For several years, I’ve been reading about my friend Wendy’s spring rides in the poppy fields. Last year, I finally convinced her to invite me to one of these rides. The poppy is California’s state flower. While it is beautiful, it is also very short lived. We get just a few weeks each year to enjoy its color, and that only happens if we get enough rain. This year, we didn’t get enough rain.
Late in the winter, Wendy messaged me, and we picked a Poppy Ride date; this past Sunday. Besides riding in the flowers, we also planned a barbecue for after. We were to be a small group, but we were all very eager for the date to arrive. As mid-April drew closer, we knew our chances for poppies were slim to none. California is once again in a severe drought. In the days leading up to the ride, our hostess, Brenda, informed us that the poppy fields were empty.
The lack of color was disappointing, but it was really the horses and the people that were the real draw. We decided to ride even if there were no flowers to admire. Since “J”, one of Speedy’s ladies, lives in Tehachapi, I asked her if she wanted to meet me at Brenda’s so she could ride Speedy. Bakersfield is in the valley. Tehachapi lies in the mountains between the valley and the desert. Of course J was willing. I later found out that she hasn’t done much trail riding, so a bit of trotting and cantering across the desert was a new experience for her.
As luck would have it, we rode the day of a pretty good rain storm. Whenever the weather is about to change in California, the event is preceded by heavy winds. We enjoyed the blue skies and approaching clouds, but the wind made it a little harder to chat while we were riding. In all, we covered 5.7 miles, shorter than I would have done back in my endurance racing days, but it was perfect for a trail ride with friends.
The footing out in this part of the Mojave desert is always great. We had nothing but wide dirt roads nicely covered with a layer of sugary sand. It makes cantering so inviting. Being able to canter or trot for long stretches is such a treat when you live somewhere without the kind of room to stretch your legs that the desert offers.
Once we all made it back to the house, we were pleased to discover burgers on the grill. Wendy brought guacamole and chips – a staple here in California, along with chocolate chip cookies. With my macaroni salad and J’s divine pastries, we all felt just a little bit rounder for the drive home.
Oh, and before I forget, we DID find some California Poppies!