Seasons Change from Fall Color to Holiday Sparkle

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Although autumn doesn’t end until December 21, Thanksgiving Day always seems to be the last day of the year in  which Californians are in an autumn state of mind.  After that, a blizzard of holiday sales make falling prices overwhelm falling leaves.

While there’s still lots of color to be enjoyed, most Californians shift their search from looking for fall color to searching for colorful Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

However, just because the holiday season is upon us does not mean that Mother Nature has given up her beautiful show of autumn color.  California’s urban landscape flickers with auburn, orange, crimson and yellow within its parks and along its boulevards.  Because California’s weather has been mostly mild and clear this fall, 2009 will be remembered as one of the best for beautiful and long-lasting displays of fall color.

This is the last planned California Fall Color report of the season.  Our thanks are expressed to the many color spotters across The Golden State who emailed photographs and reports.

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

75-100% — Lake County. Terre Logsdon reports that “While the harvest of pears, walnuts, and wine grapes has ended for the year, large swaths of color throughout the county remain to be enjoyed as the many oak varieties – black, blue, valley, and Oregon – are at 75% of peak and turning a muted gold to vibrant orange against a backdrop of evergreen pines. Sweet gums are a riot of color in the town of Lakeport, at their peak of color ranging from gold to deep burgundy. Flowering mulberries are nearing their peak ranging from canary yellow to bright green.

Lakeport Dickens Faire (stock photo)

Dickens Christmas Market, Lakeport (stock photo)

An annual Dickens’ Christmas Market occurs Nov. 28 in Lakeport.  This annual Christmas event transforms Lakeport into an old English village, complete with costume-clad characters, food booths, and entertainment, as well as an all-day Christmas Market from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lighted parade begins at 6 p.m. and Christmas tree lighting follows at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street. CLICK HERE for more about this event or call (707) 263-5092.

75-100% — Onyx. Color spotter Danna Stroud of Mammoth Lakes reports that lovely gold colors clusters of trees in the Southern Sierra along CA-178 west of CA-14 and east of Lake Isabella.  Danna oversees the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau which will soon open one of the three new California Welcome Centers recently approved for designation by the California Travel & Tourism Commission.  The new Welcome Centers are located in Mammoth Lakes, El Dorado Hills and Vista and should open in early 2010.  When these state-sanctioned visitor information centers open, the number of California Welcome Centers will increase to 17.  California Welcome Centers bring together visitor information from across California and are great places to get maps and guidance on visiting California.

75-100% — San Francisco Bay Area. Color is at or past peak around San Francisco, providing lots of nostalgic autumn color in the Bay Area for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.  If you’re in The City this weekend, head to Yerba Buena Gardens and Golden Gate Park for the most diverse show of color.  Cindy Hu reports that russet and gold have “been supplanted by LEDs in many corners of The City.  Market Street is adorned with illuminated snowflakes and the palm trees in Union Square have been encircled with white lights.”  She recommends checking out these “bright spots:” Embarcadero Center, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Huntington Park, Castro and 18th Streets, Union Street, Golden Gate Park, The Presidio and Fisherman’s Wharf.  CLICK HERE for more details.

Beautiful color may also be found down the Peninsula in Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton, Palo Alto and Los Altos; in the East Bay communities of Danville, Moraga and Walnut Creek; and in the north bay cities of San Rafael and Novato.

75-100% — Sacramento. This Central Valley city is known as being second only to Paris in the number of trees, per capita.  Sacramento has so many trees that special rules govern when and where you can park, so that leaves can be cleared during autumn.  The best displays of fall color are found downtown, surrounding the State Capitol, in the Fabulous Forties (avenues numbered in the 40s) and surrounding Land Park, south of US 50 and downtown.

Past Peak — Plumas County. Color spotter Suzi Brakken reports that the Plumas and Lassen National Forest offices are now selling Christmas tree cutting permits for $10.  All you need is a saw, dry boots and snow clothes. Keep in mind that snow is plentiful in the higher elevations, especially where the favorite Silvertips are found. The permits for Plumas National Forest are also available at many local businesses, including at the Plumas County Visitors Center at the Quincy airport, a half mile west of Quincy on CA-70.  Maps of approved cutting areas come with permits, which are on sale through Dec. 24.

On the Thanksgiving weekend, holiday light parades will be held in Chester and Taylorsville, and merchant open houses with refreshments and tree-lightings will be held in small towns throughout Plumas County this weekend and next. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Past Peak — Gold Country. Color has now descended below 1,000′ in the gold country with little left to change among the oaks and maples.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  See you next fall!

Gold Country, So. Cal. Show Their Gold

Holly Hill Vineyard (11/16/09)

Holly's Hill Vineyard, El Dorado County (11/15/09)

75-100% — Newton and Snow Roads (2,000′). Black Oaks and bigleaf maple are fully orange and yellow from U.S. 50 south of Placerville on Newton Road to the Pleasant Valley, indicative of similar color to be found throughout the Sierra foothills.

We drove to Holly’s Hill Vineyards in the El Dorado AVA, to find the vineyards to be at peak with orange to red across the rolling hills, as these snaps from an iPhone attest.

75-100% — Southern California. Jimbo comments from Southern California that there’s still lots of color to be found in the mountains.  He writes, “The black oaks have turned around places like Crestline, Idyllwild and Palomar Mountain.”

Holly's Hill Vineyard, El Dorado County (11/16/09)

Holly's Hill Vineyard, El Dorado County (11/15/09)

Thanks to readers, like Jimbo, I’m able to cover all of the state.  Do email me if you’ve got a report.  Photos are great.  Give me your full name and I’ll make sure you get credited.  These reports will continue through Thanksgiving Day.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo


San Francisco’s Golden Palace

Editor’s Note:  2009 marks the centennial anniversary of the reopening of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel.  The hotel was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and fire, rebuilt and reopened on Dec. 15, 1909.  November is San Francisco’s month for fall color, particularly in Golden Gate Park.  If you’re heading to The City during this glorious month, plan to include a visit to the Palace.  Whether you stay there, dine there or just tour its beautiful interiors, it’s worth the visit, as the following article originally written by me for California magazine tells.

Golden sunlight brightens the Beaux Arts décor of the Garden Court in San Francisco’s Palace Hotel, preserving for ever this city’s gilded age.

The Palace Hotel has long been where San Francisco’s financial, commercial and social royalty have held court, and the Garden Court has been its throne room.  “It is the most beautiful dining room in America,” says James Dalessandro, author of 1906, a novel about the San Francisco earthquake and fire, “There’s nothing that comes close to it.  It’s regal, yet comfortable.  The food is fabulous, and dining there is one of the great joys of visiting San Francisco.”

Garden Court diners sit at creamy, draped tables on Napoleonic armchairs, while curtained by lacy palm fronds and surrounded by a cloister of Ionic columns of Italian marble.  They dine on local Dungeness crab salads dripped with the hotel’s original Green Goddess dressing, as a harpist plays.  Overhead, a vaulted, 110 by 85 foot-long (33.5 x 25.9 meter), leaded-glass skylight, trimmed in antique gold, bathes the room with soft light, while Austrian crystal chandeliers suspended from the stained glass ceiling provide dazzling, dangling “bling.”

Everything about the Garden Court impresses, and that is what San Francisco pioneers William Ralston and Senator William Sharon intended when they opened the Palace Hotel in 1875.  It had been 27 years since gold had been discovered on the American River; in that time, San Francisco had evolved from a sleepy coastal village into America’s western commercial and financial capital.  A second, “green” gold rush fed by the export of abundant California produce and wine was just beginning, which would establish San Francisco as the most affluent city, per capita, in the United States.

And yet despite its growing affluence and influence, San Francisco got little respect, particularly in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.  So, Sharon and Ralston gambled their fortunes to build a grand hotel… one so elegant that with the first ring of its front desk bell, their city would be transformed from wild, frontier town to refined, cosmopolitan city.

To subsidize his $5 million dream, Ralston drained his banking empire and learned, two weeks before the hotel’s opening, that his Bank of California would be forced to close.  A day later, Ralston’s body was found floating in San Francisco Bay, leaving Sharon to foster the dream.

And, what a dream it was.  When the Palace opened, it was the world’s largest hotel.  Its guests were awed by its unprecedented size and luxury.  Four hydraulic elevators, known then as “arising rooms,” lifted the hotel’s guests in comfort and style.  Each room came with an electronic call button in order to access hotel services.  And, a 100-place solid-gold dinner service (one of the world’s oldest and most complete still in use) was set for state dinners and other grand occasions, causing a bedazzled Dom Pedro II, Emperor of Brazil, to say to the mayor of San Francisco, “Nothing makes me ashamed of Brazil so much as the Palace Hotel.”

The Palace’s comforts so surpassed all other San Francisco accommodations that it became the obvious destination for visiting potentates and celebrities.  Ten U.S. Presidents have stayed there, as well as countless kings, queens, statesmen, industrialists, generals, lords and ladies.  A list of the hotel’s celebrated guests numbers three, single-spaced pages, including such luminaries as: Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Amelia Earhart, Robert Anthony Eden, Thomas Edison, Field Marshalls Foch and Joffre, Ulysses S. Grant, Nikita Kruschev, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Fiorello La Guardia, Ferdinand de Lesseps, Thomas Lipton, George B. McClellan, John Pierpont Morgan, Lord and Lady Mountbatten, John David Rockefeller, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, Lillian Russell, William Tecumseh Sherman, Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Woodrow Wilson.

With its location on Market Street – the commercial spine of San Francisco – the Palace became the epicenter of the young city’s commerce and culture (today, it stands in the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District).  Such a central location made it a natural gathering point.  Businessmen would meet along the block-long Redwood Room bar, which ran from New Montgomery to Third Streets, an expanse so long that 30 bartenders were needed to keep glasses full.  It is said more deals were transacted along its length than occurred in the State Capitol.

Like a magnet, the Palace Hotel attracted not only the successful, but those seeking success.  One such young man was my grandfather, French immigrant Maurice Ducasse, who watched the deal makers come and go and noticed that there was no cigar store nearby to serve them.  So, he opened one across the street just days before the great San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.  Grandpa then watched his cigars go up in smoke, but not as he had intended.

Few would have thought Ralston and Sharon’s original Palace, designed by architect J. P. Gaynor, to be so vulnerable, as it was built to be earthquake and fire proof.  The hotel was banded with reinforcing steel and contained a million-gallon cistern below the hotel to fight fires.  It even had its own security and fire personnel.  Indeed, the hotel survived the earthquake and was defending itself from fire when its cisterns were drained battling fires in surrounding buildings.  Once the water was gone, the hotel became a casualty.

For San Franciscans like my grandfather, the Palace Hotel was more than a place of rest, it was a place to read the city’s pulse.  And thus, rumors of the Palace’s demise passed excitedly through refugee encampments in Golden Gate Park.  While many dreams ended in 1906, San Franciscans will tell you that more were renewed, including the Palace Hotel, which like its symbol – the mythical Phoenix bird – rose from its ashes as a new structure three years later for twice its original construction cost.

With its reopening on December 15, 1909, the original carriage entrance was enclosed for the Garden Court (today, the only indoor historic landmark in San Francisco), additional innovations were added and a more civilized bar was placed within the hotel that included a mural by American fantasy realist Maxfield Parrish whose fairy-tale-inspired mural of Old King Cole, painted in 1905 for John Jacob Astor’s Knickerbocker Hotel, set the style for hotel bars.

“Hotel owners, upon seeing the Old King Cole mural at the Knickerbocker, commissioned nursery-rhyme and fairy-tale paintings to enhance their own establishments,” Coy Ludwig writes in his book, Maxfield Parrish. In San Francisco, it was The Pied Piper… for the Palace Hotel and Sing a Song of Sixpence for the Hotel Sherman in Chicago.” More recently, a cluster of tourists on an “Urban Safari” tour of San Francisco (identifiable by the pith helmets they wear) was seen stopping at the bar’s entrance to view the mural and hear that the mural, originally commissioned for $6,000 is now considered to be worth as much as $6 million, though its cultural value to San Francisco is priceless.  As the time-crunched tour guide led the group away, he checked his watch and said, “Safari, so good.”

Parrish would have appreciated such mirth, as when asked why he chose the Pied Piper for its subject, he said, “I don’t exactly know, except that I must have thought it an attractive one, as I do now.  Seems to me I heard somewhere that it was not a subject quite suited to increase the receipts of a bar, as guests draining a glass were apt to note a child in the painting that resembled a little one at home and, then and there, cancel their wish for a second glass.”

Whoever said that never spent a night in San Francisco.  No painting of a child, mythic or real, would ever restrain its revelry.  San Franciscans are culturally wired to celebrate the fine things in life whether it be food, drink or entertainment.  Indeed, on the night of the earthquake and fire, no less a cultural icon of his day than tenor Enrico Caruso was in San Francisco to perform at the San Francisco Opera House.  After the earthquake shook him from his bed, he fled the Palace Hotel wearing only a towel and swearing, “I will never set foot in San Francisco again.”

Clearly, Caruso is one of the few who ever said they wouldn’t return to San Francisco or its Palace.  An extensive renovation of the hotel completed in 1991 restored the hotel to its original elegance and continued the tradition of innovation, adding conference facilities and a spa, pool and fitness center.  A stream of design and preservation awards honoring the restoration soon followed from such lofty organizations as The National Trust for Historic Preservation, American Institute of Architects, California Preservation Foundation and the California Heritage Council.

The restored guest rooms have lost none of their turn-of-the-century grandeur, high ceilings or opulent comfort.  Grey, cream and gold fine Italian Frette linens and pin-striped draperies complement refined palatial rooms, some furnished with Louis XV and Empire chairs and settees.  Whether your choice is the Presidential suite or a standard room, the same appointments are provided, though you’ll pay more for a better view of bustling Market Street, the San Francisco skyline or extra space in a suite.

“Sometimes luxury hotels can be intimidating, but the Palace has always been approachable,” explains the hotel’s business travel and international account director Sarah Bisa.  Among its accommodations, the Palace is pet friendly, a standard established after celebrated French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt arrived in 1887 with her pet baby tiger, and hotel management kindly provides its guests with bottled water.  However, what sets it apart, Ms. Bisa says, is that,“The Palace is a museum that happens to operate as a hotel. It is also the most San Franciscan of San Francisco hotels and its authenticity appeals to my international clients,” who, she explains, know that when staying in Las Vegas it’s all about the fantasy, whereas when staying in San Francisco it’s all about the history, environment and culture.

While the hotel’s rack rate is $599, shop online and you’re likely to find deals.  Prices are best on Friday and Saturday nights and during national holidays.  Although The Palace hotel is renowned among business travelers, it is pretty well designed for the leisure traveler with its shallow pool and location within walking distance of the trollies, cable cars and numerous attractions and museums.

Now part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts “Luxury Collection,” the Palace Hotel is owned by Kyo-ya Company, Ltd.  Though it is now a century and a third removed from the days of Ralston and Sharon, the Palace Hotel still basks in the golden glow of that age.  Diners at the Garden Court are enveloped by softly gilded light, as if the San Francisco air is filled with gold dust.  And, it is… at least, for those privileged guests of San Francisco’s Golden Palace.

Linking the Palace Hotel

The Palace Hotel –

James Dalessandro –

San Francisco CVB –

1906 Earthquake –

Color, Color Everywhere

Chinese Pistache (11/11/09

Chinese Pistache (11/11/09

Fall color has now dropped in elevation to sea level.  Exotic trees are showing first, as can be seen in these photos of Chinese Pistache (pistacia chinensis) and Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis) photographed at 800′ in El Dorado Hills.

Redbud (11/11/09)

Eastern Redbud (11/11/09)

Native trees from sea level to 1,000′ still have two weeks to go before peak, but the exotics are providing a dazzling show of yellow, orange, red, lime, burgundy and brown.

Planned communities, where landscaped boulevards cluster tree species are literally glowing.  Chinese pistache, liquidambar, redbud, red oak, ornamental pear, persimmon, crape myrtle, maidenhair and birch are turning quickly and shedding leaves with each storm.

Parks and arboreta will deliver good fall color viewing through November.  A map to where fall color can be found within the San Francisco Botanical Garden is included in the preceding blog.

Japanese Maple, Taylorsville (11/12/09)

Japanese Maple, Taylorsville (11/12/09)

50-100% — Urban Landscape (0 – 1000′).  It is difficult to express a precise percent of change for so vast a territory as is California, though exotic foliage (that not native to California) is at or nearing peak across the state, as seen in this photograph of a Japanese maple sent to us by Richard McCutcheon from Taylorsville (southeast of Lake Almanor).  Native trees below 1,000′ are anywhere from 15% to 75%, again according to species and micro-climate.  Fall color viewing continues across California, though the brightest displays are now within the exotic landscapes of the state’s cities and towns.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo

Japanese Maple: © 2009, Richard McCutcheon


A Guide to San Francisco Fall Color

San Francisco Botanical Garden Fall Color Map

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park (11/2/09)

Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park (11/2/09)

San Francisco is California’s emerald city by the Bay.  The City prides itself for being one of the most environmentally attentive municipalities on Earth and that pride is evident within its many parks and streets where beautiful fall color can be found.  This is particularly true in The City’s expansive Golden Gate Park.  However, Golden Gate Park is so large it can be difficult to find the color.

To the rescue comes San Francisco color spotter James Theriault who provides “a very clever, detailed map of the San Francisco Botanical Garden with notations on where the best color is to be found,” writes San Francisco publicist, Cindy Hu.  To open the map, click on the orange “San Francisco Botanical Garden Fall Color Map” above.  You’ll have to click again on it for the map to open.  This is a .pdf file, so you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader or another .pdf reader to see the map.

Begin your tour at the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park.  This is an open-air concert hall between the fabulous de Young art museum, Japanese Tea Garden (a magical place to see fall color) and the world’s greenest museum, the California Academy of Sciences.

Congratulations to The Palace hotel, San Francisco’s great accommodation which on December 15 celebrates its 100th birthday.  I’ve stayed there many times and have enjoyed luxuriating in its traditions, beauty and superb service.  As a tribute to that great hotel, an article I penned about it for California magazine will be blogged here on Friday.  Now, The Palace’s anniversary has little to do with fall color, though now’s the time to head to San Francisco to see The City’s beautiful change of season and what better place to stay at than the grand and historic Palace Hotel!?  Besides, my daughter works there and I’m a couldn’t-be-prouder dad.

Photo Credit: copyright 2009, James McCormick

Warm Dry Days/Cold Nights or Change by Species?

“Curious” posted the following comment on The Mighty Sparrow today in response to something I’d posted previously… “I’m still wondering about “the wet season…warm dry days and cold nights” part. Have the introduced trees and native poison oak in the Bay Area not gotten the memo? Every fall the liquidambars turn every color between yellow and burgundy, the dogwoods turn persimmon, the ashes send down flurries of gold, the pistachios go fire-engine red, many varieties of maple catch fire, all without regard to summer drought and mild nights. This fall was quite mild yet the poison oak (starting before the two early rains) was particularly spectacular in the Peninsula hills. Could it be that the species of plant is the more important variable, so that even without the boost of a rainy summer and cold autumn nights many varieties of plants can have deep, intense color? Or is it that the wet season in question can happen season-before-last and the cold in “cold nights” just needs to be equivalent to a typical Bay Area night in early October? (PS Love your web site!)”

I responded, “You’re right, foliage turns by species. That is, poison oak tend to change collectively and that can be on a different schedule than liquidambars or other deciduous foliage. The triggering mechanism, however, is a shortening of the days which results in lower chlorophyll production, thereby revealing the color. Rain in advance of autumn serves the purpose of making color last longer. In a drought, the leaves tend to dry up faster which shortens the time they show color. As for temperature, the ideal conditions are warm days and cold nights. That combination serves to intensify the color. Rainy nights are not good for the fall color as cloud cover retains heat. Clear, cold night skies and warm days are best.

In our reports, you’ll see that some species turn earlier than others, but also note that color has been descending since mid September at a rate of about 1,000′ per week. Right now, the color has dropped in elevation to be appearing all over Northern California. I found so little seasonal color in Southern California this past weekend, that it’s hard to say whether there’s just none to be seen or it hasn’t gotten to that latitude and elevation, as yet.”

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Disappointing Down South

There’s a seven-letter reason people enjoy living in Los Angeles so much… weather.  For most of the year, it’s hard to beat LA’s consistently mild and clement weather.  Fall and winter are easily handled, unless you come unprepared.  I met one such person at LAX before my return flight, yesterday.  She was a Kentucky horsewoman who’d come out west for the Breeder’s Cup held at Santa Anita Race Track.  She’d visited the year previously and recalled how balmy it had been.  This year, however, she shivered through several days of racing, and was looking forward to flying back to a warmer Kentucky.  I had flown south from Sacramento to enjoy UCLA defeat Washington at the Rose Bowl.  In previous years, watching college football in Pasadena meant wearing a t-shirt and sun screen.  Not so this weekend.  A chill settled across the greater Los Angeles basin, giving Southern California a bit of autumnal bite to its air, particularly at night.  Too bad there wasn’t much fall color to go with the crisp, sweater-weather temps.

0-15% — Los Angeles.  The fall color in the City of Los Angeles – what there is of it – is disappointing right now.  Just about all the trees to be seen in greater Los Angeles were planted, and those exotic species were showing very little color change, if any.  Some near the coast are showing dark red emerging from darker green.  And as reported previously, while the fall color in Chico was literally luminescent, in LA, it was lackluster.

Spiritual Fall Color

Frank Helmholz carving a capital at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/09)

Frank Helmholz carving a capital at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/09)

Today, I drove from Redding, south, stopping in Vina to visit the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  There, master stone mason Frank Helmholz is leading a team of the world’s best stone masons in reconstructing an 800 year old Cistercian gothic abbey’s chapter house (meeting room).

Walnut Orchard and Chapter House building (11/5/09)

Walnut Orchard and Chapter House building (11/5/09)

William Randolf Hearst saved the chapter house from sure destuction and despoilation, though ran out of funds before he could reconstruct it.  In a way, it’s fortunate that happened, as it would have been placed in one of the Hearst family’s private homes.  Now, it’s being rebuilt for everyone to enjoy.  For many years, the monks at Vina have been aided by private donations (since they live a life of poverty, hard work and prayer) in rebuilding the structure.  It’s a laborious process, but when finished, it will be the finest example of original Cistercian gothic architecture in the western hemisphere.

I caught Frank Helmholz as his crew were finishing up work on the central support columns that will eventually support a spectacular vaulted gothic ceiling inside the chapter house.  The structure that contains their stone work is surrounded by walnut groves, prune orchards and vineyards, where the monks often toil.  Here’s a report what you’ll see if you drive along CA-99 north of Sacramento to Vina.

Walnut Orchard and Vineyards, Abbey of New Clairvaux (11/5/09)

Walnut Orchard and Vineyards, Abbey of New Clairvaux (11/5/09)

30-50% — CA-99.  From Yuba City north to Vina, prune and walnut orchards similar orchards have turned bright yellow-orange, tinged with bronze.  Other orchards along the route remain green, though with an early hint of color.

75-100% — Chico.  This college town (Chico State University) has perhaps California’s prettiest autumnal urban forest.  The trees are nearing peak and Chico is darn near phosphorescent right now with vibrant orange-red, yellow-orange, pink, lime-yellow, garnet, and cadmium yellow colors.  If you’ve never been to Chico, it’s well worth the drive, particularly for the next week or two, when the town is litterally aflame with fall color.  If you go, include lunch at the Sierra Nevada Brewery.  Whether or not you enjoy beer, the restaurant is superb.  Chico has lots of arts galleries.  One of my favorite is Orient & Flume Art Glass at 2161 Park Ave.  A guide to local art galleries is available at most of the galleries.  Bidwell Park encompasses over 3,600 acres, making it one of the largest municipal parks in the nation.  The Bidwell Mansion preserves the home of one of California’s most acclaimed pioneers, and the town has several museums, including the National Yo-Yo Museum.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo

The Higher You Go, The Better it Gets

Sundial Bridge (11/4/09)

Sundial Bridge (11/4/09)

While the headline to this blog is no longer true of the Sierra Nevada, when it comes to driving north along I-5, the higher you go, the better the fall color gets.  Yesterday, I drove north from Sacramento to Redding.  The orchards of the northern Central Valley still have a ways to go, though riparian areas are near to past peak with lovely color to be found among the cattails.  The City of Redding is aglow with beautiful fall color (much of it exotic).

0-15% — I-5 (100′).  Walnut and almond orchards north of Sacramento along I-5 indicate they are turning with some light green to hints of warmer colors to come, yet still not showing much color.  Cattails north of Willow at Walker Creek are brightly colored with shades of gold, orange, bronze and lime green.  Purple to burgundy stems and branches are found among leafless brush along creeks.  The most color to be found in the Sacramento River Valley are in the cottonwoods and prune orchards which have tgurned 50% yellow-orange with some bronze to auburn edging.  A stand of Valley Oaks (among the largest of California oaks) at Road 27 are yellow-orange and near Road 16 in Orland a prune orchard is nearing peak.

50-75% — Redding.  The capital of “Upstate California” is nearing peak for its seasonal color, particularly in neighborhoods and city parks.  At Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent Sundial Bridge, native oaks and riparian trees provide some changing colors by which to frame the bridge’s impressive gnomon.  Even though the color here is not of the dramatic nature of that to be found in the Sierra, there’s still lots of color if you look for it and Sundial Bridge is worth the drive north.

Last week, I described a loop trip up I-5 to Redding, an overnight in Redding, then over CA-299 to Redwood National Park, then down US 101.  Another loop is north to Redding, then east to MacArthur-Burney Memorial Falls SP, continuing south on CA-89 through Lassen Volcanic National Park (if snows don’t close the road) into Plumas County, then back down to the Central Valley by way of CA-32 (by way of Chico) or CA-70 (Feather River Canyon).  There’s probably a week left of spotty color on either route.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo