Having spent a good amount of time alone in the wilderness, I relish the chance to connect with nature without distractions. But this time, this year’s Superbloom, was a time to share nature’s connections with others. The people we met and the conversations we had with so many who were inspired by the millions of native plants smiling in flowers across the landscape, reminded us that together we can both enjoy and protect the wild that is left in this world.
Our first adventure experiencing the Superbloom was on the Carrizo Plain, a lonely valley bordered by the coastal range to the west (adjacent to San Luis Obispo), and the Tremblor Range to the east (which slowly descends into the San Joaquin Valley and the little oil town of Taft).
Here is a small taste of the flavors we enjoyed.
The wild of the Carrizo, however, was not easy to protect, as evidenced by past tragedy documented in an excellent article by Matt Kettmann.
Soon after the monument was created in 2001 (by President Clinton), 13-year BLM veteran Marlene Braun was named manager. Having been stationed in Alaska and Nevada, the workaholic Braun finally felt at home on the Carrizo, and took intense pride in protecting it. She scaled back grazing on sensitive grasslands and began developing the monument’s first management plan, which would phase out long-term livestock permits. Every agency signed on, even the BLM’s California office. Then, in March 2004, the Bush administration—which was critical of Clinton’s last-minute monument designations—appointed Ron Huntsinger as Braun’s supervisor in BLM’s Bakersfield field office. With marching orders to favor ranching over preservation and “fix this plan,” Huntsinger and Braun became immediate enemies. The two butted heads repeatedly, so much so that in May 2005, Braun—who had also been dealing with her own psychological demons—arranged her personal affairs and wrote a few important letters about her fears for the Carrizo. She then took a .38 caliber revolver, killed her two dogs—neatly placing their bodies under a quilt—and turned the gun on herself.
Braun’s suicide shocked the region, resulted in a federal investigation, and eventually led to Huntsinger’s transfer. The management plan was the fourth casualty. “The whole process imploded. It collapsed,” explained Neil Havlik, who was named to the monument’s advisory committee when it was created in 2002. “It was finally decided that the process should start all over again.”
The full story can be found here:
And the fight continues to protect this natural jewel as the current administration in Washington DC is now questioning the continued existence of the Carrizo Plain National Monument.
THE BOTANY BLUES
For the complete plant list of the Carrizo Plain, try the official BLM list:
Regarding the solar panels on the Plain, Neil Havlik explains,
When several proposals for solar power facilities in the Carrizo Plain area of eastern San Luis Obispo County, California, became publicly known in 2009, those proposals raised many questions. How big would they be? How would they be managed? What would be the environmental and social impacts of their creation? Would they be a benefit to the community or a detriment?
Overall, in the view of this one observer, the solar facilities have been a significant benefit to the Carrizo Plain. There are several reasons for this.
The public debate over the solar facilities was lively and lengthy. It included the imposition of more than 125 conditions of approval, ranging from environmental mitigations to bus-pooling for workers (more than 1,000 at the peak of construction) to reduce impacts on traffic. Many of the environmental conditions were enhanced by the settlement of litigation that followed the County’s approval of the projects. The result has been the creation of a second cohort of conserved lands second only in size to Carrizo Plain National Monument itself, together with renewed interest in continued expansion of those lands…
The full article can be found here:
The colors as they were. Some of the photos of the Plain’s wildflowers that are going viral on the internet have suffered a bit of Photoshop over-exuberance.
And another mountain nearby.
TREMBLOR RANGE COLORS
VALLEY FLOOR COLORS
THE SAN ANDREAS!
So much to learn from the rocks.
“A great earthquake shook the mountains, ripping a deep gash through the rock formations…”
– Spanish travelers describing the 1857 earthquake in the Carrizo Plain; from “The Legend of Los Temblores,” in Cuentos, by Angus MacLean.
A guide to Wallace Creek geology can be found here:
We searched and searched for a glimpse of a pronghorn, but no luck. We did, however, capture a few of the Plain’s other attractive denizens. To read more about these amazing antelopes (plus the Plain), see Jack Elliot’s blog here:
On the way out of the Plain, we took Hurricane Road to the little oil town of Taft (go to Ruby’s Grill in town for lunch!). While the maps make the road look like it requires 4-wheel-drive, not so, at least when it’s dry.