As I sat, perched on a large rock, I scanned the vast, open space and began to notice something. To confirm my suspicions, I started to look for the tell-tale signs: wavy hair adorned with decorative flower crowns and long, flowing skirts wrapped around the waists of topless, twenty-something-year-old girls. I then began a very different search with very different signs: practical sneakers steadily shuffling over the uneven ground, wide-brimmed hats to protect from the sunlight, and a slower, closer examination of the wildflowers that carpeted the vast expanse we shared. After scanning the ridges and looking down to the valley, my suspicions were confirmed. I was sharing this space with equal parts “topless Instagram babes” and “middle aged and elderly flower aficionados.” What was it about this place that brought these two very different groups together in such harmony? It was Super Bloom 2017.
After experiencing an unusually wet winter followed by warm, spring temperatures, Southern California was lush with wildflowers where desert sand typically reigned supreme. About once a decade, this brought rise to the term “super bloom” and caused a record breaking amount of visitors to clog the entrances of the state’s many national parks. Rising summer temperatures will eventually put an end to nature’s colorful display, which is why many flock to get a glimpse while they still can.
As I continued to examine the slopes, I noticed the Instagram babes scouring the hillsides for just the right spot, one lush with vibrant color, but that also allowed a wide-open view of the surrounding valley and lake. Once they found the perfect location, they crouched down, careful not to disturb the flowers. They took their tops off and popped up with arms spread wide in the air, as their iPhone wielding friend stood at their back taking photos with the perfect amount of effortless, free-spirit vibe. The topless girl would then rush over to the phone to see if they got the “the one:” that perfect shot where the sunbeams streak across the photo, as their long hair blows gently in the wind. If it wasn’t just right, they’d do it all again with patience and precision.
The flower aficionados took a different approach. They remained down in the vibrant valleys, not venturing up to the peaks. It was clear that their intent was to take a closer, more intimate look at the individual flowers, rather than the wide shots found from climbing to higher ground. Remaining on the paths, they were careful not to stray or damage any of the surrounding flora. With their “Wildflowers of Southern California” brochures in hand, they identified each bloom they encountered. Some took photos, while others seemed to treat it as a scavenger hunt where they searched for each variety and happily checked it off their list.
However, my comparisons didn’t stop there. I began to notice similarities with the flowers carpeting the hillsides. California poppies, with their brilliant orange hue and widespread petals, are bold and command attention, similar to the young Instagram girls. While the brittlebush, a small, yellow, daisy-like flower, is known to be hardy and strong, and once established, does not require the attention it once did. This subtle flower is extremely versatile and has been used to make glue, gum, medicine, and even toothbrushes. This seems to fit the older crowd on the trails; those that have stepped back from the spotlight and use their strengths to help others, presumably their families.
Although both flowers are strikingly different, here they are, in the same valley, growing from the same dirt and receiving the same water. As I watch the two wildly different groups of people scour the hillsides with their wildly different agendas, I also notice their similarities. I see how both appreciate nature and are careful not to disturb the soil and flowers they admire. I see how everyone on the trail offers a friendly smile, sharing the enthusiasm for the phenomenon we are experiencing. And I see that both groups, although very different, are peacefully co-existing in this beauty we call super bloom.
As a freelance travel journalist, Allyson is always planning her next trip. With a passion for connecting cultures, she enjoys exploring a region's traditions, crafts and natural landscape.