It was all over the news–California was in the midst of a Super Bloom. The newscaster hadn’t even finished the segment and I was already packed and headed down the highway toward the modern-day flower gold rush. To me, there wasn’t a better place to head toward than the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve . It has low, rolling hills, with each hill covered in beautiful orange poppies. The Super Bloom and I were about to become best of friends.
The drive, at least to me, wasn’t all that long, and it is an easy drive in any event. I had one thing, and only one thing on my mind: make a beeline for the poppy reserve and everything else could wait. If I didn’t have to stop for gas I would have made better time, but, well, that’s just the way it works. Before too long I rolled up at the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, and, as advertised, the hills indeed were full of orange poppies, resplendent in the morning sun.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the size of the reserve. Now, to be fair, I don’t know what I was expected, but I suppose it was something like endless hill after endless hill. Instead, although there were hills, and they were low and rolling, and they were full of poppies. there weren’t many of them. In fact, I could easily see from one end to the other. Luckily, what was in-between was gorgeous.
Before you could blink your eye I was in the middle of the poppies and was as happy as I could be. Once you are on the hills, now they seem to stretch on forever and ever, as far as the could see. This was especially true if you were in between hills, because in reality you couldn’t see far. But the illusion was complete. It was exactly as advertised.
I explored the poppy reserve from end to end, enjoying every moment of it. I wandered up and down each hill, looking in every direction. And every direction was filled with more poppies. Interestingly, though, what caught my eye wasn’t the poppies, per se, but rather the blooms when they are grouped with other flowers. Each hill was nothing but poppies. But, toward the edges, other flowers began to creep in, providing a pleasant contrast of yellow, orange and purples. These groupings help tell the intimate story of the poppy fields.
The further away from the main fields you go, the more the other flowers mix in. From far away you can’t see blending, but up close you can, and when you focus on a small area, as this photograph does, the results are very pleasing indeed.
Along one edge is a large field of yellow flowers, with the main poppy hills behind it. This panorama tells another side of the story of another aspect of the poppy reserve and gives another contrast. Yellow Reserve is one of my favorite photographs from the poppy reserve, even though the poppies are not the main focus.
Oh, the People
This was once private land, but it was donated to the State of California for perpetual preservation. This is awesome, because it protects and preserves the poppies. It also has some side-effects for me, namely, people. The poppy reserve is only open during specific hours. And it is highly publicized. And it is in California, which as we all know, doesn’t have many people. Finally, it is near the ghost town of Los Angeles, which also doesn’t have many people. Oh wait… yeah, you see where I am going. Basically, everyone in Los Angeles, if not the entire state, is here when the poppy reserve opens. All of them crowd into the park at once. All of them wander the trails that wind among the hills. And each and every one of them are in my photographs.
I did not truly anticipate the sheer amount of people. Usually, I am out in the wilderness by myself. Civilization is a distant memory. Not this time. Being just a short drive away from Los Angeles, and heavily publicized on the news, draws a tremendous crowd. It is not impossible to work around the crowds, but it is far more challenging to do so.
This panorama shows the poppy reserve from end to end. If you step back across the room it looks pristine and perfect. When you peer closely, though, you’ll see all sorts of vehicles, and every hill is topped with a crowd. That’s OK, though, for it is best to enjoy the poppies with people in a protected place than unprotected. The latter ensures that the poppies won’t last because they will be trampled and picked. You can see this outside of the reserve–there, people do exactly what the reserve is there to prevent.
Despite the challenges of the crowds, I’ll be back here for the next Super Bloom. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is an incredible place, and one of the best to see poppies. It is kept wild and beautiful for all the generations to come. Should you find yourself anywhere near it while the poppies are in bloom, you must make a stop here to enjoy them.