Garland Park, Garzas Canyon, Hike,, Let's Go Outdoors, Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District, Walking Tour Carmel

Garzas Canyon – Focus on Wildflowers Hike – Let’s Go Outdoors

One of the best kept secrets for getting outdoors is the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park Districts Let’s Go Outdoors! hikes.  I say it is one of the best kept secrets because the usual cast of characters shows up for each hike.  Not that I don’t enjoy their company, we have developed quite a nice camaraderie, but I also think it is nice to share.  

The Garzas Canyon Focus on Flowers would be my fifth Let’s Go Outdoors activity since moving to the area in June of 2012.

To reach our starting point, coming from Carmel on Carmel Valley Road, pass the main entrance and Visitor Center for Garland Park, turn right onto Boronda Road.  This cuts through a lovely grove of eucalyptus trees  (shown in the picture at the top) and over a one lane bridge.  Turn left onto East Garzas Road.

There is ample parking on the outside of the trail.  The trail map above shows our hike outlined in yellow. And just as a side note, there are over 50 miles of trails in Garland Park and we are only walking 3 1/2 miles of them. 

Our hike was to have been led by Michael Mitchell, a MPRPD volunteer naturalist and co-author with Rod M. Yeager, MD of Wildflowers of Garland Ranch – a field Guide.   Apparently this was prerequisite reading, because many of my fellow hikers showed up with this text already in hand. Not to worry, I still have time to catch up for next time – I purchased my text on the way home at Griggs Nursery.  Anyway back to the hike…

At the last minute Mr. Mitchell was unable to join us so our hike was led by Gordon, with assists from
Paulette and Rick.  Paulette is very knowledgeable about the trails of Garland Park and quite good at flower identification.  Rick is very knowledgeable about birds (he can speak their language) local history, and  entertains us with his captivating stories of local flora and fauna.  He also can mimic a mountain lion which got all of our hearts pounding. 

Gordon, who is quite young at 88, amazed us all, not only with his ability to identify even the tiniest of wildflowers, but with his amazing stamina on a clearly strenuous (at least I thought it was) 3 1/2 mile hike with a number of steep climbs both up and down. 

Off we set on an early Saturday morning in late March. Before getting behind the fence to begin our hike, I had to ask the identity of a vine which I had spend the majority of the previous day removing from my garden.  It had appeared almost overnight and invaded our yard so thoroughly it was even reaching up and pulling the Acacia limbs down to the ground. 
The answer, an aggressive vine called Wild Cucumber, or Man-root because the roots of this plant can become almost as large as a man.  Looks like I will be pulling this out of our yard next year.

Next Gordon pointed out Poison Oak cautioning us not to touch this because 95% of the population is allergic to the oils on this plant (even when green).  Gordon, assuring us that he is one of the 5%, gently plucked a leaf from the plant and popped it into his mouth.  When asked what it tasted like, he deadpanned, “poison oak.” And with that we were off on our hike.
In the open field Gordon points out
the tiny white Popcorn Flower
(which I was never able to find),
purple Sky Lupine 
and Meconella the petals of which
alternate in color, cream and yellow.
We leave the open field and the habitat
quickly changes as we begin
our assent through the oaks. 
Gordon leads the way, naming plants
that prior to today, I am sorry to admit,
 I considered nothing more than weeds.
Take this patch for instance
after an hour on the trail I am actually
able to spot the
Padre Shooting Star
(upper left, mid right)
and Parry’s Larkspur (dark blue one
next to the purple one).  A flower that ends
in “spur” means that it has petals that
grow together and form a long
 “spur” (point) at the end.
  Gordon  navigates our hike by using the
carefully placed trail markers.

We continue on Garzas Canyon Trail
looking for the gate to Terrace Trail.
No horses on this trail, but dogs are allowed.
Terrace Trail crosses East Ridge and we stop (finally)
for a water break at the top of Redwood Canyon.
Rick, our bird docent, points out two
 Red-tailed Hawks
soaring effortlessly high above us engaging
in what apparently is a courtship dance.
 But no time to lollygag Gordon gets
 us back on our feet.
 We are on our way to find
 the fields of Indian Warrior.

Not to be confused with
Indian Paintbrush which we saw earlier.
 Our hike continues, at a rather rapid steep decent,
 into Redwood Canyon as
 we follow the Las Garzas Creek,
traversing back and forth over four
seasonally available wooden foot bridges.
We will follow the
tranquil Las Garzas Creek
 to the gate connecting to Garzas Canyon Trail,
and through the open field (where we began).
With my new found
ability to identify wildflowers I spy 
California Goldenfields, I think.
As a novice, I am open to correction.

I never did see the elusive Popcorn Flower
(thank goodness for Wikipedia).
I highly recommend Let’s Go Outdoors! Unless the popularity would mean that I am unable to join in the fun. Or maybe the popularity will lead to more hikes and more adventures. 

I have put together a pdf list of the wildflowers we saw on our hike and when possible have matched the name with a photo.  This exercise has encouraged me to take off on my own…stay tuned for there is so much of God’s Green Earth to discover.   Pax.

Photos – L.A. Momboisse 2013