I've got a flight to San Diego booked. It's for mid-March. That's wildflower season.
I was all set to do my usual thing... a trip or two to Anza Borrego to see some wildflowers, maybe a hike up in the Lagunas, ideally El Cajon Mountain if my poor legs can handle that monster of a trail. Then I saw news that Death Valley might have a "superbloom" this year. What what what? OK, if that happens, I'm going.
Right now we're in a waiting game with the weather. As a non-expert, here's the best I can tell right now. We had decent enough rain in January. The flowers in Death Valley at the moment look good. But SoCal is experiencing record high temperatures at the moment (ending tomorrow, when San Diego gets rain), and there is no rain in the forecast for Anza Borrego or in Death Valley any time soon.
Good flowers require good rains. "Good rain" in the desert isn't that much really. But it's more than nothing, which is what we're getting right now. The other thing flowers need is a lack of hot, dry winds that suck the moisture out of the air.
Someone from Anza Borrego was on the radio today saying that unless there is rain, the flowers there could wither up without blooming or they could produce small blooms early.
So, on the chance that Death Valley's flowers really come through this year, here's what I've learned about planning a trip.
Getting There: From San Diego, drive up the 15 toward Vegas. Before you get to Vegas, turn off and head to Death Valley. The trip takes six hours from Ocean Beach. The other option is taking the 15 to the 395 and then heading east from there to Death Valley but if you hate being stuck behind slow trucks on one-lane roads, don't do that.
Camping: There are lots of campsites but only one takes reservations. It happens to be one of the more desirable ones, as it's large and it has lots of amenities. The rest are first-come first-serve.
Hiking and Backpacking: There are hiking and backpacking options. Which I am interested in doing only insofar as they provide lots of wildflower viewing, if I am lucky enough to visit the park during a good bloom.
Good Websites on Death Valley: Since Death Valley is a national park, it is therefore required to have a shitty website that is utterly unhelpful. And it does. Furthermore, when you search for good sites on it, many of those that come up also suck. If that wasn't the case, then I wouldn't have to write this blog post up with all of the information I've collected. But there are a few sites worth checking out. Like this one on how to see Death Valley in a day by car. Or this one on 12+ Must See Sights in Death Valley. There's also National Geographic's What to Do in Death Valley. Between these, you can figure a lot out.
When and Where To Find Wildflowers: This is where you go for up to date wildflower reports. There's also this site, which gives general guidelines on when and where to find flowers in the park. And here is the park's 2016 wildflower update.