California wildflower bloom short-lived but spectacular

California’s Carrizo Plain National Monument covers some 250,000 acres – a swath of land 38 miles by 17 miles – between San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield and due north of Santa Barbara. Despite its rugged beauty and location within perhaps three hours of the several million residents of Los Angeles, it receives just a few thousand visitors a year.

At present, one of the more spectacular aspects of California’s spring is taking place in the Carrizo Plain National Monument. A “superbloom” of wildflowers, with a seemingly endless array of yellows, purples, blues, reds and oranges, is giving the area the appearance of an impressionist’s palette.

Carrizo Plain National Monument, at the southern end of California’s Central Valley, is a vast grassland where antelope, elk and numerous other fauna roam, inhabitants of the last undeveloped, unfarmed region of grasslands that once covered much of the state.

Called California’s Serengeti, the Carrizo Plain is home to a variety of threatened or endangered species.

It has been inhabited off and on for millennia and features Indian pictographs believed to date back thousands of years.

The remote monument is also traversed by the San Andreas Fault, which has carved valleys, moved mountains and can be viewed up close in the ridges and ravines evident throughout the region.

Within a few weeks, at most, the superbloom will have withered and given way to the drab brown of dry grass, which a good part of the sun-baked state is noted for much of the year. But like a nova in the night sky, the bright explosion of colors may fade but will most certainly leave a brilliant memory.

(Top and middle: Images taken of superbloom of wildflowers at Carrizo Plain National Monument, California, by Bureau of Land Management.)

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A look at San Francisco’s first great quake

For more than a century now, the 7.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Bay Area in the early hours of April 18, 1906, has been referred to as the Great San Francisco Earthquake.

Given that the quake and resulting fire killed thousands and destroyed 80 percent of San Francisco, along with nearly all of nearby San Jose and Santa Rosa, the moniker is understandable.

But the term “Great San Francisco Earthquake” had actually in use for nearly 40 years before the 1906 disaster.

That’s because on Oct. 21, 1868, a 7.0 earthquake struck the Bay Area, with its epicenter on the other side of San Francisco Bay, in Hayward.

While it claimed only 30 lives – likely because it struck an area with relatively little population at the time – it left a lasting impact on those who felt it, including one Mark Twain.

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