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Backyard super bloom: We only have to hop our fence to explore SLO's own poppy explosion 

It's almost 2 o'clock on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon in April, and I'm delighted to be helping my daughter with her research project. We've smeared sunscreen on our ears and arms, sprayed bug repellent on our ankles, and filled our water bottles. It's go time, and I hope the poppies on the hill behind our house are ready for their close-ups!

click to enlarge FIELD NOTES My daughter chose to research the state flower for her fourth grade California history project, a choice that prompted us to take a family hike on a sunny April afternoon. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BRET ROOKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Bret Rooks
  • FIELD NOTES My daughter chose to research the state flower for her fourth grade California history project, a choice that prompted us to take a family hike on a sunny April afternoon.

It's California history season in my daughter's fourth grade class, and she's opted for an exploration of the state flower. So instead of making a clay model of La Purisima Mission—complete with lasagna-noodle terra cotta tiles and toothpick crosses—she's photographing and researching the California poppy.

As the four of us trudge up the steep emergency access road from our neighborhood to connect with the South Hills trail, I'm glad for a clear, cool day. The sunshine means the poppies will be open, and the coolness means my daughters won't complain too much about the heat.

We really don't have to go far to see the glorious orange; multiple swaths of Eschscholzia californica grow wild and free in our neglected backyard. But on a hike we go, cameras and phones in hand. Like the law-abiding Californians we are, we don't pick a single poppy—which, our fourth grader later tells us, became the state flower in 1903.

click to enlarge UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL My older daughter loves to use my phone in selfie mode to take photos of the undersides of flowers, aiming for the most unique angle possible. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NATALIE ROOKS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Natalie Rooks
  • UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL My older daughter loves to use my phone in selfie mode to take photos of the undersides of flowers, aiming for the most unique angle possible.

At the top of our hill, we catch our breath and kneel amid the cups of gold (aka flame flowers). My older daughter grabs my phone and kneels down as far as she can to capture the most unique angle possible. She puts the phone on selfie mode—but instead of capturing her smiling face, she photographs the undersides of several poppies.

My husband takes photos of our fourth grader standing and sitting among the flowers, and I get my phone back to snap my own pics. The paper-thin petals and equally delicate leaves are entrancing, and I'm tempted to lie down and take a nap. But like Dorothy and friends in the Wizard of Oz, we've not yet completed our quest. More poppies and more Sunday fun await us on the other side of this hill. Δ

Associate Editor Andrea Rooks still wants to sleep in a field of poppies. She can be reached at arooks@newtimesslo.com.










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