Thanks to a particularly wet winter, Southern California is experiencing a super bloom. There are many areas that are covered in wildflowers, and everyone and their aunt Mildred wants in on the action. However the quest to experience this natural phenomenon can bring out the worst in humanity. Many people are respectful, but there are hundreds more who are new to the outdoors and are not familiar with Leave No Trace Principles. The result is throngs of humans descending on flower fields, treating the area like their own personal Disney World, where there are no rules, and the natural environment only exists for their consumption. There have been many news articles blaming social media for the bad behavior, and I agree social media has put these areas on the map and has attracted more visitors. However human nature is human nature, and without proper education folks tend to make fools of themselves, Instagram driven or not. We can do better. If you decided to visit the super bloom this year remember to follow the Leave No Trace Principles, I will include them below. Also educate yourself on “user trails”. In areas with a lot of traffic people tend to start going off the main trail. First this leads to vegetation being crush, then exposure of the soil, then compaction of the soil, finally what is not a trail starts to look like a trail. People start to use this “trail”, and before you know it what was a patch of poppies becomes a 4 foot wide dirt path. If you look up at a hillside and see a cobweb of “trails” chances are those are user trails. To protect the soil do no use these “trails” you will only contribute to more erosion. Just because someone did it before you does not make it ok for you to do it, didn’t we all learn that in kindergarten? So if you are going to enjoy the super bloom this year educate yourself first, walk lightly and be kind to the earth.
The following photos are from Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore. The organization I work for, The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority, owns some of the land in Walker Canyon. Our rangers have been working overtime in order to protect the resources in this area. It is has also become quite infamous due to the insane traffic jams it has caused, and social media driven stupidity. It is beautiful but personally I like to go outside to get away from the crowds. If hiking with thousands of other people is your thing you should check it out, if not head out to see the desert blooms where there is more fresh air and fewer humans.