Friday, February 27, 2015

Get ready kayakers, bouquets are on the way

4/12 update: With few spring showers, wildflower season appears to be wilting quickly at lower elevations in Northern California. A paddle today from Rattlesnake Bar on the North Fork of the American today barely caught the end of the lupine bloom. If you've missed this spot, check out the photo album from today's trip -- which also reminded us to watch our step in the wild. This local resident slithered across the boat launch ramp as we returned to the parking lot. 
A pre-bloom day on the North Fork of the American 
How to improve a kayaking trip on a gorgeous spring day? Throw in a football-field-sized bouquet of wildflowers. Northern California paddlers can find some of the best floral displays anywhere in the nation, from poppies to paintbrush and irises to Crimson Columbine.
A preview of things to come (photo from last season)
The trick is to figure out when blooms will go boom. And in an unusually warm, dry year such as this one, the color show may fizzle quickly. So get ready -- rain showers across parts of the North State this weekend could signal the beginning of a brief wildflower season. 

The only way to know for sure is to make some calls or just go -- see tips below.

A paddle up the North Fork of the American River at Rattlesnake Bar last week found none of the lush fields of lupine that carpeted the area last season. But the water level has been rising nicely, so it was a good time to do some reconnaissance. Plus,  spring-like temps and sunny skies made for a pleasant paddle and a chance to work off that "spare tire" around the cockpit. But unless you want a real workout getting to the Rattlesnake Bar launch, bring a kayak cart. Details in the NorCalYak post linked above.) 

Early season paddle helps remove that "spare tire"
Here are some more tips and links to finding wildflowers at or near the waterline, beginning with Jenkinson Lake in the Sierra foothills and some other prime spots. Of course, it helps to know just what you're looking at -- here's one guide to flora

And if the trip is going to involve a long drive to a state park, you may want to do a bit of research and call ahead. Or check reports by nonprofit groups such as Park Watch. That helpful site also noted recent mountain lion sightings not far from Rattlesnake Bar.