Today we are going to leave the world of the hardbitten, noir LA mystery writer – that’s me, after a few royalty reports – and go directly to…wildflowers. C’mon, Chandler and Ellroy, let’s see you make that segue! Truth is, among LA’s many less publicized pleasures are some of the best wildflower blooms you will find in an urban setting. Not that I want to give it all away – it’s hard enough keeping the mountain bikers from trampling some of my favorite spots – but if I were to pass a young starlet on the Mishi Mokwa trail, with a tee shirt that said, “I read about wildflowers on Katz of the Day,” it wouldn’t be all bad, would it?
I will admit that I’ve yet to figure out the vagaries of wildflower blooms. Too much rain, not enough, early, late…who knows. I will go out on a limb (a dogwood limb — at least I will get a nice view if I fall off) and say an extended drought followed by a week of Santa Ana winds is bad…beyond that, don’t quote me. The pictures above were taken a few years ago near the town of Gorman, along the Tejon Pass north of LA. Reports had filtered down of a spectacular wildflower bloom from the Poppy Preserve near Lancaster, and points west. There was a hillside just east of the 5 Freeway, within walking distance of several fast food restaurants, filled with poppies, goldenrod, lupine and more. I’ve driven past there every year since and never seen anything resembling that splendor.
Many of our local hikes have a unique mixture of poppies, mustard, lilies, Indian paintbrush, even prickly pear cactus. One of my favorites, at Point Mugu, passes through several climate zones and gives you all of those, not to mention poison oak. You’d think I would have made it up there for the late afternoon light by now – problem is, the park closes at dusk and the best flower spots are at the top of the peak, several miles in. For you non-photographers, that is what we experts call a lame excuse.
Sometimes, a wildfire leads to an explosion of wildflowers, the charred remains of trees contrasted against emerging bloom. The image below was taken on one of the trails above the Malibu hills, back when I was still shooting in Kodachrome. Our local trails, semi-desert in nature, tend to look more mysterious and foreboding in fog and mist than is the case in the light of day.
There’s dozens of trails located within an hour’s drive of just about anywhere in LA County, from Griffith Park to Point Mugu (just the other side of the Ventura County line), to the mountainous trails of the San Gabriels along the Angeles Crest Highway. The flowers are in bloom pretty much through Memorial Day in a good year, and the late rains we’ve had ought to keep them around.
I don’t suppose a splash of poppies and lupines along the Overlook Trail above the Pacific Ocean fits in with LA Noir, but we’ll just keep that between us.