Same Website: New Look & Functionality

If you’re a regular to CaliforniaFallColor.com, it probably took a little longer for this website to upload today. That’s because we’ve been making some changes to it.

The colors are the same. We wouldn’t change that, considering how many of you have complimented its orange and black theme. Though, behind what you see there’s a lot that’s new.

The site has a better search tool (the magnifying glass atop the page). As you type, suggested stories will drop down, making it faster to find articles about particular places or plants.

We’ve kept our archive of past reports, though it is now located to the right side. Use it to research where and when to go to see peak color (Peak color is so dependable here that you can reliably visit the same week, year to year).

Also retained are the Fall Color Map and weather forecast. Right now, the map is showing dark green leaves, but as soon as reports arrive, lime, yellow, orange, red and brown leaves will appear. As for the forecast, we’ve chosen to report what’s happening at Mammoth Lakes in the Eastern Sierra, as that station is nearest to where fall color will appear first.

Links to blogs, articles and sites with fall color reports are also found on the right side of the page. As we find more current links, they’re updated. And, for ease of knowing what’s inside any article, keywords are now shown above headlines.

The most obvious change is the new slider atop the page.  For years, California Fall Color displayed Greg Newbry’s great shot of June Lake.  Over the years, it attracted a lot of interest in California’s autumn. However, we wanted to say more about what makes California Fall Color different.

So, the six photos selected for the slider were picked for what they represent about California Fall Color, not just because they’re great photos from great photographers, which they are.

The slider begins with a spectacular photograph of sunset at North Lake by Elliot McGucken, taken on the last day of September in 2016. Elliot is the only photographer with two images in the slider (a coincidence, really).

His photograph embodies what sets California Fall Color apart… the combination of fall color and grand landscapes. Other areas in North America have beautiful fall foliage and scenery, but few compare to California’s landscape. Elsewhere, autumn color descends by latitude across the continent, whereas in California it drops by elevation, at a rate of about 500′ a week. Because California’s terrain varies from over 14,000′ in elevation to below sea level, the show lasts from September to December.

This downward progression is clearly evident in Elliott McGucken’s shot where aspen are nearly past peak at tree line (10,000′) and near to full peak at lake level  (9,255′).  That’s 745 ft. of color in one image.

The second slider photo was taken in Lundy Canyon (Mono County) by Curtis Kautzer. It shows a couple enjoying the scene, during a break from hiking.

In choosing this photo, we encourage everyone to venture into the woods for the best California Fall Color experience. We say this even though most of California’s autumn show can be seen without ever getting out of your car.

The third slider shows a sunset at Lake Gregory (Crestline, San Bernardino Mountains) by Alena Nicholas. This photo expresses that beautiful fall color is not limited to any given area of California. It’s nearby, everywhere. You just have to know where it’s peaking.

Lots of autumn color can be seen in Southern California’s mountains. Because they do not have the extreme elevation change, like the Eastern Sierra where eight weeks of peak color can be seen, Southern California’s mountain ranges peak over a shorter period. However, their aspen, bigleaf maple, black oak, willows and spectacular sunsets are glorious.

Great fall color is also found in the Southern Sierra, Central Sierra, at Lake Tahoe, the Northern Sierra, Salinas Valley, Redwood Highway and the Shasta Cascade.

“Chicken of the Woods,” a mushroom, is one of a number of colorful and interesting plants found in the Shasta Cascade (the vast northeast corner of California). Others include fiery orange-red Indian rhubarb, which decorates the banks of streams in Plumas County.

Gabriel Leete’s photo was selected for the slider because it teaches us to look down not just up, when searching for fall color. Some of the most remarkable autumn discoveries are seen on or near the ground.

Our fifth slider is Elliot McGucken’s shot of the cabin in the woods in the Hope Valley (Carson Pass – Hwy 88). We chose it to illustrate the variety of character to be seen in our woods, from settler’s cabins, to Spanish adobe homes, to white gothic steeples set against orange, gold and red.

Open your mind to California Fall Color and you’ll find orderly rows of burgundy, orange and yellow vines flanked by golden boulevards leading to tasting rooms.

California’s Mediterranean climate allows for the cultivation of colorful species not seen anywhere else on the continent and fills our cities with color-laden urban forests. Our unusual climate is why we claim California has the most diverse show of fall color on the continent.

The last of the photos we chose for the slider is Josh Wray’s image of paddle boarders on Parker Lake near Mammoth Lakes. It illustrates that Californians like to do things differently.

These ladies were out for an adventure and carried their boards on an exhilarating hike up to this High Sierra lake then paddled upon it, surrounded by sawtooth peaks and brilliant gold reflections. It took a bit of effort, but boy was the experience worth it!

We hope you enjoy using our “new and improved” site. As always, if you’d like to comment, click on the headline to open the comment section.

See you in autumn, dude. 

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Spring Aspen Report

Quaking Aspen, Agate Bay (6/10/17) John Poimiroo

With only a week of springtime left in 2017, a quick trip to Lake Tahoe found some quaking aspen bent by this past winter’s heavy snowfall, but few signs of black leaf spot fungus.

The two aspen, seen above, were bent to more than a 90-degree angle from snow drifts that piled as high as the house. Prior to this past winter’s snow, the aspen were as straight and as tall as those to their left.

Such phenomena are often seen in aspen groves and I’ve often wondered how the trees got so distorted. Now I know. It’s the snow.

Fortunately, most aspen leaves are deeply green and healthy. Black leaf spot develops when it rains a lot in late spring and early summer, followed by a week of warm temperatures.

A day after the photo was taken, a light dusting of snow fell down to 4,500′ in elevation. This week, temperatures have risen.  So, the conditions are such that black leaf spot could develop. Let’s hope not.

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Fall Color Guide and Map

Fall Color Guide & Map

Fall Color Guide & Map

Eastern Sierra destination marketing organizations (DMOs) have again published a comprehensive guide to fall color along US 395, a route named by USA Weekend as “one of the USA’s five best road trips.”

California’s Eastern Sierra Fall Color Guide & Map lists major annual events, significant fall color plants, and directs color spotters to 21 locations along US 395 from Big Pine to Topaz where spectacular fall color can be viewed.

The publication can be obtained at Mono County and Inyo County websites and visitor centers or CLICK HERE.

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There’s Still Hope

Cabin, Hope Valley (10/10/15)  Elliot McGucken

Cabin, Hope Valley (10/10/15) Elliot McGucken

Even when you think the color has peaked, when most of the trees have lost their color, a photographer like Elliot McGucken sends an image that teaches you, again, that there’s still hope.

Such is the case with this image of a cabin in the Hope Valley, near Sorensen’s Resort (Hwy 88). Though it does not have the spectacular splash of yellow many fall color photographers would want for their ultimate image of autumn in the High Sierra, it is layered with emotion and texture.

This photograph is near perfection, even though the forest was far from it.

Where’s The Color?

Remembering Lake Sabrina at Peak (10/1/14) Jared Smith

Remembering Lake Sabrina at Peak (10/1/14) Jared Smith

CaliforniaFallColor.com has been posting reports since 2009.

To date, hundreds of reports from photographers, local tourism officials, leaf peepers and others who just love beauty and nature have been received.  With so many reports under our belt, we figured they might be useful in showing where most of the fall color has been seen in California. Using the state’s tourism regions as guide, here’s the ranking:

  1. High Sierra – 44%
  2. Shasta Cascade – 15%
  3. Inland Empire – 9%
  4. Los Angeles County – 7%
  5. Gold Country – 6%
  6. San Francisco Bay Area – 6%
  7. North Coast – 4%
  8. San Diego County – 3%
  9. Central Valley – 2%
  10. Central Coast – 2%
  11. The Deserts – 1%
  12. Orange County – 1/2 of 1%
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Color of the Week: Red

Pacific Aspen, North Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

Pacific Aspen, North Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

The color of the week has been red, particularly at North Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon where Pacific Aspen have turned crimson.

North Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

North Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

South Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

South Lake, Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

South Fork Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

South Fork Bishop Creek (10/6/15) Aditi Das

North Lake (10/6/15) Erick Castellon

North Lake (10/6/15) Erick Castellon

North Lake (9/25/15) Julie Kirby

North Lake (9/25/15) Julie Kirby

This deep a tone of red has surprised many who thought aspen turned only yellow. Colorado’s famous mountain slopes flickering with yellow aspen are a trademark of autumn in the Rocky Mountains.  However, aspen that grow in the high alpine canyons of the eastern Sierra Nevada have the ideal combination of warm, sunny days and cold, cold nights to bring out red, orange and pink, as well as yellow and lime.

We post, today, a selection of great photos taken in past days by a selection of color spotters. Bravo for finding the color and sharing your vision with us.

Temporary New Look

CaliforniaFallColor.com apologizes to our readers for the recurring Internal Server Errors, which have kept users from seeing the site, off and on.

We’ve been working hard to find the cause of the problem and suspect it may be our graphical theme.

So, for the next few days the familiar black and orange theme of the site will be removed and replaced with another look in order to see if that could be what’s creating the problem.

We hope to have our theme colors back up, as soon as possible. In the meantime, keep looking for fall color!

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Eastern Sierra Moves From Fall to Winter

Convict Lake (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Convict Lake (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

June Lake Loop (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

June Lake Loop (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lundy Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lundy Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Silver Lake (11/1)14) Nicholas Barnhart

Silver Lake (11/1)14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mono Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mono Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mammoth Lakes (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mammoth Lakes (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Owens Valley (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Owens Valley (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Great fall color photographers are patient.  They’re willing to wait past sunset for the alpenglow or get up early for the morning light.  They don’t quit when everyone else says peak has passed. They go to unexpected places and find glory.

Great fall color photographers are methodical. They plan their shots, considering the calendar and locations they discovered previously and have banked away as worth returning to another day.

Great fall color photographers capture scenes others will never get.

Snow blanketed higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra this past weekend.  Most fall color photographers packed away their cameras when it had peaked a couple of weeks before, but not Nick and Alena Barnhart.  They’re great fall color photographers.

This past week, Nick called to say he and Alena were making one last trip to the Eastern Sierra, and if possible, cross over Tioga Pass to Yosemite.  That wasn’t possible, as the pass closed for winter, but they did bring back images few others got. Here’s what they found in Mono County and the Owens Valley as fall and winter collided.

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Driving Tour of Plumas County

Frenchman Canyon (10/23/14) Chuck Viebrock

Frenchman Canyon (10/23/14) Chuck Viebrock

If you don’t check back to read comments, earlier this week Sharon wrote that she was planning a trip this weekend to Plumas County and asked what advice we might offer.  Here’s the touring guide to Plumas County that we recommended:

  1. Drive to Truckee on I-80, then north on CA-89/CA-70 to Quincy. There will be spots of color along the road. Greenhorn Creek parallels the road. As you approach East Quincy, the La Porte Road is often cited as a location where good color is found. Follow the La Porte Road south to Nelson Creek where good color has been reported in past years. The Quincy-La Porte Road is also good, heading toward the town of La Porte. Color spotters report the best color in Plumas County is found off highway. That would require an SUV in some cases, an ATV in extreme cases (USFS service roads), but a normal car in most cases. Plumas County is laced with old roads that follow streams. That’s where you’ll find some of the county’s best color. Indian Creek, is one. Though, you’d need time to explore the backroads and if you don’t have it, continue on to Quincy. In the town of Quincy are many exotics: the famed Judge Thieler sugar maple (now past peak) and lovely trees around the Murray home. This is more like shooting in New England, where architecture and foliage combine, though the architecture here isn’t as old or as classic. Plumas County used to have an excellent visitor center whose proprietor, Suzi Brakken, would come out and wash the windshields of leaf peepers. The county defunded support to that organization, so try the Quincy Chamber of Commerce for local advice. Karen Moritz of Plumas County also recommended taking “the short trip (17) miles up to Bucks Lake – west of Quincy. Lots of aspen, dogwood and bigleaf maple just off the highway.” Beyond Quincy is Indian Valley and Greenville. There’s often lovely color along the streams leading into the valley. The trick is to know the streams at which there’ll be color (the Indian Valley Chamber in Greenville may have advice). Look for brilliant orange Indian Rhubarb along the edges of creeks. I haven’t found the area beyond Greenville and Indian Valley to be that productive, though there are black oak and bigleaf maple on the west shore of Lake Almanor. So, once you reach Greenville, you might want to turn back and head down CA-70 toward Paradise and Oroville. There is Indian Rhubarb at the top of Hwy 70 (Feather River Canyon) and some bigleaf maple, though the farther down you go, the color will diminish. Paradise and Oroville further down Hwy 70 are just starting. So, the lower you go down the canyon, the less you will see as most of the Shasta Cascade is patchy for the moment.
  2. The second approach is basically the reverse of what we just described. Get to Hwy 70, then follow it up to Greenville, then backtrack along Hwy 89 through Quincy toward Truckee.  You’ll find the best color on side trips to La Porte, Bucks Lake and other spots away from the main road.
  3. For another trip or a longer stay, eastern Plumas County can have great color in late October at Antelope Lake, along Babcock Creek and in Squaw Valley (not the ski area).
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Fall Hikes With Your Dog

Dogtrekker.com

Dogtrekker.com

DogTrekker.com is devoted to dogs, their owners and finding companion-filled fun in the great outdoors and on the road.

This week, editor Janet Fullwood described hikes to take in Mendocino, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, Santa Barbara and Redding, several of which are along fall-colorful trails. Thanks DogTrekker for also giving a nod to CaliforniaFallColor for our fall color reporting.

As reported here previously, CaliforniaFallColor is a proponent of putting “pieds” to path and what better way to do that, than with your pet? Of course, finding trails that are open to dogs, that allow off-leash hiking and that include an uplifting view or destination can require a bloodhound’s nose.

So, before I grab their leash and say to Murray and Ditto, “Let’s go for a walk!”, I turn to  DogTrekker.com or ModernHiker.com for good advice on dog-friendly trails.