California: Wildflowers, Ghost Towns


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Torrential rains flooded southern California in the winter months, washing out roads, damaging homes and capturing the interest of the media nationwide. In mid-March the sun came out and blossoms sprang up in the deserts. You won't read about the wildflowers in the national news, but UntraveledRoad author Kelvin Smith was on the scenes, capturing nearly 5,000 images of springtime in the California deserts.

Lacy Phacelias
Stealing the show for the prettiest wildflower were the Lacy Phacelias, complex purple clusters of flowers which grow in spiral, shell-like shapes. They were found in clusters along the edge of the road and under creosote bushes, and favored higher areas like the Rand Mountains, rather than the valleys.

Desert Dandilions
The most common wildflowers were the Desert Dandilions and Desert Chickory which thrived in the valleys among the saltbush and creosote, dotting whole valleys with yellow and white spots. The desert dandilions are paler in color than garden-variety dandilions, and while the flowers are similar in shape, the plant they grow on is taller with more delicate leaves.
Desert Chickory
The desert chickory is almost white, with faint shades of purple and yellow in a spot on each petal. The flowers looked enough alike, and grew mixed together, so that we failed to notice the difference at first.

In the hilly areas, Goldfields grew by the millions in patches on the sunny slopes. These tiny flowers grow close to the ground, and are a variety of sunflower. Ironically, when we hopped out to get a close up look at the goldfields, we happened to light onto a field of a different variety, which, up close, was much prettier.

Death Valley was no exception to the fields of wildflowers, which were blooming in several varieties, including a delicately-sized sunflower, larger than the goldfields.

In addition to many miles of wildflower-lined roads, the Trona Pinnacles, Red Canyon and the ghost town of Ballarat were photographed and can now be visited online. Five new cities and towns were also added, Trona, Ridgecrest, Inyokern and Johannesburg, in California, and Beatty in Nevada. A network of roads interconnects all of these places, allowing you to travel continuously between them, and through Panamint Valley, Death Valley, and as far away as Amboy, the Mojave Preserve and Scotty's Junction.

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