Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

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Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike
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By Robert Bernstein

With so much rain, everyone wants to know if a superbloom is in our future. The short answer: No one knows for sure. Rain can help grow flowers. But it can also grow tall invasive grass faster, which buries the flowers.

My wife Merlie and I decided to head out to Figueroa Mountain Road a few weeks ago to see what we could find. Here are my many photos.

We heard a rumor that Lover's Loop was a good place to look. This is one of several trails on Midland School property, near the former Michael Jackson Neverland Ranch. Midland School generously provides these trails for public access and just asks people to fill in a form at the trailhead. They also request all dogs be kept on a leash at all times.

I have hiked most of the Midland School trails over the years, but not Lover's Loop. Notably I had hiked the Grass Mountain trail that leads to fields of poppies and lupines in good years. 2009 was an especially good year and here I was enjoying the poppies and lupines then high up on Grass Mountain.

It was a bit early for that when we went this time. We got a late start and stopped in Solvang first for lunch.

Figueroa Mountain Road was closed right at the Midland School trailhead for Grass Mountain and Lover's Loop. Beyond that the road was damaged in the storms and is undergoing repairs. At the trailhead we were greeted by this helpful map:

Several other people arrived about the time we did, but none of them had been there before. So no one knew for sure where to go. Since it is a loop, we had to make a guess which way to go. We opted to go right. Good choice! That takes you uphill, away from the stream.

We soon met James Wapotich, who is a wizard of wildflowers and hiking. He kindly posed for a photo with me.

And took a photo of us under an oak tree beautifully covered in hanging lichens.

James told us we indeed had picked the correct way to go. He said he may not do the full loop that day and would be taking his time. He told us some valuable information that came in handy!

Here are some fiddleneck flowers that are similar to the ones near us in the previous photo. They get their name from the fact that they unfurl from a curled up state that looks like the scroll of a violin. They are reputed to be edible.

One of the wildflower highlights for us: The "shooting stars". Here was a beautiful specimen we soon encountered.

It was a bit early for lupines, but we saw this lovely lupine, with some fiddlenecks, blue dicks and sticky monkey flowers nearby.

Here is a close shot of some blue dicks.

Beware of this. A lush stand of poison oak that is everywhere in our area that water is found. "Leaflets three, let it be."

Here we saw some hummingbird sage around the base of an oak tree.

These flowers were blooming around a fallen tree. We saw lots of fallen and dead trees.

The most valuable information given by James Wapotich: Watch for a meadow near the highest point of the trail. And look for a "Trail Narrows" sign at the far end of the meadow. There, look for chocolate lilies. These are rare flowers that need to be treated with care and respect. We indeed found his landmark!

And we found some magnificent chocolate lilies, just as he promised! This one was just starting to get its chocolate bits.

Since this was a high point of the trail, we of course posed for photos!

It was early in the season for poppies, but we did see a few. These were mostly closed because it was windy and getting late in the day.

Here was one of the dead trees we encountered. You can see Grass Mountain beyond it on the left.

After that Trail Narrows sign, the trail not only narrowed. It also got scattered into many pieces that were quite confusing. There was also a lot of erosion. These people ahead of us also seemed a bit lost.

These people may also have been unsure which way to go, but they boldly continued on, complete with a child in a carrier.

Here we got a closer view of Grass Mountain. You can see some orange from poppies and some blue, probably from lupines.

The trail was washed out and/or eroded in places, but people were able to make it through. This was quite a nice view, also showing Grass Mountain in the distance.

Here was some of the bright orange lichen we saw, probably made more lively by all the rain.

Merlie scouted ahead as we got to the swollen creek on the way back.

She determined that we had to cross on this partially submerged log. For all of my hiking experience, those things make me nervous. Not sure I could have done it without her steadying hand.

Awhile later we had to cross back on this log, which was not quite as scary.

A muddy final section…

And we were back to the trailhead.

We soon got a nice view of the moon above the oaks as we headed out.

We hope to head back out there again soon to see if the poppies and lupines are happening in a bigger way. If you do go: I recommend you learn our lesson: At the trailhead, go to the right on Lover's Loop. And when you get to the Trail Narrows sign? Probably better just to head back than to deal with what follows!

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Vic60 Mar 28, 2023 08:06 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

I agree with aquaholic. Don't sit in the flowers for your photo op. If everyone did this there wouldn't be beautiful hillsides of flowers for us all to enjoy. I don't understand why people can't just enjoy the flowers from the trail. The last super bloom had so many people trampling flowers and picking them that they closed areas to prevent this.

AQUAHOLIC Mar 28, 2023 02:01 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Thanks for the report and trail info! Please folks, don't sit on the flowers. Trampling the blooms hampers future growth and sets a horrible example of what NOT to do, as shown in your photo. Look and take photos from a distance so we may all enjoy their beauty, now and in the future.
(take note of all the BALD patches on Grass Mountain)

lovegoats Mar 28, 2023 05:02 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

I don't think Robert sits on the flowers... it looks like he sits and leans on a rock. I bet he is responsible enough to be aware not to step and trample the seasonal flower blooms. I'm pretty sure the bald patches on grass mountains are not caused by trampling the flowers while taking photos? We have long drought season plus climate change? So don't make Robert the poster boy of to parrot you "what not to do". Geezz just be happy!

Lucky 777 Mar 28, 2023 12:17 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Wonderful to see all the wildflowers. A year ago I did a mule trail ride out there and there were few, but we went above and beyond this loop trail and got closer to Grass Mountain. Visuals here: Midland School trail http://www.muletrail.com/2022/03/2022326-mountain-trails-at-midland.html

Cabomark Mar 28, 2023 06:37 AM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

The Grass Mountain Midland trails also fall within the Los Padres National Forest which has had a closure notice in effect until May 9th. Unfortunately this closure includes most all backcountry trails along with a majority of front country trails in Santa Barbara with the exception of Rattlesnake trail up to the meadow

sbrobert Mar 27, 2023 07:18 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

We hiked legally. I am sorry to hear that the trails have since been closed.

Here you can check the current status.
https://midland-school.org/our-trails-land-trust/

lovegoats Mar 28, 2023 05:46 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Huh? Why does it have to be a secret spot. It's a private property that allows public access . It's open nature. It is meant to be enjoyed and experienced by everyone? Besides, some if not most people are visual which means they get inspired when they see nice photos. The world doesn't stop spinning around one man's preference. And yes posting photos is fun. It is to inspire, stimulate and encourage people to hike and go out. And if one is annoyed by it, he can always move out of the frame.

lovegoats Mar 28, 2023 05:46 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Huh? Why does it have to be a secret spot. It's a private property that allows public access . It's open nature. It is meant to be enjoyed and experienced by everyone? Besides, some if not most people are visual which means they get inspired when they see nice photos. The world doesn't stop spinning around one man's preference. And yes posting photos is fun. It is to inspire, stimulate and encourage people to hike and go out. And if one is annoyed by it, he can always move out of the frame.

Pebblehill Mar 28, 2023 08:34 AM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

This is the current status according to their website: “ Trail Status:
Trails will be closed to hikers & horseback riders indefinitely as we recover from the record rainfall.
Please note, if trails are closed, it is for safety reasons and to preserve the trail system. Please do NOT remove signs or resort to trespassing.”

Alexblue Mar 27, 2023 09:42 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

There are so many places where you'll barely see a soul. Most people are too lazy to get more than a mile in.

Gonzai Mar 27, 2023 09:18 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Looks like a gray hike and good for you guys but isn't posting pics and barking the place for Instagram and Facebook and not edhat?
We don't have any more secret spots or less well known spots anymore for us locals due to social media. I guess it's not a complete adventure without posting pics to everyone as well. Funny to me. The best adventure comes without a road map and a pre seen vision already known

Basicinfo805 Mar 27, 2023 07:03 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

Way to get out there. Hopefully anyone that ignores closed signage does so with careful thought as to their personal ability to handle themselves, rather than expect a rescue. Looks beautiful.

154DailyDriver Mar 27, 2023 12:30 PM
Lover's Loop Wildflower Hike

It should be mentioned the trail system has been closed from storm damage and remains closed per Midland's website

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