Japan Town Cherry Tree Planting

Friends of the Urban Forest will be planting 45 flowering cherry trees in San Francisco’s Japan Town on Saturday, Dec. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.  To participate in the volunteer effort, contact Sally Bentz at 415-268-0783 or sally@fuf.net.  Instruction on proper tree planting will occur at 9 a.m.

A Feast of Thanksgiving Day Color

A cornucopia of color among Napa's vines (File Photo) - John Poimiroo

The vibrant colors of autumn will be spread across dining room tables today, throughout California, as families and friends gather to commemorate their Thanksgiving Day.  The weather today will be clear and crisp… a good day to venture out bundled up for a cold autumn walk to enjoy the last glimpses of what has been a long-lasting fall color season.

California’s three-month display of fall color has now descended to sea level.  As, above 2,000 ft, particularly in Northern California, there’s a blanket of snow and ice.  Look for vibrant colors in Northern and Southern California city forests, the parks and landscaped boulevards that provide such varied displays of fall color.  Fall color showed a bit later and has been longer lasting than in the past two years.  The Napa and Sonoma County vineyards still have splashes of red, orange and yellow, though most of the autumn color has dropped.

So many varieties of colorful plants glow in this Mediterranean climate, that California has truly earned title as the having the longest-lasting and most diverse display of autumn color in America.  The display began even before the autumnal equinox, in the high reaches of the Eastern Sierra and has, since, descended at an approximate pace of dropping a thousand feet in elevation, since.  And so, unlike other areas of the country where if you weren’t there exactly when it turned, the color disappeared, in California color can be seen peaking at various elevations from mid September through mid December.

75% to Past Peak — Urban Forests.  Bold, orange persimmon fruit hang from their trees’ branches in urban and suburban gardens.  Liquidambar styraciflua put on their firey appearance.  Chinese pistache are largely past peak now, though an occasional specimen still carries its orange to yellow leaves.  The vines, wisteria and parthenocissus are turning soft yellow to blends of red, orange gold amidst the green, to provide the final flashes of color in this Golden State.

This blog marks the final official California Fall Color posting of 2010’s autumn.  We will likely add other occasional reports on California color, as they are received (such as our mid winter report on desert flowers), but like the autumn leaves, we’re now Past Peak.  Our thanks to all those California color spotters who reported color appearing in their area of California.  Please return to visit us again next autumn.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Like a Volcano, Shasta Cascade’s Color has Blown

Cascade Theater, Redding (11/4/09) - John Poimiroo

Past Peak – Redding — Although exotic varieties are still showing yellow, orange and red beside city streets, most of the native color along the Sacramento River in Redding has blown.  Still, a great hike or bike ride is along the newly paved Sacramento River trail from Redding to Shasta Dam.  This concrete ribbon crosses Sundial Bridge and passes rapids and colorful riparian woodlands on its way to the dam.

Past Peak – Butte County — Most of the color is gone, though pockets of red maples and yellow oaks and dogwood are found in higher elevations.  Big storms predicted for this weekend should signal the end of the intense colors.

75-100% – Shasta County North Valley — Fall colors are still pretty vibrant. Brilliant reds, oranges and yellows are splashed across the valley floor.  The ornamentals are showing at about 95-100%.  Most of the trees that typically show gold/yellow have lost their leaves.

75-100% – Whiskeytown National Recreation Area — The colors around Whiskeytown have increased to about 80%, mostly yellow and some orange.   With consistent cold weather and rain coming the colors will intensify and peak quickly now.

Past Peak – Burney Falls State Park — The fall colors up in Burney have passed their peak now but beautiful winter scenery will be upon us soon.

Past Peak – Lassen Volcanic National Park — Colors are waning in the park but there are still a few pockets of yellow and orange along Hwy.36 north to Hwy 3 into Shasta County.

Past Peak – Lassen National Forest – The fall show is over but snowy Christmas scenes are right around the corner.

Past Peak – Modoc National Forest – There is snow in the higher elevations now, so fall colors are past peak, but the snowy scene provides new reason to travel there.

Past Peak – Trinity County — Some yellow and orange remains in the oaks to be seen around the Hwy 3 loop, but most of the trees in Trinity County are now past peak.

This will likely be the final fall color report from the Redding/Shasta Cascade region, which experienced one of the most lovely fall color seasons in memory.

Past Peak, Past Peak, Peaking

This weekend will bring the first major “winter” storm to California and although fall doesn’t end for another month (until December 21), the turn in temperatures and weather will make Thanksgiving Day week seem in the minds of many Californians, to mark the end of autumn.

This coming winter storm does not mean that incredible fall scenery will no longer be seen across the Golden State.  Just click on Michael Frye’s blog (to the left) and view his impressive photograph of black oak leaves peaking through snow, to see what I mean.  Autumn at this time of year requires special vision.  Give up looking for those bold splashes of red, orange and yellow against deep blue skies and find satisfaction instead in the subtle beauty to be found in the more muted colors of dying leaves reflected upon wet city streets, as that’s where the show has moved.

It’s past peak above 2,000′, but below that the color is still peaking, especially in California’s diverse urban forests… Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and in exotic pockets of urban Southern California.

So, enjoy the weekend storms and do not be discouraged by the elements.  There is wonder to be found where you least expect it.

Autumn Hikes With Your Dog

DogTrekker, the email newsletter for northern Californians who seek advice on traveling with their dogs, recommends November as an ideal month for autumn walks with Rover.  Today’s edition recommends trails in the East Bay, South Bay, along the newly completed Sacramento River Trail in Redding, along the South Yuba Independence Trail, and in Marin County at Fort Baker on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge.  We’ve seen fall color in each of those areas, but even if it isn’t showing when you’re walking your dog, it’s a good day anyway, because you’ve got your best friend with you!

To receive DogTrekker, CLICK HERE.

Hope Valley Video

This was posted on YouTube two weeks ago, but it shows some of the color seen then in this beautiful part of California.  Jack Durst provides good information about the Hope Valley near Lake Tahoe, photographing fall color and how fall color develops.


Peaking in Plumas – Golden Harvest at Indian Creek

Indian Creek, Plumas National Forest (11/3/10) - Richard McCutcheon

Color spotter Richard McCutcheon sends these magical shots of golden light and color along Indian Creek seen above Taylorsville, California in the Plumas National Forest.   CLICK HERE to join Richard McCutcheon on his virtual journey to Antelope Lake (when the website opens, click “Start Slideshow”).

Plumas County is at the southeast corner of California’s vast Shasta Cascade region, an area of forests, lakes, volcanoes and wilderness larger than the state of Ohio, but lightly populated.  It is a favorite destination for California leaf peepers.  As a service to leaf peepers, the Plumas County Visitors Bureau staff will come out and clean your windshield should you stop by their offices during autumn.  CLICK HERE to see current photos from this colorful corner of California.

Plumas National Forest, on the way to Antelope Lake (11/3/10) - Richard McCutcheon

75-100% – Indian Creek — Aspen are at full peak in the Plumas National Forest along the Indian Creek drainage leading to Antelope Lake.  Brush and willows alongside the creek have flushed ruby and rose, with bright spots of yellow and green flecking the forest.

Indian Creek, Plumas National Forest (11/3/10) - Richard McCutcheon

Aspen, Plumas National Forest (11/3/10) - Richard McCutcheon

Plumas National Forest (11/3/10) - Richard McCutcheon

Peaking in Southern California

Chinese Pistache (11/8/10) - John Poimiroo

75 – 100% – Julian — With rain washing across northern California this past weekend, we looked to Southern California to see where the color might be peaking.  The historic gold mining town of Julian, east of San Diego is reporting lots of red, gold and yellow among its oaks and apple orchards.  Julian is located in the Cuyamaca Mountains at 4,235 ft in elevation.

75-100%  – Big Bear — Through last Friday, few of the trees near Big Bear Lake (other than those in wind lanes) had dropped their leaves and the color was nearing peak.  Locations such as Grey’s Peak were reported by bloggers on Cal Photo to “still have plenty of leaves about 85 % and worth the drive” for lovely views of “orangy-browns, lemon yellows and some splashes of deep red or peach here and there, though rare.”  Following is a file video of what the fall color experience is like at peak in Big Bear.

75-100% – Oak Glen — Similarly, the apple orchards near Oak Glen near Yucaipa in San Bernardino County were reported to be peaking this past weekend, later than in previous year, as has been seen consistently across California, this year.

Reports are that from 4,000 ft down to 2,000 ft the color is now appearing across California, as it works its way down in elevation.  If you’re looking for color in Southern California, the Orange County Register provides this guide to identifying local color:

  • Tupelo Tree, orange
  • Scarlet Oak, red
  • Gingko biloba, yellow
  • Burning Bush, red
  • Nandina, orange and red
  • Spiraea Goldflame, yellow
  • Acer Rubrum, red
  • Chinese Pistache, red, yellow, orange

Glory Continues along 299, 101 and 99

Here’s a followup report on CA-299, on visiting Redwood National and State Parks and a drive along CA-99 from Red Bluff south to Sacramento.

75 – 100% — CA-299

This route, between Redding and Arcata, is now peaking.  The colors to be seen along the route are the best I’ve ever seen along this route and should remain good until at least Sunday, when rain is predicted.

CA-299 Roadside Bigleaf Maple (11/3/10) - John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple are absolutely iridescent, glowing phosphorescent yellow to yellow-orange.  There’s lots of chartreuse in the mixed oak, maple, fir, pine and hardwood forests along the Trinity River. Wild cucumber (poisonous) drape oaks in muted shades of yellow-orange to chartreuse, though have lovely heart-shaped leaves that provide a dappled beauty.

CA-299 Berry Summit (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

The best viewing areas are from Whiskeytown Lake NRA west to Weaverville, then again from the Salyer Rest Area west to Berry Summit.  If you stop at the Salyer rest area, enjoy taking a short walk in the hardwood forest on a hillside behind the rest area.  Levels of colorful lime to yellow leaves provide a zen atmosphere to the naturally landscaped scene.

CA-299 Near Hoopa (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

At points along the route, clusters of bold yellow maple provide stunning contast to the subtle oranges of the oaks that climb high up to mountain crests.  The subtlety of color here is special… quite different from the bold colors of the Eastern Sierra, but still lovely.  At times, it’s hard to keep the car on the road, the colors are so beautiful.  These photos, sadly, do not do it justice, though click on any of them to get a better rendering of what I saw.  They’ll blow up and show the color more clearly.  And, to learn more about visiting the area, CLICK HERE.

15-30% – Redwood National and State Parks

I drove 299, then US 101 to Redwood National and State Parks.  The color change in the national park is disappointing, though occasional maple are colorful.

Roosevelt Elk Play Fighting at Elk Meadow (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Roosevelt Elk, Redwood National and State Parks (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

What didn’t disappoint were the Roosevelt Elk.  Locals report that the annual elk rut was especially violent this year with several cars rammed by the aroused elk.

The rut has mostly ended, though I caught these boys play fighting beneath a beautiful tree at Elk Meadow Cabins, one of the best places to see the elk, dependably.

Morning at Elk Meadow Cabins (11/4/10) - John Poimiroo

The past two mornings, I awoke at Elk Meadow Cabins to find the local herd of some 30 Roosevelt Elk, including cows and bulls grazing around the cabins.

An elk cow considers crossing (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

I used an 18 – 200mm lens and these shots varied in focal length from 60 to 200mm.  It is advised to approach the elk only so close that they do not react to you, any further and you place stress upon them.

CLICK HERE to learn more about seeing the elk.

15-30% – CA-99 Red Bluff to Marysville

Sacred Stones in a Walnut Orchard (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

On my return from Redding, I decided to drive down CA-99 to see if walnut and prune orchards were changing.  In keeping with what we’re seeing throughout California this year, the color change is late in the orchards, just as it was in the Eastern Sierra.  That means orchards in the northern Central Valley of California should be turning through mid November… a wonderful visual treat for anyone in search of late fall color.

A stop at Vina (north of Chico) included a visit to the Abbey of New Clairvaux, where the sacred stones of an 800-year-old Cistercian monestary are being erected.  This project is considered to be the most important contemporary reconstruction of a historic stone building, anywhere on Earth.  When completed, the Gothic interior of the Abbey’s ancient Chapter House will be the most complete and significant example of Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

Ancient gothic arches are rising inside a building at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Visitors to the Abbey of New Clairvaux have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a true Gothic structure being rebuilt.  So, I urge anyone who appreciates architecture to make a trip to Vina now to see the abbey’s chapter house being rebuilt, before it’s finished.  CLICK HERE to read more about the sacred stones.

We received these other reports from Leilani one of our color spotters from the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association:

Butte County

Butte County’s trees are continuing to give quite a show.   The leaves are still on the trees and the color change is now at 70%, more in the higher elevations of the Paradise/Magalia area.  Pentz and Bille Road areas are spectacular as well. Colors will continue to intensify over the next few weeks and then should peak.

Shasta County

North Valley towns

Fall colors are vibrant now.  Brilliant reds, oranges and yellows are splashed across the valley floor pallet.  The ornamentals are showing at about 80%, while the willows, liquid amber and birch that turn such a beautiful yellow are past peak and in the process of losing their leaves.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area:

The colors around Whiskeytown have increased to about 50%.  The Chinese pistachios and liquid amber are beautifully framing the lake.  With consistent cold weather and rain coming the colors will intensify and peak quickly now.

Burney Falls State Park:

Colors are great up at Burney Falls.  It’s a good time for a drive, since the California State Park ranger says the colors are at peak but with a good wind, they will be gone.  Don’t miss this spectacular area.

Tehama County

Lassen Park:

Colors are in full swing in the park.  Aspen, cottonwood & willows still have good color but are peaking now.

Lassen County

Lassen National Forest:

There is noticeable change throughout the forest.  Colors are in post-peak but still beautiful and dramatic.  Time for a day trip!

Modoc County

Modoc National Forest

There is snow in the higher elevations so the fall colors in past peak now.

Siskiyou County

More vibrant colors have appeared this past week around the Mt. Shasta area, peaking in the higher elevations.

Trinity County

There is still some color to be seen around the Hwy.3 loop but most of the trees in the county are past peak.

Plumas County

Trees in Plumas County are at peak.  The oaks have turned an incredible orange.  The aspen and dogwood are also spectacular.  The areas around the Feather River Canyon, Cromburg, Indian Valley and Antelope Lake are worth a trip.

CLICK HERE for more about visiting the Shasta Cascade.

Glorious CA-299

The drive from Redding to Arcata on CA-299 is glorious.  I traveled it yesterday on my way to Redwood National and State Parks and was struck by its colorful show.  Oak, maple, sumac and other changing foliage provide a blend of bright yellow to irridescent orange, to incredible chartreuse tones amidst contrasting buff, brown, black and green.  Right now, the Redding/Arcata drive is as good as it gets.

Begin with an overnight stay in Redding, in order to walk Sundial Bridge after dark (the bridge’s aqua blue glass deck is illuminated at night and a must see).  The following morning, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, perhaps including a visit to Turtle Bay Exploration Park and its excellent museum, then take your time enjoying the drive to Arcata with stops at Whiskeytown Lake NRA and lunch in Weaverville with its quirky exterior spiral staircases and colorful Joss House.  Between Whiskeytown and Weaverville, the forest literally was afire with shades of orange and yellow.  Beyond Weaverville to Arcata, the color is as impressive, particularly along rivers and in drainages.

75 – 100% – CA-299, Redding to Arcata.