Many years ago – perhaps around 2005 – I saw a striking photograph of flowers in the Temblor Range, bordering the Carrizo Plain. I wanted to go there, and in April of 2006 I did, finding a route up the steep ridges of these mountains to a colorful hillside. The flowers weren’t as abundant that year as they were in the photo I saw, but it was still beautiful, and I was able to make a couple of images I liked.
In 2010, after seeing reports of a great flower bloom in the Carrizo Plain, I returned to the area and hiked up into the Temblors again. It was spectacular – the most amazing flower display I had ever seen. I could only spend one afternoon and one morning there, but it was a wonderful 24 hours. The hills were enveloped in thick fog on my one morning there, and spots of sunlight breaking through the fog created some beautiful light. I could see, however, that the flowers wouldn’t last long, and I wasn’t able to go back that spring, but ever since then I’ve wanted to return.
2011 wasn’t a great flower year in the Carrizo Plain, and then we had five years of drought. Finally, this year, that area received above-average rainfall, and the flowers took off. In my last post I showed some photographs I made of the plain, which was incredibly beautiful. But I was also finally able to return to the Temblors in a good flower year.
In some places, as in 2010, it looked like someone had spilled buckets of yellow, purple, and orange paint over the hills. People often think the orange flowers in these hills are poppies, but they’re actually blazing stars (Mentzelia pectinata). (Well, there are some poppies in the Temblors, but not many, and the blazing stars are much more common.) The splashes of yellow are created by hillside daisies (Monolopia lanceola), and the purple is from tansy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia). And what you can’t see from a distance, but discover once you get up there, is that there are acres and acres of desert candles – one of my favorite flowers.
Claudia, Robert and I had a wonderful time in these hills. The climbs were steep, the footing sometimes difficult, and we were always on the lookout for rattlesnakes, but it was all worth it. Alas, it doesn’t look like we’ll be able to go back this year, but I’m already looking forward to the next good spring.
— Michael Frye
Michael Frye is a professional photographer specializing in landscapes and nature. He is the author or principal photographer of The Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite, Yosemite Meditations, Yosemite Meditations for Women, Yosemite Meditations for Adventurers, and Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters. He has also written three eBooks: Light & Land: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom, Exposure for Outdoor Photography, and Landscapes in Lightroom: The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Michael has written numerous magazine articles on the art and technique of photography, and his images have been published in over thirty countries around the world. Michael has lived either in or near Yosemite National Park since 1983, currently residing just outside the park in Mariposa, California.