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Spring in Southern California

Thursday, 15 May 2003
written by Teresa

"Partially Paved" The words "partially paved" no doubt conjure up various images for different people and while the Forest Service are quite right in their portrayal of the "road" up to Reyes Peak Campground in the Los Padres National Forest, they forget to broaden the description to include notions of single track with sheer drop off edges, along with rutted and rock strewn surface. It makes for an exciting drive involving a degree of nervous anticipation about whether the road is going to prove passable or if an oncoming vehicle might suddenly appear around one of the tortuous bends.

South facing aspects are clothed in the riotous colours of spring; reds, purples and yellows mingled in a startling natural montage. The views expand with increasing altitude until at seven thousand feet, the ocean is evident in the distance, the Channel Islands hazily resting off shore. The wrinkled hills lie below the steeper tree covered slopes of the mountain with the narrow sand edged coastal plain basking in the maritime air.

Camped In A Cloud We wake the first morning swathed in cloud, the enormous trees encrusted in hoarfrost and the views temporarily lost in the freezing swirling mistiness. Not even the birds are stirring and the only sounds are the muffled movement of trees. As the day wares on, the cloud gradually continues it's inland journey, opening small temporary windows, glimpses of the surrounding views, before finally lifting to reveal the full panorama.

The trail up to the namesake Reyes Peak follows a steep gradient across moist north facing slopes emerging onto connecting ridge saddles affording views out to the water and towards the broad inland valleys, with their dry sandy bottoms and contrasting green squares of irrigated crops. Rock outcrops litter the hillside offering numerous opportunities to sit and watch the violet-green swallows, speedy acrobats feeding on the wing.

Leaving the mountains behind, we returned to the rich agricultural valleys early in the morning and treated ourselves to breakfast in the small town of Maricopa. The quantity of food would have fed a family of six for a week and the surprise ingredient of cabbage in the omelette was amazingly good. The café itself was crammed full of nick-knacks, both ends of the counter invisible under a mound of clutter, the windows surrounded by plants, thriving in the light and the walls covered in amateur murals with interesting perspectives, confusing both eye and brain.

California Poppies South of Maricopa the hills explode in a tapestry of impressionist colour. Vast areas of California Poppy and Wild Lupine smother the slopes in a carpet of orange and purple, breathtaking in it's boldness and beauty. Green Bug The expanse and intensity of the flower fields is stunning, the lupines gradually giving way to the solid blocks of rich poppy gold in the valley bottoms. The numerous orange heads shimmy in the light breezes brushing across the fields, a carpet of rich rippling colour.

While the camper was being worked at in the Lance factory, we had a couple of days around Lancaster and paid a visit to the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, hoping to see some of the shelled reptiles. During a two hour visit, we did not see even one and Sterling came to the conclusion that they had gone on a group holiday to Acapulco. There was plenty of evidence of their burrows but sadly nobody was at home. We were however treated to the appearance of a number of different lizards and the most amazing large green insect, presumably left out of the holiday plans.

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