Posted by: Brad Nixon | March 21, 2010

Write of Spring

Spring officially arrived on Saturday. At last! Here in southern California, we’re looking forward to putting away our lined jackets and Ugg boots and not having to wear socks with our sandals.

No, I’m not trying to be cruel. Believe me, I know what winter is like elsewhere, and I know it’s not a joking matter: at least not after a winter like this one and particularly if Spring doesn’t seem like it’s going to come at all early after a terrible, snowy season of blizzards.

Like practically everywhere on the planet, we do have seasons here in southern California. Granted, the differences between them are more subtle than in less temperate climates. When I first moved here, I infuriated The Counselor by observing that I missed the changing of the seasons, especially Fall. She diligently pointed out parts of town that had deciduous trees changing colors and how the quality of the light changes as the sun gets lower in the sky. Guys, here’s a relationship hint: give up teasing girls after 7th grade. They don’t grow up trading jibes with a bunch of other boys who are always ribbing one another. I have to assume that girls’ locker rooms are very earnest and quiet places: never had that experience, but, obviously, girls are different, and after a Certain Age, teasing is a counterproductive activity.

Spring here means that we probably are about done with the rain for another six months or more. Some years, we’re done with the rain, period, for maybe 18 months. In years like this one, in which we’ve had a reasonably heavy amount of rain, we’re experiencing lush green hillsides of desert plants programmed to take advantage of any amount of moisture. They brown out quickly once the sun takes over, but they’re luxuriously verdant right now. Another thing that happens in these Springs following a winter of rain: wildflowers. Just like those time-lapse nature films you’ve seen, Mother Nature makes rapid use of any time there’s sufficient water, and the desert and dry uplands go wild. Here, driving out to the desert or up to the California Poppy Reserve to see the astounding wildflower bloom is the opposite-season analogue to driving to New England to see the Fall foliage. (The Poppy Reserve, by the way, is threatened both by the possible closure of most of California’s state parks and by plans to build an off-road vehicle track nearby. Contact the Sierra Club to help.) Another great wildflower venue is Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. California’s largest state park, Anza-Borrego is also threatened by the potential closing of most of California’s state parks if we don’t figure out how to bail out our deficit. (California voters go HERE to help save the parks.)

Soon after Spring we get another feature of the season: fog. A travel tip: don’t visit the L.A. Basin between May and September expecting blazing sun on expansive white sand beaches. Big ocean. Wet. Big Dampness, Kimo Sabe.

Is that radiation fog or condensation fog? Can never remember. Not paying attention in that class that day in sophomore year. The Spring and early Summer bring blazing skies just a few miles inland and terrific heat to the high desert, but within five or six miles of the coast, we can be shivering under heavy fog throughout May and June. It’s a reliable enough feature that it has its own name: June Gloom. Except, it spans June, usually kicking in by late April and sometimes extending into July. Try Nag’s Head or Myrtle Beach, instead, and come back here in the Fall, when we are really living up to our reputation and you have some hope that the haze will clear enough that you can see the mountains.

California’s central valleys (by the way, why isn’t the plural of “valley” “vallies?” Have to look that up) have their own special fog: Tule Fog, which occurs in fall instead of spring. It’s a deadly, heavy fog that can descend upon you in mere minutes. Until I discovered the correct spelling, I thought it described rookie Boy Scouts on their first camporee sent out by the old hands to find a left-handed ax: Tool Fog. If you’re tooling along Interstate 5 near Bakersfield or Sacramento, visibility can diminish to one or two feet in a matter of seconds.  According to Wikipedia, accidents caused by Tule Fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California. Lots of traffic accidents. That’s why it’s also called Dents Fog.


  1. Brad, you have the boundless energy of Nature Herself bursting forth on a Spring day! After being away all day Sunday, you arrive home in RPV about 7:00 pm, after an hour’s drive from our home a county away — and by 8:00 pm you have already posted your Sunday eve blog. Unbelievable.


  2. You’re killin’ me: “Dents Fog…”


    • Thank you. Just part of the service.


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