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Wildflower walks

Spring is coming to meet you

Posted: March 4, 2011 6:00 a.m.
Updated: March 4, 2011 6:00 a.m.

It’s almost time to take a bloomin’ wildflower walk.

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Spring officially kicks off on March 20, and with all the rain we've had this winter, things out in the wild are green and seem about to pop already. This just might translate into a fantastic "wildflower season." If so, pretty much any hike into the hills should find a colorful natural show, but two areas well known for blossoms include our local Placerita Canyon Natural Area and the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve in Lancaster.

Placerita Canyon Natural Area
On the fourth Saturday of every month the Placerita Canyon Nature Center hosts Blooms of the Season, docent-led, one-hour informational strolls along the beautiful trails of the Placerita Canyon Natural Area. On these walks you can learn about native plants and see what is currently blooming in the canyon.

In addition to the wildflower walks, every Saturday there is a Family Nature Walk, beginning at 11 a.m., and a Native Live Animal Presentation, beginning at 1 p.m. Every second Saturday of the month there is a docent-led Bird Walk, beginning at 9 a.m., for beginning to advanced birders.

Placerita is an east-west running canyon featuring cool, shaded oak groves, a willow and sycamore-lined seasonal stream and numerous other interesting plant and animal communities. A network of self-guiding nature, history and hiking trails radiates out into the park from the Nature Center, with longer hikes leading to a seasonal waterfall and to the top of the Santa Clarita Divide. Picnicking is available near the Nature Center.

The park has seven different trails comprising 12 miles, from beginner to advanced. Park trail maps are available for patrons and groups at the front desk. Round trip from the Nature Center to Walker Ranch is approximately 3.6 miles. The waterfall trail begins in the Walker Ranch area. It takes about 30 to 40 minutes to hike. Be advised there is lots of poison oak in the area. Once at the waterfall you must turn around and come back the same way you came. The waterfall generally has water "falling" from about January through May on an average rain year, and rarely falls in drought years.

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve
Each spring, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve comes alive with the seasonal surprises of the Mojave Desert grassland habitat. The duration and intensity of colors and scents vary from year to year. Although the wildflower season generally lasts from as early as mid-February through mid-May, the park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. Fall is also a pleasant time to visit, as the days are normally warm, with milder winds.

Eight miles of trails through the gentle rolling hills, including a paved section for wheelchair access, make the park a wonderful place to hike and explore any season. Benches located along the trails make good places to sit quietly and watch for wildlife.

Beginning Saturday, March 12, the Jane S. Pinheiro Interpretive Center at the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekends for the duration of the wildflower season. The visitor center, staffed by volunteers, offers wildlife and wildflower displays, a gallery of Jane S. Pinheiro's detailed watercolor paintings, an orientation video, and gift shop featuring unique wildflower-themed items. Guided tours about the wildflowers and cultural history of the reserve will be offered daily.

To kick off the 2011 season, the public is invited to participate in a volunteer "weed bash" at the reserve, removing invasive non-native grasses from around the parking area that are crowding out the poppies and other native wildflowers. The weed bash will begin at 10 a.m. on March 12. Wear comfortable shoes and layered clothing and bring gardening gloves and water. Minors may participate with a parent or legal guardian.

A moderate number of poppy plants have been seen so far this year and their flower buds are just beginning to form. An accurate bloom prediction is still difficult at this time, as the possibility of late frosts and early heat waves make any predictions tentative. Wildflower updates will be posted regularly throughout the season at www.parks.ca.gov, or call (661) 724-1180 for recorded updates.

The reserve is open year-round from sunrise to sunset but the visitor center and activities are only available during the spring. The visitor center will close May 8.

 

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