Monday, April 5, 2010

There's Great Geology Here, I Swear!

To view entire photo album of this trip, please visit
Don't ever cry over spilled paint.  At least when that paint has been spilled over miles of normally brown, dead grass. The photo above is a view looking east into the Wallace Creek "headwaters" within the Temblor Range on the east side of Carrizo Plain National Monument.  The main attraction here is usually the right-lateral offset of Wallace Creek's stream channel. During the past 3800 years the ephemeral stream bed has been offset nearly 420 feet by the San Andreas fault (photo of the offset below) and has become a "textbook" transform plate boundary site known the world over. 
 But sometimes even world famous geology plays second fiddle to unbelievable biodiversity.Thanks to above-average rainfall in one of the sunniest places in California, the valley has sprung to life with literally millions (or even billions) of flowers. Carpets of goldfield blanket the Temblor Range and the entire valley floor around Soda Lake.  In some spots (like the photo below) phacelia two feet tall intermingle with fiddle necks that are every bit as tall.  The result is a spectacular display that rivals the 2005 bloom in Death Valley that I was able to witness.

Although the drive from Turlock was nearly 210 miles, the distance goes quickly on I-5, making this National Monument a doable day trip if you leave early. We left at 9am and returned the same night at 9pm having had a full day to explore and photograph.  Those who visit this area normally devoid of hominids, save for a few geologists or botanists, will find many treasures on display for a very limited showing.
Leaving the monument I would recommend taking HWY 58 West to Shell Creek Road and then taking that road north to Sheldon and HWY 41.  Along the way you just may spy some more wild flowers growing amongst the Upper Miocene-aged (from what I can discern on old maps) layer of coquina that is the region's namesake. 

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