot but they were close and empty. The owner of the only other car in the lot was nowhere to be seen.
We started with the picnic, then took our cameras and binoculars and went out to explore.
One of the buildings serves as a nature center - at another time of the year. Next to it was a large sign post with a trail map and a list of birds that can be seen in the area. Hanging from the building awning was a bird feeder, and it wasn't lonely.
While the only green seen atop the tree canopies was that of the mistletoe, hanging in bright balls off the bare branches.
Unlike the trees, the birds were already in the full swing of spring activities. The air was filled with song and little birds were hopping in and out of the trees and bushes. Most of them were sparrows and finches, but there were lots of bluebirds too.
|Mrs. and Mr. Western Bluebird|
We continued west on Hwy 178 and soon the road delved deep into the Kern Canyon and was winding between the rocky peaks of the southern Sierra Nevada.
Pappa Quail had the wheel on that drive, and soon I urged him to stop the car. It took a bit more driving before he found a safe pull-out, and stopped. I got out, camera in hand: the entire mountain side was green and orange with flowers. It was quite a spectacular sight.
The orange was so intense the it's reflection in the Kern was just as bright and impressive. At the time, it was the prettiest orange mountain side I've seen. Two months later I would behold the orange display of Figueroa Mountain, surpassing any other such display, but the Kern mountains bloom is still one of the best ones to see in early spring.
I didn't know what those orange flowers were. Poppies, could be. Also the fiddleneck that I saw blooming right at the river bank. Either way, it was gorgeous.