By Susan Motander
I am the daughter of the original Tommy Tourist. My father loved to take drives on the weekends he was not working. As his daughter I became more aware of the various day outings around Los Angeles and neighboring counties than most people. We would regularly take off-on Sunday afternoons and explore. Most of the time, Papa knew where we were going, and sometimes, he even shared that information.
I have no problem sharing the ideas I garnered then and some I have found on my own. This is the first in what I hope will be a regular feature, ideas for your own get-aways, sometimes for the day, sometimes for a weekend or longer. Enjoy. We did as a family, and my husband and I still do. Now instead of a station wagon, I am traveling in much more interesting cars.
California is the “Golden State,” but in spring those colors are much more varied, as it is the season to enjoy the blossoms that herald the arrival of the season: white, pink, and red as well as the most glorious golden. Fresno County celebrates the season each year with its Blossom Trail and the California Poppy Reserve regularly updates its website to advise those interested in the status of the blooms.
To get to the Blossom trail, go up Hwy 99 past Kingsburg in Fresno County, then follow the trail available on the Fresno Tourism Bureau website:
Just last week, the website reported that the blossoms are in full bloom now. With the warm weather this might be a great weekend adventure. Check the site for the status for this weekend before you take off.
That website also gives information on identifying the blossoms you see:
Almond Blossoms have white petals. Two or more varieties may be planted in the same orchard for cross pollination by bees. Harvesting, usually done mechanically, runs from late Aug. to early Oct.
Plum Blossoms are white. At least two varieties will be planted in an orchard for cross pollination. Over 200 varieties are grown commercially. Harvested in June to late September.
Apricot Blossoms have pink petals. Fewer than 12 varieties are grown commercially. Harvest season lasts two to three weeks during mid to late May.
Peach and Nectarine Blossoms feature pink to red petals and bloom at the same time. Over 100 varieties are grown commercially. Harvest runs mid-May to October.
Apple Blossoms have white petals. Up to six varieties are grown commercially in Fresno County. Harvest is Aug. to Nov.
Citrus Blossoms are white with most aromatic fragrance. Navel and Valencia oranges, and lemons, are the most common citrus grown locally.
In case driving that far is not on your list of favorite activities, try taking Highway 118 beyond Moorpark through the Semi Valley to Ventura to enjoy the citrus blossoms in the valley. I have driven through many times in spring in a convertible and loved every minute of it.
If the thought of just driving up to Ventura does not excite you, consider stopping at one of the wineries in that city (yes there are wineries in Ventura). Check out the Ventura County Wine Trail at http://www.venturacountywinetrail.com. There is even a map on the website to guide you through the area (one note, if you go on Saturday, Herzog winery will be closed as it is a Kosher Winery and observes the Sabbath on Saturday – most of the rest celebrate the weekend, rather than observing the Sabbath).
Another option is going to the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve, near Lancaster. The Reserve is a California State Nature Reserve, and as such as some rules of conduct: no dogs are allowed, you must stay on the trails, and you cannot pick the blossoms. There is a fee for entry ($10 or $9 if there is a senior citizen in the car).
Their website also gives several warnings: Stay on the trails, not just because it is in the rules, but also because there are rattlesnakes in the area. There are also strong winds in the area on a regular basis, so be prepared, and bring your own water, as there is none at the park.
According to their website, “As of March 13th, patches of poppies have started opening on the east end of the park! It’s looking like this weekend will be the real start of the bloom, and it may last through mid to late April if the weather is cooperative. We won’t have a solid carpet of poppies across the park, but a couple areas look like they’re about to explode into a beautiful sea of orange.
The Reserve is located 15 miles west of Lancaster at 15101 Lancaster Road. From Highway 14: Take the Avenue I exit and head west 15 miles. Avenue I becomes Lancaster Road.
From I-5: Take Hwy 138 east and turn right on 170th Street West. Make a left at the end, onto Lancaster Road. Follow the road two miles.
For a more complete list of wild flowers, check out the Theodore Payne Wild Flower Hotline, now in its 34th year. It offers free weekly online and recorded updates – posted each Friday from March through May – on the best locations for viewing spring wild flowers in Southern and Central California. The number for the hotline is 818-768-1802 ext 7. Or listen on line at http://theodorepayne.org/education/wildflower-hotline/
While this is this season for the white, pinks and reds of the traditional spring flowers, in California, the poppy still rules; it is the state flower.