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Old 03-31-2024, 01:47 PM   #1
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Moosemobile hunts wildflowers on the Carrizo Plain

Hi folks,

Thought I'd share some wildflowers for Easter Sunday.

I've wanted to go the Carrizo Plain for years, but it's certainly out of the way and spring wildflower season also coincides with my busiest time of year with my day job. We almost made it a couple of years ago on the way back from the desert but we ran out of daylight and in January it would have been too early for the wildflowers.

We came in from the west thru Paso Robles last Sunday afternoon after making the mandatory stop at La Reyna market for a burrito. It's actually remarkably close to Paso, maybe an hour to the north end near Soda Lake. It had been raining over the weekend and we got there just as the rain was ending. I had searched for dispersed camping regulations and the info was rather thin. It seemed that already-used spots were ok, and it's BLM land after all. I had scouted out a few spots on Google Earth and had them marked on my map.

Arriving late Sunday, we found a spot way off the main road, away from everyone and in the middle of a spectacular wildflower bloom! Mostly fields of gold, and it seems we missed the purples by just a few days. It looks like we drove out into the wildflowers, but really just stopped at the end of the access road at a spot.

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/97hkc...ml46ojsfd&dl=0

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/1xjjt...wl8hhk1n9&dl=0

We spent Sunday night here, with a full moon, and all of Monday in glorious sunshine amid the bloom

On Monday afternoon a ranger visited us, and told us we couldn't camp where we were. I told him I had tried and tried to understand the regulations, went to the closed visitor center, etc, and he agreed and said he has been telling "them" that they needed to improve the regulation info on the various websites. He was polite but stern. I get it, lots of cats to herd during the bloom. And I really don't like to be "that guy", oh the shame!

So we left and went to a spot he suggested up in the hills a bit on Selby road, above the Selby campground, which had an amazing view of the plain for sunset.

Then on Tuesday we headed back home but drove down Panorama road out to the middle of the plain until the very sketchy mud got too sketchy. That was the most beautiful bloom of all

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/wfhk4...et9rvd5dy&dl=0

Also on the way out we visited the Wallace Creek Interpretive Trail for ground zero on the San Andreas Fault. No one there, another spectacular spot.

We came out via the east on Highway 58 through McKittrick and up the West Side Highway through the oil fields...which I always find strangely interesting. The other way coming from 101 on the west was much easier than via the 5 on the east.

Huge sky, huge bloom! All in all a great quick trip, and we will definitely be heading back!
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IMG_1868.jpg   IMG_1878.jpg   IMG_1882.jpg   IMG_4190.jpg   IMG_4291.jpg  


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Old 03-31-2024, 02:00 PM   #2
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I've never been there - how are the road conditions for 2x? I wouldn't need to do anything gnarly but would like to go while it's green. Are you seeing superbloom conditions or somewhere in the middle of the spectrum? I heard there are a lot of peepers out but got impression it wasn't a superbloom this year.
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Old 03-31-2024, 03:37 PM   #3
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Great photos. That must have been impressive & rewarding to see nature in all its glory.

We stopped to visit a Sunflower Farm in Kansas many years ago. Met with continuous rolling hills covered & in full bloom, and have to say I wasn't a fan at the time to make the detour but left in awe.
Following year we made a point to visit Big Bend in Texas just to see the blooms...again very gratifying, but we too were asked to leave eventually by an extremely aggressive band of javelinas.
If you haven't already, you need to consider visiting the East Coast for the Fall Leaves - in our experience the best places are Vermont and New Hampshire.
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Old 03-31-2024, 05:33 PM   #4
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Looks like a great trip. Awesome photos.
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Old 03-31-2024, 07:40 PM   #5
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Thanks for the photos and info - hard to understand all the "hoopla" over just one vehicle - you - and the ranger and "you gotta leave" when all the flowers are in the fields and "you're NOT" - ya - they got a job to do but it's not like the area was inundated with SMB's and other vehicles - trampling the flowers. I know I'll get banged up for this post -
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Old 04-02-2024, 11:02 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SMB123 View Post
I've never been there - how are the road conditions for 2x? I wouldn't need to do anything gnarly but would like to go while it's green. Are you seeing superbloom conditions or somewhere in the middle of the spectrum? I heard there are a lot of peepers out but got impression it wasn't a superbloom this year.
I don't know that it's defined as a superbloom this year, but it does seem to be a well-above-average bloom and worth a visit.

My rig is 2WD with limited slip and we take it pretty deep in general. Road conditions where we visited were no problemo. With that said, there was plenty of evidence of deep mud drama in lots of places, but much of that had mostly dried up. Panorama road became a mud bog at the bottom of the plain and we turned around. At that point it was clear that some others who had turned around had pulled just a wee bit too far off the road and we saw a few tire holes 3' deep...but my guess is that those rigs had 4wd and were able to pull out with their front tires still dry on the road. Also, Simmler Road around the south and east sides of Soda Lake had just become passable. But overall no problem.

We did feel some squishy mud a couple of times on the roads, which always freaks me out...of the three elements of rock crawling, sand and mud, our big heavy rigs have no business in mud. At one kiosk there was a vintage picture of mud ruts from some millennia ago, and the sign read "Cars have been getting stuck in the notorious Carrizo Plain mud for over 100 years." And I believe that truth!

Also, Selby Road up above where we camped sounds like it becomes better for 4WD, but we didn't go that high up.

This site has regular updates of pictures and conditions:

https://www.desertusa.com/wildflo/ca-carrizo-plain.html
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Old 04-07-2024, 09:44 PM   #7
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Beautiful pictures and video. Looked at them before reading anything. I could see that you were being "that guy" long before I read the part about the ranger. But I've 'been there done that' myself. Got busted for parking 100m instead of 100' off the road in the Kofa Wildlife Refuge in Arizona.
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Old 04-09-2024, 04:26 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by doublevan2 View Post
Thanks for the photos and info - hard to understand all the "hoopla" over just one vehicle - you - and the ranger and "you gotta leave" when all the flowers are in the fields and "you're NOT" - ya - they got a job to do but it's not like the area was inundated with SMB's and other vehicles - trampling the flowers. I know I'll get banged up for this post -
That area can get pretty overrun, and it's been badly trampled some years during superblooms, so the rules say no camping on the valley floor. There's no shortage of legal places to camp, fortunately, but OP is correct that it's hard to interpret the rules BLM gives on their website.
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Old 04-09-2024, 04:31 PM   #9
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I've never been there - how are the road conditions for 2x?
The main road through there, Soda Lake Road, is gravel with a few paved bits. It's generally fine for 2WD although it can be very badly washboarded at times. Simmler-Soda Lake Road and Elkhorn Road are dirt. They pack hard as concrete in dry weather but can be pretty treacherous right after a rain.

Some of the other side roads are 4WD only, especially when you get up into the Temblor Range.

If in doubt ask locally. If the visitor's center is open they can give you tips.

The area is worth visiting even when there's not a superbloom. It feels very stark and isolated, and you can see the San Andreas Fault pretty clearly in places.
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