Smoke from the Rough Fire obscured the view of aspen turning yellow on the far side of Lake Sabrina (8/24/15) John Poimiroo
A quick trip to the Eastern Sierra, on Monday and Tuesday (US 50 to CA-89 to US 395), allowed time to speak with locals and visit prime fall color areas, a few of which are showing early color.
Quaking Aspen, Lake Sabrina (8/24/15) John Poimiroo
Jared Smith at Parcher’s Resort near South Lake up the South Fork of Bishop Creek (Inyo County) points to a hillside of struggling, stunted aspen between Table Mountain Campground and Willow Campground that have lit up in mixed yellow and lime. He’s been closely observing seasonal change at Bishop Creek for a decade and says this is one of the earliest appearances he’s seen.
Aspen growing along the banks of the Middle Fork of Bishop Creek that flows out of Lake Sabrina are also starting to show yellow. Though, most of the aspen in Bishop Creek Canyon are deeply green and healthy, indicating that fall color will appear about the same time of year, as usual. The healthiest of the groves are near Four Jeffrey, where very tall and lush aspen grow and in Aspendell whose verdant stands are doing well.
Jared attributes the health of Bishop Creek’s aspen to late spring and early summer rains that irrigated them. In past years, we’ve noted that fall color in healthy forests tends to last longer… that is, unless storms strip the leaves.
Tim Fesko of Meadowcliff Resort along the Walker River at the northern end of Mono County (US 395) says early summer rains extended the wildflower blooms. He drove up to Lobdell Lake atop Mt. Patterson two weeks ago and found it populated with more wildflowers than he can ever recall seeing so late in summer.
Fireweed and Willows at South Lake (8/25/15) John Poimiroo
Willows, North Lake Road, N. Fork Bishop Creek 98/24/15) John Poimiroo
One of the pleasures of early fall color viewing is to find wildflowers blooming just as fall color is beginning to show. This is evident at South Lake where hot pink fireweed is pushing up through fully peaked yellow-orange willows at 9,200′.
At Lake Sabrina, a hillside of full peak willows runs like an orange ribbon climbing through the aspen near the end of the dam, and at North Lake, willows flank North Lake Road with a cordon of rustling yellow-orange leaves.
Just below the South Fork hillside of early turning aspen that Jared mentioned, bright yellow rabbitbrush line South Fork Road between Four Jeffrey and Mountain Glen.
Rubber Rabbitbrush, June Lake (8/25/15) John Poimiroo
More cadmium yellow rabbitbrush paint the edges of US 395 north of Mammoth Lakes and at Oh! Ridge viewpoint above June Lake.
Time didn’t permit a side trip to visit Mammoth Lakes this trip, but – wow – the view of Mammoth Mountain, the Minarets and Sierra is impressive on the drive north toward Mammoth from Bishop. This must be the most spectacular horizon at a mountain resort in North America!
Orange Willows and Green Aspen, Lundy Canyon (8/22/15) Alicia Vennos
Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos was hiking this past weekend and found the aspen in Lundy Canyon to be dark green (with one exception beside the trail), but that willows at higher elevations, as seen in Bishop Creek Canyon, have turned bright yellow-orange.
Juniper Berries (8/22/15) Alicia Vennos
She noted that Juniper bushes appear to be blue from a distance, due to the many Juniper berries carried on their branches.
This scouting trip confirmed that the signs are mostly positive that this autumn’s show should be colorful and long-lasting (conditions permitting). The only areas of concern were groves of quaking aspen near the Sorensen’s Resort in the Hope Valley (CA-88 – Carson Pass) and atop Monitor Pass (CA-89) that have been afflicted with a fungus that damages the leaves with brown spots.
John Brissenden at Sorensen’s says some aspen near the resort have lost half their leaves due to the disease.
Fortunately for Sorensen’s and the many color spotters who appreciate visiting the Hope Valley (count me among them), the valley is populated with thousands of aspen, most of which are deeply green and healthy. The healthiest of them are seen along the West Fork of the Carson River, east of Sorensen’s and seen from Hwy 88 in the Hope Valley up to the east side of Carson Pass.
0 – 10% – Bishop – Fremont Cottonwood that populate Bishop are deep green and healthy.
Quaking Aspen, Lake Sabrina (8/24/15) John Poimiroo
10 – 50% – Lake Sabrina, Middle Fork Bishop Creek – On the lower end of this scale, color is beginning to paint slopes from 9,200′ up to 10,000′. Aspen below the dam are speckled with gold.
10 – 50% – South Fork Bishop Creek – A hillside of aspen have turned yellow between Table Mountain and Willow campgrounds. Most of the aspen are deep green and will turn on schedule from late Sept. to mid Oct.
0 – 10% – June Lake Loop – A few aspen are showing spots of color.
10 – 50% – Reverse Creek Campground, June Lake – Approx. 15% of the aspen in the campground have begun to turn.
0 – 10% – Walker River, Walker, Coleville – Fremont cottonwood look healthy and deeply green.
10 – 50% – Monitor Pass – The aspen atop the pass are suffering, partly because this is a windswept area with poor nutrients and due to a fungus that has spotted leaves. Several trees have lost leaves and appear to be struggling.
0 – 10% – Carson Pass – The aspen throughout most of the Hope Valley look healthy and full of green leaves, though a few stands near Sorensen’s Resort have lost half their leaves due to the same fungus afflicting those on Monitor Pass. A new National Weather Service weather station in a meadow near Sorenson’s will provide detailed information on weather conditions there.