Santa Rosa Mountains

For weeks, Mike Harmon and I had been talking about it sporadically. The Spring Wildflower Blooming on the northern edge of the Santa Rosa Mountains, that is. A few years ago it had been brilliant. The hillsides were painted by the violent colors of hundreds of millions of flowers. It was a perfect landscape for photography enthusiasts, and the riding group rode through it at the perfect time. It was the height of the blooming. We returned to the area, specifically Diamond Valley Lake, a week later to make photographs again. Both excursions were photographic successes that year. The map shown here is courtesy of, and Copyright by MapQuest.

We’ve been watching the calendar every year since. We always try to get to the area during the bloom. Unfortunately, in hindsight it appears that that particular year may well have hosted the best blooming in a decade or two. Even knowing that it is unlikely that the correct amount of winter rainfall and the appropriate spring temperatures will occur, we keep trying to see the perfect blooming again, so we planned a group ride for April 14 this year (2012) because it seemed like the right timing.

Not all well laid plans work out, of course, and that was another one that didn’t. By the day before the projected ride, we had lost the rest of the group. They were casualties of various family events that took precedence. The weather forecast for the next day also looked poor for a motorcycle ride; dark overcast skies, low temperatures, uncomfortably high winds, and a vague threat of rain.

On the grey morning of the abandoned ride, we both checked the weather forecast for the following day, then got on the telephone. It looked good; light winds, higher temperatures, and partial cloud cover rather than one uniformly gray blanket thrown over the land. We decided to meet at a local gas station in the morning and see how it went. If nothing else it would be a ride.

We were moving somewhat slowly in the morning, meeting up past nine o’clock, then riding at a leisurely pace over the plateau to the east through the city of Moreno Valley, then turning left onto Gillman Springs Road which runs south along the western shoulder of the Badlands to San Jacinto and Hemet.

Riding with the group, we typically stop for breakfast at Arturo’s, a Mexican restaurant in Hemet. In deference to Mike’s unending search for the perfect hash browns, we took a chance on Millie’s Restaurant. My breakfast was fair. Nothing bad about it. But when I looked at the hash browns on Mike’s plate I knew they had failed the test with flying colors. Pure mush inside the browned skin of shredded potatoes. Just seeing them, I’d rate them at 1 out of 10. Mike took a photo of the food and wrote a few notes. He is an expert on hash browns. I knew that Millie’s was not going to fare well (pun intended) in his pending blog reviews of shredded breakfast potatoes.

Back on the road, we headed south on State Street toward the outskirts of town. As the houses and strip mall stores thinned out I began watching the plants lining the edges of the asphalt. It didn’t look too promising. There were the usual weedy fringes, but they sported very few blooms. On Sage Road, where we found the brilliant blooming a few years ago, it wasn’t any better. It was possibly the poorest showing I’ve seen in that area.

The adobe house on Sage Road shown in this post seems to be deteriorating quickly, since two years ago the back wall was still standing (although the roof was long gone). Because it is so scenic, after Sage Road let out onto Highway 79, we decided to ride the loop through Aguanga, Cahuilla, and Garner Valley in the San Jacintos.

The other photos were taken in Garner Valley. All of the photographs shown here were shot on 35mm film with a Nikon N90s (F90x) and a Nikon 28mm manual focus prime lens. I used Kodak Gold 100 film. I’m trying that film out, since my favorite film, Fuji Superia Reala 100, is no longer made. I don’t care much for the Kodak Gold 200 film, though I can’t quantify why. Maybe it is the speed difference. Though the Kodak 100 is not as saturated as the Fuji, I’m enjoying the results. So far.

I was thinking about trying the Kodak Ektar 100, but read numerous reviews of the Gold 100, and decided to try that first, since it costs about half as much as the Ektar, which is supposed to be more saturated. I like the color balance of the Gold 100, though. It reminds me of the way my old Kodak DC 3400 digital point-and-shoot rendered color. I’m still mourning the demise of that camera, though it was decidedly “low tech” compared to the other digital cameras I now have. I may not try the Ektar for some time…