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Farewell-to-spring: my favorite pink and poignant California wildflower

May 21, 2011

Headed downhill on “old” Mountain Goat at Santiago Oaks Regional Park this morning, I was stunned by the profusion of Clarkia gracilis on both sides of the steep trail. It’s got a great common name, shared by seven other California wildflowers: Farewell-to-spring.

(The above background is a stump blackened back in the March 2007 Windy Ridge Fire.)

Growing in, with, and under the delicate pink cup-blossoms: glowing golden yarrow.

Other notable blooms today: an intermediate mariposa lily (these are rare and endangered) on the Hawk Trail . . .

And papery California everlasting on Bumblebee Trail (west side) . . .

These soft white blossoms show a tiny yellow center when they are further along in their bloom cycle; if you brush them lightly with your hands, you will either smell maple syrup or lemon or ??? (I’ve noticed over the years that different flower clusters have different smells, and even the same flower cluster can evoke a different “smell-metaphor” in the various members of a hiking group.)

The best blooms spotted today on the Mountain Goat switchbacks . . .

a bunch of lively kids clutching water bottles and smiling as they trekked along.

I had passed them down under the oaks, where one little guy offered me a drink, and another asked why I was out running without my shoes. I gave my standard answer: “Because it’s more fun to go barefoot.” This seemed to be a revelation to him, and I heard him start to ask one of the grown-ups in the group if he could remove his shoes . . . of course this made my day . . .

“On the Trail” — my favorite place to be, and now the title of an award-winning painting by Susan Jarecky. OC Parks and SOCALPAPA sponsored a plein air contest called “Paint the Parks” this year, and “On the Trail”  won both the judge’s first place award and the artist’s choice award at the opening reception last night.

Susan Jarecky’s scene is from Irvine Park; many other compelling paintings made at other Orange County parks were on display last night as well, including a couple that were made when I was one of the volunteers assisting with access to Irvine Ranch Conservancy lands.

Here’s one that intrigued me: an interesting interpretation of the mouth of Fremont Canyon by Ron Hill . . .

I love his creative vision of one of my favorite places to wander and write . . . June 2 is my next scheduled writing hike there. It’s free to the public, but registration is required at the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks web site.

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