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February 2015
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May 2015

Discover Spring Wildflowers in California State Parks

Poker_plant_etc_2Wildflowers are adding color to the landscape in California State Parks. Word on the streets is that this year's desert wildflower bloom is road-trip worthy and happening right now! A dry winter and unseasonably warm spring have brought an earlier than usual wildflower season in many regions. 

Now is a great time to discover what California State Parks have to offer. It’s always a good idea to call before your visit, conditions can change due to weather. Please remember to stay on marked trails, take photos not flowers, and Leave No Trace!

Here’s a sample of where to find spring colors in California State Parks:

Calaveras Big Trees State Park, four miles north east of Arnold on Highway 4, is known for its wildflowers in June, especially along the Lava Bluffs Trail. The park phone number is (209) 795-2334.

Mount Diablo State Park is located in the heart of the Bay Area and is known for its "bloom with a view". With the winter rains, increasing day light, and the warmth of spring triggers a bloom for many of Mount Diablo's native wildflowers. There are a number of beautiful flowers to view, especially in the chaparral and near grassy hilltops. Come take in the bloom of brightly colored wildflowers and enjoy the view that only Mount Diablo can offer. For more information, call the park at (925) 837-2525.

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park, seven miles south of Crescent City on U.S. Highway 101, has magnificent displays of rhododendrons that can be seen from the highway as well as numerous roadside turnouts in April and May, depending on the warmth of the spring. For more information call the Redwood National and State Park information center at (707) 464-6101, extension 5064.

Millerton Lake State Recreation Area, 20 miles northeast of Fresno, features spring flowers on the Blue Oak Trail, an easy walk. Visitors taking a more strenuous hike on the Buzzards Roost Trail can also find spring flowers. 

Azalea State Reserve, five miles north of Arcata, preserves outstanding examples of azaleas that generally bloom in April and May. The reserve has a parking lot and trails. For more information call the sector office at (707) 488-2041.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park, 20 miles north of Garberville, provides excellent displays of wildflowers along the Avenue of the Giants. Visitors will find Humboldt Lilies and orchids in late March to April and Dogwood in April into early May, depending on the warmth of the spring. For more information call the park visitor center at (707) 946-2263.

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park is 50 miles north of Eureka and 25 miles south of Crescent City on Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway off of Highway 101. Careful observers in the park will find beautiful but elusive orchids among the ancient redwood groves as well as more prominent displays of rhododendrons along the parkway in late March through May. For more information call the park visitor center at (707) 464-6101 extension 5300.

Many flowers are already in bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, east of San Diego via Highways 78 and 79. Park botanists feel the height of the bloom will be the first two weeks in March. For information call (760) 767-4684 or go on-line to:

Destination Lancaster Credit 33LOS ANGELES COUNTY
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, 15 miles west of Lancaster on Avenue I, generally features its greatest blooming period in March and April, depending on rain for the State’s flower. For more information, call the park at (661) 942-0662. Information and photos about the park can be found online at For recorded information about the poppy reserve and the blooms, call (661) 724-1180. Due to an usually warm March, the poppies have (mostly) come and gone. But there's still so much to see and enjoy at sunrise and sunset. 

Mount Tamalpais State Park, North of San Francisco's Golden Gate, features spectacular and easily-accessed wildflowers each spring. Visitors can get to the park from Highway 101 take Highway 1 to the Stinson Beach exit and follow signs up the mountain. The park phone number is (415) 388-2070.

Olompali State Historic Park, three miles north of Novato on U.S. 101, also features spectacular and easily-accessed wildflowers each spring. The par entrance is accessible only to southbound traffic from Highway 101. The park phone number is (415) 892-3383.

The Ford House, the visitor center at Mendocino Headlands State Park, will have a fresh wildflower show featuring local specimens during the month of April. The park surrounds the town of Mendocino. The park phone number is (707) 937-5397. 

Pacheco State Park is a good place to visit in April for wildflowers. The park is on Highway 152, located 20 miles east of Gilroy. The park phone number is (209) 826-1196.

San Luis Reservoir State Recreation Area, 12 miles west of Los Banos on Highway 152, features spring wildflowers throughout the park. The park phone number is (209) 826-1196.

For late season wildflowers, Bodie State Historic Park, 13 miles east of Highway 395 on Bodie Road, is blooming when the rest of California is wilting. The park’s 8,500 feet elevation insures that July is colorful. The sage brush landscape provides unique mixing of plants from both the Great Basin and High Sierra. Call the park at (760) 647-6445 for more information.

Andrew Molera State Park, 21 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, features several different trails that display a variety of springtime flowers. The most popular is the Headlands Trail, which winds through a riparian forest, an open meadow, and onto a coastal bluff overlooking the Big Sur River mouth. Nearly every color of the rainbow is represented in the park's wildflowers, including lizardtail, common yarrow, California lilac, yellow bush lupine, seaside painted cup, sticky monkey flower, sea lettuce, California poppies, seaside daisies, seacliff buckwheat, black sage, and Douglas iris. This is a relatively flat, easy two mile round trip hike with two sets of stairs. For more information, call the park at (831) 667-2315.

Carmel River State Beach can be reached from Highway 1 in Carmel via Ocean Avenue and Scenic Road. Wildflowers can be found along the bluff trail. For more information call Point Lobos State Reserve at (831) 624-4909.

Garrapata State Park, 6.7 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel, features the Soberanes canyon/ridge trail that winds through meadows, a riparian zone, a lovely redwood grove and an exposed coastal ridge. On certain sections of this trail visitors may feel that they’re swimming through flowers, which can include Shooting Stars, Johnny Jump Ups, Blue Dicks, Golden Buttercup, Elegant Clarkia, Goldfields, Douglas Iris, Checkerbloom, Star Zygadine, Fushia-flowered Gooseberry, Trillium, Tidy Tips, Footsteps of Spring and a fantastic variety of Bush Lupine. Visitors can also encounter the more common Monkey Flower, Seaside Painted Cups, Coyote Brush, Lizard Tail Yarrow, Mock Heather and Poppies. Visitors are advised that this is not a particularly easy hike. The first couple of miles are relatively flat and easy but the ridge can only be reached by a steep climb. For more information call Point Lobos State Reserve at (831) 624-4909.

Point Lobos State Reserve, three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, features a fairly easy hike with coastal bluff flowers. The park phone number is (831) 624-4909.

Salinas River State Beach, 16 miles north of Monterey and one mile south of Moss Landing, has a nice section of wildflowers along the boardwalk at Molera Road. The contact phone number is (831) 649-2976.

Zmudowski State Beach, one mile north of Moss Landing, features wildflowers in late spring, although many of them on non-natives. The contact phone number is (831) 649-2976.

Guided wildflower walks will be offered at South Yuba River State Park this spring. The guided walks will be on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. The walks will be docent led. The meeting place will be at the South Yuba River State Park at Bridgeport in Penn Valley (Nevada County) Also, special group led wildflower walks will be offered by reservation. The walk is along a Historic Water Ditch with scenic views overlooking the South Yuba River. For more information, contact (530) 432-2546.

Montaña de Oro State Park, seven miles south of Los Osos on Pecho Valley Road, can feature hills covered with poppies, lupines, sticky monkey flowers, wild radish and mustard. Best time to visit is April and May. For more information call (805) 528-0513 Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Henry W. Coe State Park, in the mountains south and east of San Jose, is a wonderful place to see spring wildflowers. Early in the year visitors may see white milkmaids, blue hounds tongue, or yellow buttercups. As spring progresses, the flowers become more numerous with goldfields, owls clover, butter and eggs, columbine, delphinium, and may more. Visitors might even get lucky and see the tiny purple mouse ears. Short wildflower walks - less than two miles and less than two hours - are given every Sunday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. from the middle of March through the Memorial Day Weekend. For more information see the park website at The park phone number is (408) 779-2728.

McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park, 11 miles northeast of Burney on Highway 89, features a variety of wildflowers in the spring. The park phone number is (530) 335-2777

Castle Crags State Park, six miles south of Dunsmuir on I-5, has a variety of wildflowers in the spring. The park phone number is (530) 235-2684.

Kruse Rhododendron State Natural Reserve, directly adjacent to Salt Point State Park north of Jenner, features a beautiful second-growth redwood forest mixed with Douglas Fir, Grand firs, Tanoaks and many Rhododendrons. Each May the green of the forest is punctuated by patches of pink as the rhododendrons bust into bloom. The wealth of rhododendrons is a direct result of normal plant succession patterns following a severe fire that once occurred here. Today, the regenerating forest is gradually overwhelming the rhododendrons. For more information, call the park at (707) 847-3221.

Woodson Bridge State Recreation Area, six miles east of Corning and I-5 on South Avenue, has a variety of spring wildflowers. The park phone number is (530) 839-2112.

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, in Jamestown, features Wildflower Trains on April 11 and April 18, 2015. The special afternoon train departs from the Railtown 1897 Depot at 3:30 p.m. these two Saturdays only. Prior to boarding the train, passengers will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with wildflowers of the Sierra Nevada foothills. The train features Interpretive Park Rangers who answer questions and point out flower groupings along the scenic journey through the Gold Country. Train capacity is limited, and reservations are suggested. Call (209) 984-3953. Regular steam-powered excursion trains also depart on-the-hour from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Stockton Chinese New Year Parade came in like a Lion

Stockton Chinese New Year's Festival 2015 Credit Barbara L Steinberg 0109Under blue skies and sunshine, the 37th Annual Stockton Chinese New Year Parade was pure celebration! Year of the Ram was greeted by young and old -- including 95-year-old Blanche Chin Ah Tye Grand Marshall and CCSS Citizen of the Year.  Honor guard, dignitaries, vintage cars, and Lion Dancers paraded past Stockton Memorial Civic Auditorium.

The traditional Lion Dancers were the most exciting and colorful part of the day-long event. A tradition in China since 619 A.D. and the Tong Dynasty, Kung Fu is the foundation of this beautiful art form. Lion Dancers develop their stances and conditioning based on this martial art.

Following the parade, the festival included a vendors, food, and more Lion Dancing. Join us in Celebrating Stockton.

California Rice is good for the region, the world, and wildlife

We don’t want to bore you, but the statistics are staggering! They validate why the Sacramento Valley (and all of California) reigns as the heart of America’s Farm-to-Fork movement. The region claims more than 7,200 farms and 150 unique crops. Just over 1.4 million acres of  the region’s six-county land base are devoted to agricultural production with about 20 commissions and 40 marketing and promotion boards working to support and market the growers they represent.

Rice harvesting in Robbins, Sutter County. Photo courtesy California Rice Commission 2One such organization, the California Rice Commission, helped elevate the presence of sweet rice locally and throughout the world.  Our region’s history is deliciously plentiful – agriculturally and culturally.

Our region’s present is inextricably linked to its past. In 1849, the Gold Rush brought thousands of Chinese to the region. Growing rice to meet the demand was unsuccessful for 50 years. The problem? Farmers were trying to grow long grain rice to meet the demand for rice consumption. It’s great for the tropics, but not Sacramento Valley’s Mediterranean climate. Enter 1908 and the introduction of Japonica rice. It thrived in our temperate climate. “They struck gold twice!” exclaimed Tim Johnson, President/CEO, California Rice Commission. “The first successful crops were centered just south of Chico – Biggs and Fruitvale – the climate and heavy clay soils were perfect!” The combination led to an industry that produced 550,000 acres of rice in 2013 with 97 percent of the state’s rice crop grown in the Sacramento Valley.  All the sushi rice – a Japonica – used in the USA is grown here and exported all over the world. Now that’s an OMG! factoid.

Rice has healthCalfiornia Rice Commissionful benefits of vitamins and minerals, too.  However, it also enriches our environment and lives in a very special way. Mostly gone are the days when rice straw was burned after harvest – reducing our air quality. Today, grain harvesters disk 350 pounds of grain per acre after which most rice paddies are flooded.  This attracts insects and creates about 700 pounds of food per acre attracting wildlife -- waterfowl and shorebirds -- along the Pacific Flyway.  “This was a new revelation – we didn’t know how important the rice fields are to them.” Thousands of birds descend each year inundating the fields. Wildlife and nature tourism provides a secondary boost to local economies. Numerous wildlife festivals have been created encouraging everyone – with a special emphasis on children – to get outdoors and engage. The benefits are huge. Healthy minds are healthy bodies.