Outdoor-guide author Tracy Salcedo recommends heading out to Sugarloaf Ridge State Park right outside Kenwood. “There’s a waterfall there that is just supercharged right now because of all the rain that we’ve got,” she said. The park is expected to dry out a little over the coming weeks, but for now expect some muddy trails.
Salcedo has written multiple books about hiking in California, including Hiking Waterfalls in Northern California: A Guide to the Region’s Best Waterfall Hikes.
She expects that the waterfalls will stay robust for the bulk of the summer since we’ve had an abundance of rain to fuel them.
California boasts about 6,500 species of plants, 1,600 endemic bees and about 1,300 butterflies and moths. Our state is truly “a biodiversity hot spot,” Radhika Thekkath, president of the Santa Clara Valley chapter of the California Native Plant Society, told KQED Forum.
Thekkath recommends a number of places to see wildflowers starting to bloom around Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, including:
Right now, Thekkath said, you’ll see a lot of different species of poppies, lupines, fiddlenecks and goldfields. But compared to this time last year, we’re seeing only about 50% of the species blooming, since last year was a drier and warmer winter.
That said, Thekkath assured KQED Forum listeners, people can still expect more spectacular blooms all over California because of the colder winter this year. They’re just … slightly delayed.
Thekkath reminded listeners to stay on trails and not step into meadows, which can cause tremendous damage you can’t see. You’re not just threatening the millions of seeds lying in there, waiting for the right moment to germinate, but you could also be “destroying bees, caterpillars, butterflies and insects that rely on these wildflowers to support our local ecology,” she warned.
The wet year has also extended the mushroom season.
“Normally this time of year, it would be at the end of the season,” J.R. Blair, amateur mycologist and retired lecturer in biology at San Francisco State University, told KQED Forum.
Blair said that right now, you’ll be able to spot chanterelles, which have begun to sprout earlier. People should also be looking for yellowfoots and black trumpets, two really good edible mushrooms that can be found fruiting in numbers.
Never gone foraging before and want to try it? Blair advises going on trips with local mycological societies, where you can learn from people who are more knowledgeable — and, most importantly, who can teach you how to identify the mushrooms you definitely should not eat.
“What you need to do, in essence, is to not only learn the characteristics of the edible species but learn the characteristics of the poisonous lookalikes,” said Blair.
The hikes that offer the ‘3 W’s’: Wildflowers, wildlife and wows
The Canyon View Trail to Little Yosemite brings you through beautiful woodlands and hills, with serene canyon views and a lush stream. Be sure to check out the website for closures and parking fees.
Chimney Rock in Point Reyes is another spot Day recommends. He says such places have the “three W’s” going for them: “It has the wildflowers, has the wildlife and it has the wowing views,” said Day. And once we get some warmer weather, there will be a bounty of wildflowers at Chimney Rock through the spring.
Also, from January through May, there’s a chance you might see migrating gray whales as they head up to Alaska. “In the spring, they usually have had their babies or their calves, so they’re sticking a little bit closer to shore,” said Day. “So your chance of seeing them are a little bit better.”
Plus, Chimney Rock is a great place to spot elephant seals. Overall, said Day, Point Reyes is a great place to see a combination of all the wonders of spring.