Place: Carrizo Plain National Monument, San Luis Obispo, California
Coordinates: 35.24169, -119.90700
The morning of the first day of this year was a bit glum for me. We were on our way back home to the Bay Area. Papa Quail was ready to go straight home but I wanted to get just a little bit more nature into our last vacation day. So after some convincing we pointed our car to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, which was on our way. Sort of.
Our first port of call was the Overlook Hill (35.239594, -119.907884). It's very short walk to the top and the view is impressive. The sheer empty vastness of the place can make one dizzy. The wind was blowing strong and I just felt like flying over and high into the clouds.
The Carrizo Plain is a large basin nestled within the Transverse Ranges in eastern San Luis Obispo County, between the Elkhorn Hills and the Caliente Range. The runoff water from these ranges collect at the bottom of the basin in Soda Lake. Soda Lake is seasonal and, having no outlet, has high salts content. When its water evaporate, a thick salt plain is left behind.
|A view from the Overlook Hill to the southeast across Soda Lake|
|Alkali shrubs and weeds grow on the salt-crusted plain surrounding the lake|
The bleak grayness was broken by the birds. There were many little birds chirping happily all over the place. Mostly sparrows. Some of them of species we have never encountered before. Big check mark for Papa Quail :-)
|The salt crust left after the lake water evaporated.|
We didn't know that at the time (and even if we did I'm not sure it would have stopped us from trying), so we headed along a dirt road (subject to flooding) with our 2WD to the northeastern area of the plain.
There was a flooded area near the path, but the road itself was dry.
|Reflections along the road. In the background: the Elkhorn Hills.|
|A view of Wallace Creek|
|Nelson's Antelope Squirrel|
|Salinas Milk Vetch (Astragalus macrodon)|
And also the Bighorn Sheep :-)