Unexpected Flower Bliss at Laguna Meadows

If there’s anything that I’ve learned about wildflower blooms in California by now, it’s that it isn’t really the amount of rain that counts most – but its timing. We received only about one third of the average rainfall during our “wet season” 2017/2018 (and with the average being only 10 inches or ~250mm, it isn’t much to begin with anyway). But as I mentioned previously, some wildflowers are doing just fine – and even seem to put on a better display than in wetter years.

One big surprise were the upper Laguna Meadows when I hiked there with Peter this morning. I had expected absolutely nothing, we just wanted to get a nice hike in cool temperatures in* – and it was absolutely perfect hiking weather: sunny with breezy winds that kept us cool, and wispy high clouds in the sky.

We started at the Penny Pines Trailhead along Sunrise Highway in the early morning – this is the fastest approach to the upper part of Laguna Meadows. The trail that connects to the meadows was seamed with an endless hedge of Palmer’s Ceanothus in bloom – it’s one of the few white-blooming Ceanothus that also has a wonderful and aromatic smell, so this Ceanothus addict got another fix! ;-)

When we reached the open meadows that gently slope down south towards the ‘Big Laguna’ lake, I immediately saw multiple large patches of Creamcups (Platystemon californicus) – their creamy soft, buttery color with a hint of green looked almost like pollen floating on water. That was the moment where I was glad that I had packed “Big Bertha” as well as my 24-120mm lens and the extension tubes. :-)

Some of these patches are almost purely filled or better yet, crammed with Creamcups – astonishing! In other spots, multiple flowers were mixed into the Creamcup patches. On our loop hike we also saw large amounts of Prairie Flax (Linum lewisii), some Scarlet Bugler (Penstemon centranthifolius) beginning to bloom, the incredibly beautiful Fairy Lantern (Calochortus albus), Smooth Linanthus (Leptosiphon floribundus ssp. glaber) – but these photos will have to wait a while.

For now, here are some impressions of these completely unexpected but incredible flower patches:

*) turns out it was cooler near the coast, under a very persistent “May Gray” marine layer, with some drizzle even: let us be grateful while it lasts…

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