I just did a trip from Oakland to Montaña del Oro State Park, Jalama Beach County Park, Carrizo Nat'l Monument, Red Rocks State Park, Alabama Hills Recreation Area, Cerro Gordo, Panamint Springs, Bishop Creek and back home over Sonora Pass (yes, it's open...so is Monitor but not Tioga).
The outset of the trip had horrendous winds; I delayed a day and even then the first two days (April 16th and 17th) it really blew. But from the north...improved my gas mileage by 20% (honestly; it was freaky).
Montaña del Oro is a nice little state park near Morro Bay; nice campground and great hiking, running, mountain biking and tide pooling. But like all CA state parks, too expensive. No flowers, which is VERY rare.
Then down the coast to Jalama Beach. It's a Santa Barbara County park; showers, some nice sites, a café and a big beach. Awesome kite surfing; wind blew straight out to sea at consistent 20 knots. Good birding. Nice drive in; the only coastal access for almost 50 miles (betwixt Pt Arguello and Pt Conception). Almost no flowers.
Then a new (to me) drive up the Cuyama River to the lower entrance to Carrizo Nat'l Monument. I've been trying to travel routes based on terrain rather than highway choice, and this fits the bill. Rather awesome that the Chumash Indians originally had a camp at Jalama Beach, and also in Carrizo, where they left rock art. Not very well travelled, and a nice drive (just don't follow Google's directions, they are scandalously inaccurate and gonna get someone stranded). Stayed this time at KCL campground; it's been a bit improved since I last encountered it. Only trees for miles. Birds galore; no flowers. Carrizo isn't for everyonne; it should be called Rodent National Monument. Everything (owls, foxes, kangaroo rats, snakes) lives in holes. Except bats; they live in abandoned buildings. One is actually set aside for their use. One of the remotest parts of CA. No flowers; again rare.
After leaving Carrizo, over to Red Rocks State Park. I still think it's one of the best semi-ignored state parks; great for hiking. But I still can't convince them to open up backcountry camping again. Sigh. But it's a pretty nice campground, just too expensive. Thought I found some Indian artifacts, but then again every piece of chipped obsidian or chert looks like a tool to me now.
Then over to Alabama Hills. Many have mentioned how nice it is to boondock there. Not many people, except some climbers on the weekend. It was getting quite hot, and the Sierra have a snow level that's about par for mid June. It's as if summer had already arrived. No flowers. Actually stayed up on Lone Pine Creek one day to avoid heat.
Speaking of heat, we then decided to do Cerro Gordo. Road on west side in great shape, but due to heat I'd advise 4WD if you've got it to help keep the tranny cool. Guy coming up sorta cooked his F250's trans. Probate is closing in June, and Robert, the caretaker, was constantly on the phone with the owner/son. Hope it stays open. Can't stay in hotel anymore, bummer.
I descended the back side to the Lee Flat Rd and then out Saline Valley Rd to 190. The trip down is slow and bumpy, and I had to move some rocks. But the road back up the canyon towards Lee Flat is worse than what I'd heard; there were some washouts and ruts, probably due to the heavy monsoons they got last summer (I don't think it rained enough this winter, and I hear the southern end of the Saline Rd is a bit trashed). No problemo for a SMB in 4WD, but it slowed things down and had to scout a coupla times in those one-tire-low one-tire-high leaning over ruts. So slower than anticipated.
Then stayed at Panamint Springs Resort. Love that place. Had some long talks with the family; they are slowly making improvements. Added tent cabins, for instance. Cold beer and showers and some shade; best campground camping in DVNP IMHO. Be a great place to do a SMB gathering. They just had one for dual sport bikes (and there were far more bikers staying there than RVs). No flowers. Getting quite hot.
So bailed (there was no one around, BTW, never saw anyone on back roads, and only three cars on the Emigrant loop). Over to Bishop Creek; lots of Inyo NF campsites were opening early due to the lack of snow (you could hike snow free all the way up to Lone Pine Lake).
And I noticed they just opened Sonora Pass; one of the earliest I've seen. So had to head over. Unfortunately camprounds not all open, and some boony sites inaccessible, so I just motored home. The west side was gorgeous, and again, empty. Gotta get out more in April I guess.
If anyone wants more specifics, lemme know.