People trampled California's poppies for the 'gram, and ruined it for the rest of us.
Fields of fiery "super bloom" poppies are lighting up the hills of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, a city about halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego. Thanks to uncommonly heavy rains this winter, much of Southern California is seeing a massive burst of wildflower blooms across the state. The poppies in Walker Canyon are so lush, they can be seen from space.
— Zack Labe (@ZLabe) March 18, 2019
With the bloom came hordes of influencers, mommy bloggers, and YouTubers, all eager to snap a few photos of themselves sitting among the flowers.
But it's making life absolute hell for Lake Elsinore, which has a population of 60,000. On Sunday, about 100,000 visited Walker Canyon, overwhelming Lake Elsinore and creating the traffic of nightmares. Since the poppies went viral — even getting their own Twitter moment —the city has tried to cope with the flood of visitors by closing, then reopening, then closing the fields.
In a Facebook post over the weekend, the city of Lake Elsinore closed Walker Canyon because "the situation has escalated beyond our available resources."
The city also closed the highway ramps leading to the canyon because traffic was so bad.
By Monday, Walker Canyon was open to the public again, albeit with "extremely limited" parking. Explaining that it is "not feasible" to keep visitors out, the city stated that "this is something unlike anything we have ever experienced in our city and may never again."
"Lake Elsinore is the destination for so many unique and incredible features," the Facebook post said. "And this attraction has brought thousands of people from around the world to not only see our city, but to shop in our stores and dine in our restaurants."
But by noon, Mayor Steve Manos asked people to come another time because the fields were so full.
"As you can see behind me, there are a large number of people here again," Manos said in an Instagram video recorded in front of the blooms. "We've expended lots of resources over the weekend ... But we are full."
He added that the city just didn't have the resources to keep Walker Canyon closed because of the sheer amount of people sneaking in and parking on the freeway. Never underestimate the tenacity of an Instagram devotee.
Manos is hopeful that the city will figure out a solution, though.
"We've gone through fires and floods, we'll get through the flowers," he told CBS This Morning.
By Tuesday afternoon, Lake Elsinore once again closed the freeway ramps in both directions. In a Facebook post citing "severe congestion," the city said that the decision was made by California Highway Patrol, not the city.
In the meantime, here are some photos of the super bloom if you can't (or consciously won't) see them in person.
And don't forget that if you do end up visiting, stick to the wildflower etiquette guide.