After driving through the Mexican desert and back again on my recent vacation, I was eager to click my ruby slippers and chant “there’s no place like home.”
The sands of the Sonora mountains and beyond are rich with “stark beauty.” But March and April are enchanting in Chico.
Perhaps in contrast to the dry Mexican landscape, it seemed like all the flowers in Chico decided to bloom while I was gone.
This strengthened my resolve to make the annual trek to see the Table Mountain wildflowers.
Unfortunately, the only free time I had this week was in the wee hours; we decided to watch the sunrise on the plateau.
Note to self: Dawn is not the best time to view wildflowers.
Parking was not a problem at 5:30 in the morning. The sun rose and for a moment lingered in one of the giant oak trees on the east side of the road.
The wind, cold and steady, shook the branches until a cloud of small birds took to the air, chattering.
The morning sounds were worth the drive — almost simultaneously the ducks squawked then took off for the day’s adventures; black birds made their sweet little chirps in unison, and other birds chimed in.
Then the sound of the wind rustling the trees was a momentary distraction to the fact that we had dressed for a morning in Mexico.
The colors of the flowers were muted in the long rays of light and the hills were a hushed, lush green.
I wouldn’t trade the experience. Yet, I think next year I’ll bring sunscreen, go during broad daylight and prepare to dodge small children flying kites.
Everyone knows the giant oak tree near the parking lot on Table Mountain. The early sun gave me new appreciation for this landmark, which casts a shadow halfway across the plateau in early light.
Perhaps knowing I will never view wildflowers this early again, I snapped 224 digital photos, at one point becoming so distracted I lost my sneaker in the mud.
At least it was mud and not a cowpie.
Also, we left the house barely awake, and forgot to bring the flower identification book, “Wildflowers of Table Mountain,” by Samantha Mackey and Albin Bills.
(Sixteen copies are still available at Lyon Books, 135 Main St., for $17.95).
The book is divided by color, so you can easily find the flowers you see at your feet.
Last spring we used the book to identify dozens; this year we were able to remember three.
To see my 17 best photos from that day: http://goo.gl/kyGTt
For directions to Table Mountain: http://goo.gl/xfWBl
Cool websites that include local wildflower reports:
You can check out previous columns online at www.norcalblogs.com/ sowthere.
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