Monday, August 19, 2019

Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve and Saddleback Butte State Park, April 5, 2019

During the spring "superbloom," I made multiple trips into the desert. Two posts ago I wrote up my early March visit to Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument, and the Living Desert Museum, both in or near Palm Desert. Also in early March, I visited Joshua Tree National Park. (In fact, given the dates, I'm thinking I may have one of them off a week in the posts, which is what happens when you wait too long to post!)
Then, in late March, I visited the Antelope Valley California Poppy State Reserve. On that trip, I was a little pre-peak. So I came back again a few weeks later. That's what I'm posting here.

I combined a quick return to the Poppy Reserve with a short trip to Saddleback Butte State Park. Saddleback Butte is always pretty empty, even during a superbloom. You don't get the same density as you do elsewhere, but the flowers can be nice and the variation in terrain is a nice change from the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve.

In contrast to the emptiness of Saddleback Butte, the Poppy Reserve was pretty zoo-like, even with a relatively early arrival. Of course, even then, once you get some distance from the visitor center, the lower-altitude trails that go around the rises are still somewhat empty. Also, I was more or less at peak, so the crowds could be mostly ignored, once I got away from the parking area.
Unfortunately, the areas closer to the parking lot literally get trampled. There seemed to be dozens of areas like this, where stupid people who can't just take a picture of nature but need to insert themselves right into the bloom, trampled areas along the trail for their selfie moments. The park placed little placards on the ground at these trample areas, telling people this was not a trail and to stay on the trail. Obviously, not entirely effective.
But, again, once you got further from the parking lot, the area opened up some, although there were still some trampled areas. Even worse is that you could see where previous years' trampling had occurred by the patches of flower-free zones adjacent to places with thick blooms. The damage from soil compaction in areas where people "selfie" lasts for years, even if you think you're only going where other people have already gone.
After my relatively short walk along the trails of the Poppy Reserve, I then drove east, to Saddleback Butte State Park. My last visit there had been back in January, for the total lunar eclipse.

Saddleback Butte was once known as Joshua Tree State Park, but people confused it with what was then Joshua Tree National Monument, which is not very near, geographically. The Joshua Tree here are also generally smaller than what you'll find in the park. But, especially in the northern portion of Saddleback Butte State Park, the Joshua tree are plentiful.
There are relatively few California Poppies in this park, but there is often in springtime, a good variety of other wildflowers. Fiddlenecks were common, and provided a nice foreground to the snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains, to the south and southeast. Mount Baldy himself is slightly east of south from here.
Shortly after having arrived, an F-18 flew quickly overhead. Edwards Air Force Base is not too far away, though I don't know if Saddleback Butte is on their regular route. I don't recall seeing such flyovers on previous visits, and I wasn't ready for that one. But I did switch my lens out and prepare for a later flyby, which I did catch. Not the best angle, but still, pretty close.

Fremont Pincushion were also scattered about, as were desert dandelion, desert marigold, desert daisy, dune primrose, and coreopsis.

Other than the Joshua tree forest, most (if not all) of these shots are from the trail from the campground towards Saddleback Butte, near the southern end of the park.

Didn't actually climb the butte, this time. Having already walked 4 miles or so in the Poppy Reserve, I was content to explore the dune and alluvial fan areas along the slope of the butte, and the nature trail up near the visitor center.
The visitor center was closed, alas. Looks pretty tiny, anyway, but I was hoping to get some information there, and I've never managed to visit when the visitor center was open. Still haven't!
My original ambition for this trip was to also visit the nearby Antelope Valley Indian Museum. It's also state run, and very close to Saddleback Butte. But, despite many trips to Saddleback Butte, I still have not managed the Indian museum.
And, here, again, I wasn't feeling enough motivation to want to squeeze in another park, so this will still need to wait for another day.


  1. I enjoyed these photos and you talking about where you hiked. I haven't done much hiking in San Gabriel mountains but I do love finding trail in the San Bernardino mountains.

    1. I'm sort of the opposite, since the San Gabriels are a lot closer for me. Probably only a half-dozen trails I've done in the San Bernardino mountains, though I keep saying I'm going to go back to Big Bear!

  2. Big Bear - in the fall - would be great for hiking!