By the time that January arrives in New England I've begun to forget what it's like to lay down on the ground to photograph a wildflower in the warm afternoon sun--and that is usually what starts me to start planning a wildflower trip to the desert Southwest. If you've never been to Arizona, Utah, Texas or California or other western states during the early-spring wildflower season, you've missed one of nature's most amazing and whimsical displays. Out of what seems totally barren land, if the conditions are just right, the desert floor turns into a virtual Garden of Eden. It's just incredible to see and it's worth a trip from almost anywhere.
Timing a trip to photograph desert wildflowers is a bit tricky because there is no way to know exactly when the flowers will bloom since it's all entirely dependent on how much rain there was in the fall, how cool or warm the nights were and how much snow has fallen in early winter (yes, there is a lot of snow in the desert!). Different flowers and different deserts come into bloom at different times of year, of course, but usually the displays begin in early February and can last until May. The giant saguaro in southern Arizona, for example, typically don't bloom until late April or early May. In parts of California, however, the bloom period can begin as early as mid January. Desert USA is a great site for tracking the wildflowers' progress and right now they're predicting a good year for 2010. The more flexible your travel dates are the better, but no matter when you go you'll surely find some flowers to photograph. So if you've ever wanted to see and photograph the desert in bloom, perhaps this is the year to give yourself a great travel gift. Who deserves it more than you?
And if you're looking for some inspiration to get you motivated (what, a desert full of wildflowers and vast open spaces isn't enough?) there is a DVD called Season of the Sand Blossoms: A Desert Wildflowers Journeythat takes you on a musical and cinematic journey of the desert Southwest.