March 11, 2019

The Worst of the Superbloom, At Walker Canyon

I should've stayed at Del Taco.

As I drove south along the 15 Freeway, the hills to my left becoming more and more colorful, a dark cloud had been cast over Lake Elsinore—in more ways than one. 

I watched the sunny, wild hillsides give way to traffic jams, road rage, and—when drivers finally found an opening—careless and insensitive parking off the road.

I'd headed to Walker Canyon specifically because of its status as conserved open space with trails. There are just as many poppies elsewhere in wild, undesignated areas—but it seemed like I could do less damage at a nature reserve with some controlled entry.

I was right—but the principle only applies if you're trying to leave no trace. And among the throngs of nature-seekers who'd descended upon Walker Canyon, as I did, this weekend, nobody else seemed to be trying.

They blazed their own trails. They let their dogs run amok off-leash.

They sat for photo shoots—among the wildflowers, and on top of them.

And to my astonishment and dismay, they picked handfuls of them and stuck them in their water bottles as makeshift vases. They strung them up to wear as garlands in their hair.

"You're not supposed to pick them," I started saying to those who'd already done the deed. Mostly I was met with blank stares. Many of them were children, and I could forgive their ignorance and that of their parents.

But when I repeated it to one young man, it was clear that he already knew what I was telling him. "It's fine," he said. "Everybody else is doing it."

As he walked away, I started gesticulating like a madwoman and called after him, "It's not fine!"

And then he flipped me off and said in defiance, "Yes it is!"

My heart sank. "People are the worst," I thought, as I climbed higher and away from the crowds.

I didn't go all the way to the top—wherever the top actually is—but I went far enough to feel like I was actually in nature and to leave some of the damage behind and below me. I went just as far as where the orange poppies gave way to some dark purple chia sage (Salvia columbariae).

The sky continued to get darker—as did my mood—but the flowers still looked bright, even as the poppies closed up their petals in anticipation of the rain.

And the California bluebells (Phacelia minor) hid from it all, tucked away in the overgrowth of the trailsides, cowering from grabby and grubby fists.

I hate that I'm dreading my trip to Anza-Borrego this weekend for the superbloom. I hope at least park rangers can set visitors straight instead of just letting them loose like the Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority is in Walker Canyon.

Related Post:
Lessons in Wildflowering: Pull Over, No Matter What


  1. I was there on Sunday. I was disgusted at people destroying the flowers. It was a free for all. I spoke my concerns to a few people, but got the same reaction as you did. I blame this on the authorities for not setting any rules.

  2. Same crap two years ago. The flower fields at Carrizo Plain were half trampled by the time I got there. I'm afraid we will never be able to go back to the days when civilized people had the bloom to ourselves.

  3. During the last SuperBloom (2 years ago) we found a nearby canyon with no-one around and avoided Walker canyon altogether. Was beautiful and quiet.
    This year at that same location we drove by to see it had been graded for a housing development i.e. no more poppies so went over to Walker Canyon.
    Luckily it was mid week and also before all the social media and hiking blog hype that tends to draw the masses to the area.
    Sorry to see it has gotten so bad in a months time