Southern California's deserts are going to see a helluva bloom this year thanks to the rainiest February in decades. Downtown Los Angeles has seen nearly double its average rainfall. The long, steady rain (along with the cooler temperatures) has teed up a situation similar to the magnificent 2016-2017 season, which begs the question: How fantastic will this year's bloom end up being?
All signs point to a historically Instagrammable spring that will bring city dwellers out of their concrete utopias and out to the poppy fields. Limited parking will send visitors to put their cars wherever they damn-well please. Fragile ecosystem trampling is sure to run rampant. If trends repeat themselves from two years ago, park rangers will have to shut down everything just so they can preserve this cycle of unprecedented natural beauty followed by humanity's subsequent destruction of it. You know, for the 'Grams.
But not all of us have to be part of the problem. You and I can make the right choices in the next few weeks so we can photograph ourselves looking like we're the only ones who had the idea AND preserve California's beautiful but fragile deserts.
1) Stay On Established Trails
Junior Ranger 101 here. In every National Park, Forest, or managed wilderness, rangers constantly emphasize the importance of staying on trails. This simple decision protects the plants and wildlife more than any other suggestion below. Do the right thing and don't destroy years of natural ecosystem building for a photo. It may seem trivial, but being part of the solution is better than being part of the problem.
2) Arrive Early For Easy Legal Parking and Prettier Photos
Morning light, morning mist, and morning dew are all but assured to be missed by the vast majority of photo-seekers. If you're planning on making the trip, go to bed early and beat the rest of the Angelenos out of town. You'll help reduce congestion later in the day and have no trouble parking where you're supposed to. The added bonus here is that when you're done, bottomless mimosa brunches will still be going on. It's a win-win.
3) Leave Your Dog At Home
Southern California is incredibly dog friendly. We’re allowed to bring our dogs just about anywhere, so it inherently makes sense that if you’re going outdoors, you’ll bring your canine friends! Unfortunately, there’s a reason that in most National and California State Parks dogs are not allowed outside of developed campground or, really, off the concrete: Disease. Dogs can carry viruses that aren't not harmful to them, but can be harmful to wildlife and vice versa! It’s believed that a dog taken to Isle Royale National Park is responsible for carrying the disease that wiped out its entire wolf population. Coyotes are ubiquitous across SoCal and carry over a dozen diseases that could infect your dog simply by a curious whiff of feral feces. For Fido’s sake, leave him at home.
4) Visit Less Popular Wildflower Destinations (ie Any Remaining Wild Meadows)
Southern Californians have so many options for wildflower viewing that you don't have to go to the most easily Googled site: The Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve. With record rainfalls across the region, the area will be so inundated with beautiful flowers that you won't be able to leave Los Angeles without seeing them! Los Padres National Forest, Angeles National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, San Gabriel Mountains National Monument, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, amongst others (even Griffith Park or the Verdugo Mountains) will all be gorgeous natural phenomena. Search Alltrails.com to find a hike in your skill level and go explore somewhere unexpected.
5) Don't Like Photos From People Who Are Clearly Harming Nature
Social Media is democracy happening every day. The simple act of “Liking” a photo encourages people to continue to do whatever they're doing. Not saying that you should scold your friends over the internet—you don't have to be “that person” unless you want to be.
6) Report Egregious Activity
Stepping off a trail is one thing (after all, it is a ticketable offense!), but if you see someone harvesting wildflowers or purposefully destroying them, tell a ranger. They care. A lot. We once reported a couple whom we saw hatcheting and collecting in Joshua Tree National Park. Rangers put out a park-wide notice and had law enforcement rangers on alert. Help protect the small parcels of wilderness we have left from those doing the most harm.
Now get out (early) this weekend and enjoy some wildflowers in a way you never thought you would when you were a teenager!