After the first rains of the winter season, the foothills start to turn green. By late March, wildflower displays are common, usually lasting into May. In the high elevation subalpine and alpine zones of the Sierra, the wildflower displays arrive in June and last through July or August.
Fall brings vibrant leaf displays especially in the aspen groves.This transformation starts in late September and lasts through much of October.All of these are sights well worth seeing at some point in your life and returning to again and again if possible.
Closer to home, the orchards of the Central Valley put on their own extraordinary blossom show from the end of February through the beginning of March.
The best website available for blossom information and driving tours (you can also ride your bike along these routes) is offered by the UC Cooperative Extension at:http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/Blossom_Tours_262/.
These tours are a great way to enjoy the beauty of our local outdoors in the early spring.
The UC Extension’s estimates for blossom dates are as follows:
- Almond blossoms usually peak between February 25th and 28th +/- 10 days, depending on weather.
- Apricot blossoms can be expected between March 1st and March 10th +/- one week.
- Peach and nectarine blossoms peak approximately March 10th +/- one week.
Their website offers several different tours including:
- A Peach Blossom Tour of Northern Merced County (Atwater, Winton, Cressey, Ballico, Delhi areas)
- An Almond Blossom Tour of Northern Merced County (Atwater, Winton, Cressey, Ballico, Delhi areas)
- An Almond Blossom Tour of Eastern Merced County (Planada, Plainsburg, Le Grand areas)
- An Apricot and Almond Tour of the Los Banos Area
The descriptions and maps for these tours can be found at: http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/Blossom_Tours_262/.
Almonds, apricots, peaches, nectarines, pistachios, and walnuts are the most common tree crops grown in Merced County.There are a very limited number of plums, prunes, figs, cherries, and Asian pears.
To learn how to identify the blossoms, the UC Extension has a downloadable guide:http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/files/40706.pdf.
The download doesn’t have photos, but you can find some at:http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/Pictorial_Guide_to_Fruit_and_Nut_Crops_Grown_in_Merced_County/.
There are also written descriptions on the Fresno County Blossom Trail site:http://www.goblossomtrail.com/.
Although not described on these sites, pistachio and walnut blossoms are small, not very showy, and greenish in color.The other trees are your best bet for photos.
These blossom drives provide endless vistas for photography.The best days for beautiful views are afternoons and mornings when the sun shines through the dark clouds of a departing storm and the days directly following storms.Warm afternoon to evening light adds warmth to the scenes.
The Fresno County Blossom Trail website has a gallery of photos that gives some examples of how photographers have successfully captured beautiful images of blossoms:http://www.gofresnocounty.com/BlossomTrail/Pictures.asp
If you’re already familiar with local blossom trails and are looking for something different, the Fresno County Blossom Trail offers some additional varieties of blossoms set against the foothills of eastern Fresno County.Fresno County has a larger number of plum, apple, and citrus trees.
For a map, information, and places to stop along the trail go to http://www.goblossomtrail.com/.
To enjoy a blossom drive, here are a few suggestions:
- Pack water, jackets, snacks, cameras, and sunglasses.
- Print out the map of your route (see the above links).
- Be aware that bees are working in the orchards and be careful to avoid being stung.If you are allergic to bee stings, bring any bee allergy remedies that your doctor has prescribed for you.
- Stay out of the orchards unless you have permission to enter them.The orchards are private property and you don’t have to enter them to get great photos.
Later in the season, the produce of our local farms is available from local vendors:
- Merced Certified Farmers’ Market:http://mercedcfm.com/
- Merced Fruit Barn:http://www.mercedfruitbarn.com/
- Vista Ranch and Cellars - Merced:http://vistacellars.com/
- Buchannan Hollow Nut Company – south of Merced:http://www.bhnc.com/
- Riverdance Farms - Livingston:http://riverdancefarms.com/
- Le Grand Farmers Market:https://www.facebook.com/legrandfarmersmarket
- Marchini Farms Fruit Stand - Le Grand:http://www.jmarchinifarms.com/products/radicchio.html
- Hilmar Cheese:http://www.hilmarcheese.com/
- Wolfsen’s Meat and Sausage - Gustine:http://www.wolfsensausage.com/
- Pageo Lavender Farm - Turlock:http://pageolavenderfarm.com/
- Turlock Certified Farmers’ Market:http://www.turlockmarket.org/
- Rodin Ranch Famers’ Market - Modesto:http://rodinranch.com/
- Modesto Certified Farmers Market:http://modestocfm.com/
Fresno County Fruit Trails downloadable map and information:http://cemerced.ucanr.edu/files/71388.pdf
Madera Wine Trail:http://www.maderawinetrail.com/
Mariposa County Wineries:http://www.sierrawines.com/ava.aspx?id=24
Tuolumne County Wineries:http://www.sierrawines.com/ava.aspx?id=25
Some of these are featured on the downloadable map provided by Merced County Country Ventures:http://www.country-ventures.org/