Thanks to President’s Day, I recently had a 3-day weekend in the middle of the week. (I work during actual weekends.) I decided to take a quest to find some wildflower blooms.
I began my journey at the Desert National Wildlife Refuge just outside Las Vegas, NV. No flowers.
Next stop was Death Valley National Park. Actually, “stop” isn’t strictly accurate. Really I just entered the park via Death Valley Junction and drove south on Badwater Road. There were a couple creosote bushes starting to show yellow flowers, but nothing too exciting.
I left Death Valley through the south entrance and found myself in Tonopah, CA. Now, I moved out West almost a year ago, and ever since Day 1, I have been hearing about China Ranch and their date shakes over near Tonopah. So, naturally I had to check it out.
The shakes were pretty good! Still no flowers, though.
I decided to continue south through Baker, CA to Mojave National Preserve. The Preserve has 2 visitor centers. The closest to Baker is the Kelso Depot, which used to be a train station back in the day. Trains still pass through, but they are all for freight–no passengers.
Day 1 ended at Hole-in-the-Wall campground (and still no flowers).
I began Day 2 with a short hike on the Ring Loop Trail near Hole-in-the-Wall campground in the Mojave Preserve. You basically hike around some rock formations and into a canyon. Then you use metal rings to climb out of the canyon. The climbing part was tricky. I’m 5’2″ and I really could have used a tall person to help me scramble up the top part. I banged up a knee and a pinky toe, and then decided it would be best if I didn’t die. So I clambered back down and walked back to my car the long way around. Sometimes the wisest thing to do is admit defeat.
I still hadn’t found any wildflowers, but decided to try one more spot. I exited Mojave Preserve and drove to Amboy Crater. I spent quite a bit of time at Amboy last year when I was a botany intern in California. There had been wildflowers this time last year, so I figured there was a chance. (Of course last year was a Super Bloom, so it wasn’t exactly the norm.)
There were no flowers to be found at Amboy this time around, but it did make a new place to stop for lunch. I briefly considered continuing south to Joshua Tree, but decided to head back instead so I could treat my car to a well-deserved oil change and a wash.
I backtracked through the Mojave Preserve and stopped for gas in Baker. I had neglected to register the day before that Baker happens to be the home of the world’s largest thermometer.
As I was driving past Death Valley on my way back home, I noticed a large white “DV” on the side of a mountain. Someone must have painted a bunch of big rocks white and formed them into the gigantic letters.
So I did not fulfill my quest to see lots of wild flowers on my President’s Day road trip, but there was still plenty to see!