The impending spring earlier this march meant only one thing – catching the super bloom this season.
If you recall, i ventured into Death Valley National Park last season in the hopes of catching the super bloom. Alas, that dream died (no pun intended) as the day progressed and it became clearer that there would be no bloom to catch. Of course, what i discovered instead didn’t disappoint in the least.
So this year, i resolved to catch at-least one bloom, any bloom.
And so i started driving 350 miles (~5.5 hours) down Interstate (I5) South, to Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve in Lancaster, California.
An early start, ample coffee, multiple weather checks, favorite podcasts/playlists later i felt absolutely sure (and frankly worthy!) of some poppy action.
I could feel it in my bones. After all all other species of flora were blooming.
And then the first signs appeared.
Wait, what? How did all these people get here before me despite the early start? I was sure i would be among the first to arrive.
A serpentine line of cars, $10 parking fee (nope, your annual National & State park pass won’t work here), and looking for an empty parking spot later; after what felt like a gazillion minutes, we were finally on the trail.
At first, they start off sparse.
Sprinkled in between green grass. Buds and all.
Often, you only spot filaree (pink), fiddleneck (yellow) and lacy phacelia (purplish), whoolly daisies (white) and other magical names which i can’t recall now.
And suddenly, they collectively welcome you.
Fluttering in soft breeze. Against the deep blue skies.
Dancing to their own tune. In unison. A thousand joyous poppies.
I suspect William Wordsworth would have a thing or two to say about them.
It’s sure a gorgeous sight. And any number of pictures can’t/won’t do justice.
As i felt smug about finally catching the bloom, I had a looming thought.
The season was only beginning, and it was already jam packed. We could barely find parking. The cars lined up for a mile outside the park. Hoards of people poured in with the same hopes and desires to catch the bloom. Park rangers helplessly requested folks from getting too close to the flowers and veering off trails to get instagram worthy pictures all day. Most of which fell on deaf ears.
In the coming weeks, the bloom would truly get super but, it would also only get worse.
And of course it did.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but actually visiting any place in person solidifies the intimacy, cultural nuances, and historical context in your mind forever. Practice beats theory right?
And so motivated by whimsical travel bloggers who quit their day jobs to quench wanderlust, we all started traveling incessantly; to the next trendy/exotic/must-see location on earth.
Increasingly, as our ‘country/experience score’ translates to our travel capital, and each new fantastical/epic/unreal/awesome click on our feed makes us feel in-adequate, uneasy and restless all at once, a nagging question dangles at the back of my mind.
Is Instagram (And Social Media) killing the joy of travel and destroying the very places we visit; and more importantly is the solution to stop traveling entirely?
Admittedly, I am all for capturing moments and taking photographs. Because the older i get, looking at stills from my days back in college (or even the last vacation i took) often bring a delectable smile to my face. But as we jostle obsessive photographers to seize that perfect souvenir in a frenzy and scramble to get there earlier (and earlier) in the day to catch the golden light, are we forgetting the whole point of why we came ‘there’ in the first place?
Adventure. Discovery. Exploration. Voyage. To wander is human and to tell stories is survival instinct. Our ancestors have roamed the expanse of the earth, and our future generations will continue to probe the furthest black holes in the universe. All while furiously documenting through cave paintings and uploading our minds onto the cloud.
We will continue to travel and keenly archive.
However, being mindful and aware of how we appease this innate urge in our very DNA is going to make all the difference. So the next time we feel slightly unsure about our decision to travel or maniacally whip our phones out, we should quiz ourselves on these questions.
- Are we being respectful of the people, places, and monuments we visit?
- Are we being conscious of preserving nature, the local ecology and reducing our carbon footprint when we travel?
- Are we careful not to disrupt flora and fauna in their natural habitat when we go hiking?
- Are we missing out on the real travel moments because we are constantly on our phones trying to create fake ones for social media?
- Are we anxious about being validated, building our social capital, likes, followers, views etc. falling prey to the addicting nature and design of the attention economy?
- Are we looking at others on social media and feeling unworthy, inadequate and less about ourselves?
- Lastly, are we being obnoxious, going off trail, and trampling poppies?
Now, do i get sucked into the ugly whirlpool of narcissism, insecurity and self-hate? Of course! Most people i know are susceptible to falling head-first into this abyss.
If you are among the minuscule minority who don’t, congratulations; you are truly evolved. And hope you don’t give in to the fair.
I started writing and sharing travel blogs to document the genuinely marvelous journey, build a shared cultural experience with family/friends, explore sustainably, and reflect authentically on a legitimate feeling long after it has faded into oblivion.
Revisiting this truth periodically helps re-orient my intentions. It’s not perfect, and takes consistent practice.
So coming back to the question in my title. By all means, visit the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, the super-bloom is a breathtaking phenomenon and you should live it, if you sincerely choose to. Just don’t be delinquent by going off trail, practice self-awareness and examine your true motivations for clicking pictures.
And hopefully the Poppies will survive the infestation that is us humans.
Check out my previous blog on Living in a tree-house and the one coming up!
You can also follow me on Instagram. Find videos of fluttering poppies on my Insta-Story/IG-TV highlights. Of course, in measured moderation. And, i promise you will mostly find pictures of places because they have/are/and will continue to be far more interesting than the people who visit them!