San Andreas Fault at Wallace Creek

We drove to the Carrizo Plain to see the wildflower bloom, so an opportunity to see visible effects of the San Andreas fault was an unexpected bonus. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake on the San Andreas fault led to fires that burned much of San Francisco.

According to a geology tour brochure from the Carrizo Plain National Monument, the San Andreas fault is about 700 miles long, and it’s “the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates.” The land on each side of the fault has slipped sideways as the tectonic plates moved, and you can see this at Carrizo Plain.

In the above aerial view from Google Earth, the red arrow points to where Wallace Creek crosses the San Andreas fault. The diagonal line running parallel to the Temblor Range is the San Andreas fault. From wikipedia, temblor is “from the Spanish word for ‘earthquake’ (terremoto)”.

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Wildflowers of Carrizo Plain

After the heavy rains that ended California’s five-year drought, our state’s wildflowers have made a comeback. Enjoying last year’s superbloom at Death Valley, we visited the Carrizo Plain National Monument, a premier place for California wildflowers. Shown above, coreopsis and fiddleheads bloom above Soda Lake, an alkaline lake ringed by salt. Reflected in Soda Lake, the Temblor Range is painted with swaths of wildflowers. I can see an impressionist painter splashing bold strokes of color on the canvas.

When rain falls, the water dissolves salts from the soil and usually flows to the ocean, already salty from past rain. Like Death Valley, Carrizo Plain has no outlet for rainwater, so water collects in the lowest spots and evaporates, leaving behind salts. Invasive plants struggle with this salty environment, while native plants that evolved here flourish without invasive competition. Consequently, Carrizo Plain has vast fields of California native plants and their spring blooms.

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Los Altos Weather – Spring is in the Air

After the storms of January and February, the San Francisco Bay Area is drying out and getting ready for spring. Our first iris bloomed in late March. It’s a Douglas iris, iris douglasiana, a California native plant. Hardy, drought-tolerant, and disease-free, these irises are stars for a California garden, with beautiful flowers in the spring and green leaves year-round. They’re easy to divide and move to new places in our yard.

California’s reservoirs are full, and the mountain snowpack is very large, so there’s lots of water to distribute to farms and urban users. Future challenges will be whether the water conservation forced by the drought will persist and dealing with groundwater overdrafts.

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Los Altos Weather – Soggy February

Northern California and my home town of Los Altos received more rain than normal in January and February 2017, as the atmospheric river continued to flow here. After five years of drought, California’s surface water and snow pack are above normal.

In early March, bee’s bliss sage (salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’) begins to bloom, attracting bees. Bee’s bliss sage is a California native plant that is drought tolerant and likes full sun.

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Los Altos Weather — Average Rainfall Through November

My home town of Los Altos, California, received normal rainfall the past two months, after four months of no rain. California cities have reduce water use by 20% from three years ago, and California is making some water conservation measures permanent.

Shown above, the toyon (heteromeles arbutifolia) is a California-native shrub that bears clusters of small, red, berry-like fruits around Christmas. Growing in the hills above Los Angeles, the toyon “gave rise to the name Hollywood”.

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Whiskey’s for Drinkin’

“Whisky’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’” is a colorful and insightful saying attributed to Mark Twain. In the fifth year of California’s drought, we may see this as San Francisco’s progressive reputation is tested.

California released draft rules requiring more water in the San Joaquin River by restricting water taken for agriculture and urban users. San Francisco imports its water from this watershed. “San Francisco is expected to challenge the rule, although how aggressively remains to be seen. ‘We intend to participate in that process,’ said Sheehan, the utility agency spokesman.”

Continuing my monthly posts about California’s drought, my home town of Los Altos received zero rainfall for the fourth consecutive month, about normal for us.

Above, a western gray squirrel gathers bunchgrass and blue-eyed grass for its nest. Blue-eyed grass, sisyrinchium bellum, is a California native plant bearing blue flowers in the spring.

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Death Valley: Salt Creek and Wildflowers

After walking the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and hiking Mosaic Canyon in the morning, we drove to Salt Creek after lunch. Salt Creek is a short creek of salty water flowing on the floor of Death Valley. The water originates in the mountains and flows underground until forced above ground by an impermeable, underground layer.

Shown above is a pickleweed (salicornia) in Salt Creek. White salts are deposited on the bank and pickleweed. Most of the foliage looks dead, but there are bits of light-green and reddish growth at the tips, perhaps new foliage. The pickleweed is able to ingest the salt water, but salt then goes up to the foliage. When the salt becomes too concentrated for the foliage, that foliage dies, and the pickleweed grows more foliage.

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