In Quest of the Blooming Almond Trees
Before Paso Robles was known for its vineyards, it was known for its almonds. Back in the 1970’s when we would travel to Carmel Valley from Culver City, we would pass through Paso Robles on Interstate 101. We didn’t see wine tasting rooms back then. We saw almond tasting rooms. On one memorable summer day we were driving our very first car — a 1965 VW Bug — and we decided to stop at an almond tasting room on Ramada Drive. (We now live about five miles from that very spot.) We tasted some almonds of various flavors, and when we got back in the car, it wouldn’t start. Turned out to be vapor lock. After a short wait, we were on our way again. But I digress.
Back in those days, there were almond orchards everywhere. There still are lots of almond orchards, but many are no longer cared for. They cover the hills above Vine Street. Some may still be in commercial use, and some families still harvest the nuts, but many are just there. They are covered with Spanish moss and still bloom in season. February is the season.
About this time last year, I needed to go home to Templeton and check a couple of things and I wanted to get out and do some walking on the way. I decided to take the longer and more scenic route home than the direct one I usually take, because I knew there were almond orchards off Kiler Canyon Road. It’s not easy to find a place to park, but I finally was able to pull off the road so I could travel on foot. I took dozens of almond orchard photos, but will only share a few here. This was the first picture I took today. There was a break in the fence so it didn’t have to intrude into the photo.
This was near the street.
This was on a hill above Vine Street.
I also went looking for almond trees a couple of years ago. It was hard to find a place to park then, too, because the road is narrow. I finally pulled off on the edge of a side road where I often take pictures, and the house on the corner had some almond trees in bloom. I took a few pictures of them and then walked into a meadow across the street to try to shoot an unkempt orchard on the hill above Kiler Canyon Road. After doing that, I noticed some small yellow wild flowers at my feet and decided to capture them, too.
One thing you should know about this road is that it’s rural and houses are far apart. Most homes are on several acres, and they are very nice homes. Many have security gates you need a key card or code to unlock. Some are small farms. But the occasional cars that drive by are usually people who live on that road or one of the adjoining roads, also very narrow and not always paved. I have taken photo walks on Kiler before and if someone drives by, they often stop to see what you’re doing walking in their neighborhood. They are very aware of strangers. They are security conscious.
So picture me bent toward the ground with my camera trying to get the macro shot of a small yellow flower. Behind my back I hear a truck . I hear it stop. I’m kind of waiting for the driver, as yet unseen by me, to ask me what I’m doing there. Instead a familiar voice says, “Why don’t you just pick a bunch of them?” It’s someone I know because we attend some of the same political events and we worked for the same city council candidate in the last election (and he won this year.) In fact, we were at a meeting together the night before. I knew he lived on this road but I didn’t know where. I told him I was on a quest to find an almond tree in bloom.
He said he had the biggest one in the neighborhood and it was in full bloom. He told me to follow him. Turns out he lived in the next house south at the top of a hill. I confessed to him that for sometime I have coveted access to hilltop property with a view like his for taking pictures. He took me to his almond tree, and then gave me full access to his 12 acres. I was in photographers’ paradise. I walked all around the hill he lived on and then climbed down a bit to get pictures of more orchards across the way. The almond tree in bloom is below.
Here is another orchard I could see from his hilltop.
I wanted to get another photo of my friend’s tree today, but hadn’t contacted him and I didn’t want to disturb him when he wasn’t expecting me, so I decided to take a zoom shot through the row of trees at the bottom of his hill from the road. This is the result.
I had a wonderful walk and was delighted to have found even more almond trees than I expected. As I write this, the almond trees are in bloom again. I see them when I’m out doing errands, but I’ve not had time to photograph them yet this year.
Pictures and content are original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2016, All Rights Reserved
Originally published at www.personapaper.com.