California Fall Color
Dude, autumn happens here, too.

Archive for the ‘Fall Color Report’ Category

Brown is the New Orange ;)

Thu ,30/10/2014
Huge trees at the LA County Arboretum (see people in lower right) start to turn colorful (10/29/14) Frank McDonough

Huge trees at the LA County Arboretum (see people in lower right) start to turn colorful (10/29/14) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanical Garden (Patchy – 10 – 50%) - Color spotter Frank McDonough estimates the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is about a third of the way to peak, moving it from Just Starting to Patchy. McDonough said it’s hard to determine how the fall color will develop though, with an Emoji wink, he writes, “If brown is a fall color then it should be spectacular.”  The LA County Arboretum is a great place to see lots of trees at different stages of color change and is often the last reporting area of fall color in California.

Why Go To New England?

Wed ,29/10/2014
Methodist Church, Quincy (10/28/14) Mike Nellor

Methodist Church, Quincy (10/28/14) Mike Nellor

The Shasta Cascade region of northeast California is a slow developer of fall color, then… WHAM!

Presently, Lassen and Siskiyou Counties are Near Peak and Plumas County becomes the first in the Shasta Cascade to go to full Peak with its quaint towns, forested hills and color-draped streams in full glow.  The photograph of Quincy’s Methodist Church surrounded by fall color is so reminiscent of the northeast, that it makes us ask, “Why go to New England?”

There’s lots of lovely color to be found in the forests, parks, towns and along the rivers and streams in other regions of the Shasta Cascade.

Shasta county (Patchy 10%-50%) - Yellow bigleaf maple and orange black oak are near peak at MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park.  Elevations above 3,500’ are near the high end of patchy or nearing peak.  Elevations below 3,500’ (Anderson, Redding) have modest color change, mostly exotic trees in their urban forests.  Riparian forests along the Sacramento River are showing lime and yellow and will likely peak in mid November.

Poison Oak, Oak Run, Shasta County (10/26/14)  Jill Dinsmore

Poison Oak, Oak Run, Shasta County (10/26/14) Jill Dinsmore

Poison Oak (10/27/14) Mike Nellor

Poison Oak (10/27/14) Mike Nellor

Cottonwood, Trinity County  (10/25/14)

Cottonwood, Trinity County (10/25/14)

Butte County (Patchy 10%-50%) -  Urban parks surrounding Chico State University and in Bidwell Park are beginning to show vibrant lime and yellow, though the change in Chico, Oroville and Paradise is still developing. Poison oak is providing flashes of crimson in the woods. A good time to visit would be when the Great Gobblers Family Hike occurs in Bidwell Park on Nov. 15. CLICK HERE for more information.

Lassen County (Near Peak 50%-75%) – The Susanville area and Bizz Johnson trail are exploding with fall color.  Many of the area’s aspen, cottonwood, dogwood, black oak and bigleaf maple are near peak and should peak in the coming week or two.  Lassen Peak has received a dusting of snow, creating a beautiful backdrop for fall color in the national park.  GO NOW!

Tehama County (Patchy 10%-50%) Not much has changed over the past week. It’s still patchy with some foliage now blushing with red and yellow. The Sacramento River is a great place to see big stands of cottonwood and valley oak as they color up with orange and yellow, particularly in Red Bluff where Victorian homes provide an ideal backdrop for the color between Halloween and Thanksgiving Day.  Appropriately, on Nov. 1, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival occurs at the venerable State Theatre (333 Oak St) in Red Bluff.  So, even though the color is patchy, the scenery inside the State Theater should be moving.

Bigleaf Maple (10/29/14) Mike Nellor

Bigleaf Maple (10/29/14) Mike Nellor

Dogwood, Plumas County (10/21/14) Mike Nellor

Dogwood, Plumas County (10/21/14) Mike Nellor

Siskiyou County (Near Peak 50%-75%) – It’s getting as good as it gets in Siskiyou County with plenty of Fall color set before the breathtaking backdrop of snowcapped Mount Shasta. Vibrant red, orange and yellow dogwood, oaks, maple and cottonwoods populate the scenic villages of Mt. Shasta and McCloud.  GO NOW!

Plumas County hillside (10/29/14) Mike Nellor

Plumas County hillside (10/29/14) Mike Nellor

Red Oak, Plumas County (10/29/14) Jeff Titcomb

Red Oak, Plumas County (10/29/14) Jeff Titcomb

Trinity County (Patchy 10%-50%) Only patches of color are yet to be seen in Trinity County and mostly along the Trinity River and CA-299. Look for chartreuse wild cucumber which is peaking along the river and bigleaf maple and oaks dressed with yellow and lime colors.

Shasta Cascade Creeks  are alive with color (10/27/14) Mike Nellor

Shasta Cascade Creeks are alive with color (10/27/14) Mike Nellor

Modoc County (Patchy 10%-50%) The austere autumn landscape of northeasternmost California has not changed greatly in the past week, though when it does the subtle tangents of fall color and high plains provide a show unseen elsewhere in North America. Photographers who have captured it rank among the state’s greatest landscape photographers.  We give it another week to two before we’re saying it’s ready.

American Valley (10/25/14) Mike Nellor

American Valley (10/25/14) Mike Nellor

Plumas County (Peak 75-100%) Plumas County has just transitioned to full peak, which should continue for a couple of weeks.  Mike Nellor captures the bucolic charm of Plumas County in his photographs of a landscape and architecture that is most like New England, with covered bridges, signature white town churches and pastoral splendor.  This northern Sierra county’s fall color is best found by driving its backroads (often paved, sometimes gravel)  near Greenville, La Porte and Quincy (such as the American Valley, seen here, earning the title for Plumas County as CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Peak of the WeekGO NOW!

Yosemite Valley Nears Peak

Tue ,28/10/2014
Cook's Meadow, Yosemite NP (10/28/14) Suzanne Jensen

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite NP (10/28/14) Suzanne Jensen

Yosemite Valley (Near Peak 50 – 75%) – A photo posted by a Yosemite friend on her Facebook page shows a black oak peaking in Cook’s Meadow with frost on the meadow. It inspired calls to Yosemite.

My friend said some of the black oaks in the Valley are beautiful and at peak, some are yet to change and some have changed quickly with dry, colorless leaves that fall after almost no show.  She mentioned that for the past two years, she’s observed dryer and dryer leaves, perhaps an indicator that the drought is affecting the color in Yosemite Valley, as reported is occurring on Mt. Laguna in Eastern San Diego County. She noted that dogwood are showing less of their fresh rose and red tones and lighter pink, than seen in past years.

Yosemite Falls, Autumn (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Yosemite Falls, Autumn (File Photo) John Poimiroo

That’s surprising, as far below Yosemite Valley lies a great aquifer that supplies seemingly endless pure water for consumption by the visitors and residents of Yosemite Valley.  It is the remnant of millennia of melted snow and ice that have poured over the rim of Yosemite Valley in a seasonal display of spectacular waterfalls. Despite all that water, could fall color be another casualty of California’s drought?  At least, in some parts of the state?  We can only speculate.

As reported previously, the signature sugar maple near the Yosemite Chapel has turned, though early bets are for the bigleaf maple and dogwood near Fern Spring (where Hwy 140 enters the west end of the Valley, below Tunnel View) to be dropping yellow, orange and mottled leaves into the dark waters of the spring. GO NOW!

The Damaging Effect of Drought on Beauty

Tue ,28/10/2014
Mt. Laguna Stilllife (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna Still life (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Modern Hiker correspondent, hiker and color spotter Scott Turner spent yesterday afternoon at Mt. Laguna in eastern San Diego County and provides these compelling images of the effect of drought on trees that live at the edge of a desert.

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black oak there, which would normally be a vivid mix of green, lime, yellow, orange, gold and buff are, sadly, a dull beige. Scott said the effect of drought on the forests of Mt. Laguna are palpable.  Some trees appear to have lost the majority of their leaves, though what remains is still partially green.

Scott found it hard to assess the change, because so much has dropped, though he classifies Mt. Laguna as near peak, but nothing like the vibrant show seen last autumn.  He notes that the oaks were hit hard by bark beetles with a lot of them dying.

Scott plans to hike and photograph Mt. Palomar on Friday. On his last trip, he noted that the oaks there appeared to be healthier, but then they live at an elevation that is 1,000′ lower. That likely means Palomar’s peak is two weeks away.

On a separate Southern California note, I met with Jonathan Patterson of Lake Hemet yesterday.  Jonathan said the color is beginning to look beautiful around the lake.  He was reluctant to classify it as near peak, though from other reports made directly to me by John Koeberer who’d been there this weekend, the San Jacinto Mountains are a definite GO NOW!  Jonathan said Idyllwild has been peaking for a week.  Our recommendation is head up to the San Jacintos, camp at Lake Hemet in the middle of the color and take side trips to Idyllwild and Mountain Center.  If you get great photos of the San Jacintos, email them to us and we’ll post.

Mt. Laguna (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) - Drought and bark beetles have damaged the trees.  The color is not the brilliance it had last autumn.  Do a rain dance for Eastern San Diego County.

Idyllwild (Peak – 75 – 100%) - Beautiful color in and around Idyllwild is nearly past peak. GO NOW!

Lake Hemet (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) - Camp beside the lake surrounded by intense fall color.  Very few people and developing color that should be good for the next couple of weeks (weather permitting).  Just say no to Santa Anas! GO NOW!

American River Near Peak

Tue ,28/10/2014
S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

South Fork, American River (US 50) (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Color spotter Kimberly Kofala reports that points along the American River above Pollock Pines is now approaching peak with “oaks, golden willows and grasses are cloaked in gold.  While probably not quite at peak yet, all the trees and shrubbery are turning; the display is colorful and won’t be disappointing.”  GO NOW!

Hike of the Week: Lower Rock Creek Road

Mon ,27/10/2014
Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

This will likely be the last week for any significant color in the Eastern Sierra, so if you hope to see any color in the Eastern Sierra, go immediately.  Otherwise, you’ll likely be reading that YOU MISSED IT.

Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos recommends this week’s Hike of the Week along Lower Rock Creek Road which is right off US 395 just south of Tom’s Place.

Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek  (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek (10/26/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Rock Creek Rd (Peak – 75 – 100%) - HIKE OF THE WEEK: Drive about 2.5 miles down Lower Rock Creek Rd. to the first major pull-out (west side of the road),  park and then cross the road to hike back up the trail.  Aspens along the beautiful rushing creek are at peak now. Look for the beaver dam which has stilled the water surface to afford mirror-like reflections of the trees.  The trail is multi-use, so mountain bikers, hikers and anglers.  Alicia warns, “Please watch out for one another!” GO NOW!

Mammoth Lakes (Peak to Past Peak – Sections of Mammoth Creek Rd. (off Old Mammoth Road in Mammoth Lakes) still offer brilliant red and orange on the trees.

June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158  (Past Peak) - Even though the June Lake Loop moves to being past peak, a few stands remain vibrant, particularly around Gull Lake, at the base of June Mountain and just north of Silver Lake. YOU MISSED IT!

Lee Vining Canyon (Peak to Past Peak) – The lower section of Tioga Pass Rd. and Lee Vining Canyon are peaking beautifully, with some trees definitely past peak. GO NOW!

Conway Summit, Green Creek Road and Twin Lakes (Past Peak) - Again, though spots of color appear in the groves surrounding Bridgeport, comparative photos now show the haunting contrast between most of the trees that are completely bare and those few with bright patches of color still on them.  Overall, it’s past peak and one good gust from being stripped.  YOU MISSED IT!

West Walker River and Walker/Coleville (Peak – 75 – 100%) - Grand cottonwood flanking the northern stretch of US 395 and along the West Walker River are bright yellow at peak. GO NOW!

US 395, Bishop (10/24/14) Kathy Thieu

US 395, Bishop (10/24/14) Kathy Thieu

Bishop (Peak 75 – 100%) - US 395 from Lone Pine to Bishop is at peak with cottonwood and sage brush golden.

Color Found Along The Redwood Highway

Sun ,26/10/2014
The Redwood Highway between Willits and Laytonville (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

The Redwood Highway between Willits and Laytonville (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

Color spotter Walter Gabler traveled the Redwood Highway between Ukiah and Fortuna in search of fall color.

The Redwood Highway between Willits and Laytonville (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

The Redwood Highway between Willits and Laytonville (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

Wild Cucumber, Redwood Highway (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

Wild Cucumber, Redwood Highway (10/26/14) Walter Gabler

Walt reported the color was beautiful, though spotty along US 101.  He said the best color is seen between Willits and Ukiah, near the highway, but it is patchy.  Brilliant yellow, chartreuse, orange and lime are seen in the bigleaf maple, black oak and wild cucumber.

The Redwood Highway – US 101 (Patchy – 10 – 50%) - Color is spotty along the highway with the best color showing between Ukiah and Willits.

Sacramento Fall Color Comparisons: iPhone or Nikon?

Sun ,26/10/2014

William Land Park, Sacramento (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

William Land Park, Sacramento [iPhone or Nikon? - You Guess] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

For a Monday morning live segment on Sacramento’s KCRA-TV3 about CaliforniaFallColor, I spent Saturday exploring Sacramento County.

Mormon Island Wetland (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Mormon Island Wetland (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Mormon Island Wetland (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Mormon Island Wetland (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Plaza Park, Fair Oaks [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Plaza Park, Fair Oaks [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Plaza Park, Fair Oaks [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

Plaza Park, Fair Oaks [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

40th Ave., [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

40th Ave., [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

40th Ave. [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

40th Ave. [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

William Land Park, Sacramento [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

William Land Park, Sacramento [iPhone] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

William Land Park, Sacramento  [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

William Land Park, Sacramento [Nikon] (10/25/14) John Poimiroo

The color was patchy, though still beautiful with chartreuse sycamore and yellow and lime cottonwood throughout the County. Patchy fall color can be as lovely as full peak. Also, photographing fall color need not be about the grand landscape, it can also be about little places.

For this assignment, I carried two cameras, a Nikon D700 with Nikkor 28 – 300 3.5F AF lens and an iPhone 5S using Ollo Clip lenses (wide angle, fisheye and telephoto with polarizer).  I’ve been experimenting with the iPhone on travel writing assignments.

Images shot with an iPhone photographs are not as sharp as with a full frame digital camera like the Nikon.  Admittedly, I did not use a tripod which would have improved sharpness. And, the softness seen in these is exaggerated, because I used in-app filters.  I use Adobe Photoshop’s iPhone app to filter my photos, as the resulting images are remarkably appealing.

I began Saturday’s trek in Folsom.  While transiting town to US 50, I spotted golden crested cottonwood at Mormon Island Wetlands and pulled over to the curb on Sophia Parkway, shooting these two images with the Nikon while standing inside the Folsom city limits, proving that it isn’t necessary to drive hundreds of miles to find dramatic landscapes. They’re all around us when we’re observant.

Fair Oaks is a gentrified rural village outside Sacramento where roosters crow and have the run of town. None would cooperate for these photos of Plaza Park.

The American River has valley oak and black cottonwood that are still Just Starting.

The Fabulous 40s are tree-lined residential avenues in East Sacramento with landmark London Plane Trees (towering sycamore) creating canopies of leaf-heavy branches.  The scene is lovely though overwhelming, so I sat on the curb to put the scene in perspective by photographing a pile of leaves in the foreground.

William Land Park is Sacramento’s great central park, with a golf course, zoo, children’s fairytale town, ponds, lawns and lots of trees.  There are so many varieties of trees, that the color changes gradually from mid October through Thanksgiving day.

Pocket/Greenhaven, Sacramento (10/26/14) Sharon

Pocket/Greenhaven, Sacramento [HTC Android] (10/26/14) Sharon Chew

To confuse the conversation further, color spotter Sharon Chew provides this photo shot with her HTC Android phone of the boulevard of near peak liquidambar along Pocket Rd. at Greenhaven in southwest Sacramento.

Patchy – Sacramento County (10 – 50%) - Cottonwood and sycamore are showing lime, yellow and chartreuse throughout Sacramento County.  Still, way short of nearing peak, though lovely none the less.

Sacramento (United States)
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Indian Summer at Hot Springs Mountain

Sun ,26/10/2014
Indian Summer at Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Indian Summer, Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Modern Hiker’s Scott Turner traveled out to Hot Springs Mountain in eastern San Diego County, yesterday to provide these images of the color change there and to inspire this article on Indian Summer.

Black Oak on Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak, Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak on Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak, Hot Springs Mountain (10/25/14) Scott Turner

Hot Springs Mountain is located on an Indian rancheria in eastern San Diego County. It’s a beautiful place, though remote, not very accessible and therefore not the kind of location most color spotters would venture.

That’s one reason we like Scott’s report so much. He repoted that black oaks are a lot further along than he thought they’d be. There’s a large mixed forest of oaks and pine on Hot Springs Mountain that are near peak.

Continuing to the Laguna Mountains, he found the higher elevations as patchy.  Palomar Mountain and Julian are also patchy.  Scott plans to visit them again next Friday and promises another report with photos.

Scott’s photographs of the hazy air hanging over Hot Springs Mountain on an Indian reservation made me wonder how Indian summer got its name.  The answer may not be what you think it is.

What appears to be a well-researched report in The Mountain Eagle says the condition of dry, hazy weather in October and early November dates back to the 18th century in the United States.

Some believe the term evolved from the fact that native Americans would hunt then, as it was Indians practice to burn off underbrush for easier collection of acorns, a vital source of nourishment, accentuating the hazy and smoky atmosphere.  The open forest also made it easier to hunt animals.

The Mountain Eagle said there’s an entirely different explanation, that has nothing to do with native Americans.  During the 1800s, clipper ships were able to carry the heaviest when crossing the Indian Ocean during “Indian Summer,” as it was the fairest season of the year.  To maximize what they could carry in their holds, the sailing ships would even mark “I.S.” on their hulls as the maximum load level thought safe to sail the Indian Ocean during Indian Summer.

Whatever the origin of  the term, it is a pleasant time of year spent, most pleasantly, outdoors enjoying fall color.

California Fall Color Glows High Above US395

Sun ,26/10/2014
South Fork Bishop Creek (10/25/14) Janek U

South Fork Bishop Creek (10/25/14) Janek U

Aspendell (10/25/14) Janek U

Aspendell (10/25/14) Janek U

Aspendell (10-25/14) Janek U

Aspendell (10/25/14) Janek U

Color spotter Janek U wrote that he traveled to the Eastern Sierra from Orange County, yesterday, stopping twice along the way along US 395.  We receive many reports from Bishop Creek Canyon and points north, but were most interested on his report of what he saw south of Bishop, as few spotters have reported about those areas (tip: the fastest way to get a photo or report posted is for it to be about an area from which we don’t receive many reports).

Janek reported that at Lone Pine, he drove up to Whitney Portal.  “There is some color on the peaks on the way up but they are too remote.  There are also some groves of aspens near the road but there aren’t too many trees.  He continued north to Bishop Creek Canyon finding the last of the color at Aspendell, noting that “The tops of some trees are beginning to turn red.”

It’s truly remarkable that the color there continues to show, even though winds over 20 mph were blowing.
Lone Pine (US 395) – (Peak to Past Peak) - Stands of color are seen high up in the Eastern Sierra.
Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon (Peak to Past Peak) - Brilliant color continues to survive, despite winds above 20 mph.  For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been reporting the color would last only a few days.  Reports of its death are beginning to sound “Twainian.”