California Fall Color
Dude, autumn happens here, too.

Archive for the ‘What They’re Saying’ Category

The Other Napa Valley

Sun ,16/11/2014

Toyon  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Toyon (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Lichens  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Lichens (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Oak Gall  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Oak Gall (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Acorn Woodpecker  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Acorn Woodpecker (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

California Buckeye  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

California Buckeye (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

A weathered fence dressed in lichens (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

A weathered fence dressed in lichens (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Bigleaf Maple  (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Bigleaf Maple (11/15/14) Sandy Steinman

Beyond the vineyards, “up the hills west of Hwy 29,” Sandy Steinman writes in his blog, the Napa Valley has “quiet twisty roads” that go through the forest. In these hilly residential areas above the valley, there’s lots of fall color to be seen. Below, some vineyards are “showing a lot of color’ while others are past peak.

One of California’s signature fall color trees, the yellow bigleaf maple, provides the predominant color, though also seen are “Spice Bush, Oregon Ash, Willows, Walnut and Oaks. Toyon (often called Christmas berry or California holly) is showing off its bright red berries.” Less colorful but interesting  – he notes – are California Buckeye that have lost their leaves, but whose branches are heavy with fruit. Flitting among the trees, Steinman reports, are colorful “Acorn Woodpeckers and Stellar Jays, who were out in number along with Golden-crowned Sparrows, Turkey Vultures and Ravens.”

Often overlooked for their color are silver Lichens which hang down from trees and cover fences with moody foliage.

Napa Valley (Peak 75-100%) – Steinman recommends these roads to see Napa’s backstage fall show: Redwood Road, Mt, Veeder Road and Dry Creek.  He writes, they make a nice loop, though not for much longer, as peak is about over. GO NOW!

“Pockets of Resistance” in the Eastern Sierra

Tue ,28/10/2014
June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

Pockets of Resistance along the June Lake Loop (10/26/14) Alena Barnhart

We’ve reported that this is the autumn that just won’t die and that’s seen in these photographs taken by Alena Barnhart along US 395.  Color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart term the areas where color persists as “pockets of resistance.”

Alena Barnhart 4

Lundy Pond (10/26/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop  (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

That means, even though “crazy” wind should have stripped trees of leaves (as occurred last Friday and Saturday) there are areas where the trees “resisted” the elements.

Now, we all know trees can’t resist the wind.  Probably, they were in a spot where swirling winds missed the groves or the trees were still early enough in their change that their leaves had enough strength to stay attached.  Whatever the reason, the result is that a different type of scene develops, one mixed with stripped and unstripped trees, which is lovely in its own right.

So, even though we’re now classifying many areas in the Eastern Sierra as “peak to past peak” or fully past peak, there still are “pockets of resistance” to be appreciated.

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.

Aspen Flicker, As Autumn Wanes at Aspendell

Sat ,25/10/2014
Aspendell (10/24/14) Yin You

Aspendell (10/24/14) Yin You

Aspendell (10/24/14) Yin You

Aspendell (10/24/14) Yin You

Aspendell (10/14/14) Yin You

Aspendell (10/14/14) Yin You

As the last of the aspen drop leaves up Bishop Creek Canyon, we received these images today from Yin You and Jim Hemming’s video of his recent visits to the Eastern Sierra. CLICK HERE.

Travel Writer Lee Foster Describes US 395 Fall Color

Fri ,24/10/2014
Lake Sabrina (10/4/14) Lee Foster

Lake Sabrina (10/4/14) Lee Foster

Travel writer and photographer Lee Foster provides his perspectives on fall color viewing in the Eastern Sierra in his blog,  To read Lee’s article, CLICK HERE.

Aerial Eastern Sierra

Thu ,23/10/2014

Keith Lake flies over the Eastern Sierra in these videos of Mammoth Lakes and Bishop Creek Canyon, posted last week.

Fall Hikes With Your Dog

Wed ,22/10/2014 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 or for good advice on dog-friendly trails.

Off-roading to Fall Color

Thu ,09/10/2014
Laurel Canyon (10-/7/14) Steve Wolfe

Laurel Canyon (10-/7/14) Steve Wolfe

One of the fun ways to see fall color is to drive off-highway on a Jeep road. Color spotter Steve Wolfe has been doing that this week and brought back these fabulous shots of his trip by 4wd up Laurel Canyon, south of Mammoth Lakes.

Laurel Canyon (10/7/14) Steve Wolfe

Laurel Canyon (10/7/14) Steve Wolfe

Laurel Canyon (10/7/14) Steve Wolfe

Laurel Canyon (10/7/14) Steve Wolfe

Steve reported, “The entire canyon is at-peak, with some aspen stands beyond-peak or already stripped of leaves.  But, there are a LOT of red-hued aspen there,”

Several guides can be found online to backcountry trails.  Look for streams and lakes that would support aspen, cottonwood, alder, dogwood, oaks and other colorful trees.


LA Times Urges, “Go Now!”

Fri ,26/09/2014

When the Los Angeles Times urges “Go Now!” instead of “Go Dodgers!,” something seismic just happened.

In today’s LA Times Travel News & Deals, travel writer Mary Forgione selected five Go Now! destinations from this site to recommend to the paper’s readers. To read their report, CLICK HERE.

Perhaps it was Jared Smith’s photos of Bishop Creek Canyon that convinced the Times’ editorial staff. After all, his photos are grand-slam-gorgeous.

In return, California Fall Color reports the following fall baseball conditions.

GO NOW! – Peak (75 – 100%) – Los Angeles Dodgers

GO NOW! – Near Peak (50 – 100%) – San Francisco Giants

GO NOW! – Peak (75 – 100) – Los Angeles Angels

GO NOW! – Near Peak (50 – 100%) Oakland A’s

Patchy (10 -50%) – San Diego Padres

Take a Hike with Modern Hiker

Wed ,24/09/2014
Little Lakes Valley Trail (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Little Lakes Valley Trail (9/1/14) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

If has a purpose, it is to share the beauty of California’s autumn.  That often means venturing to places we hadn’t known about before.

I was called by a kindred spirit this week in the person of Casey Schreiner, editor and founder of Modern Hiker. I’ve admired Casey’s well-written and informative blog for some time and when he called to see how we might collaborate, I was more than ready to take a hike with Modern Hiker.

If you haven’t read Modern Hiker, you’ll find wonderful recommendations on hikes throughout our state that are both inspirational and energizing.  Our society spends a lot on gym memberships, diet fads, self-improvement programs, medications and counseling, and why we do baffles me. As, the easiest, least-expensive and most-effective tools we have for a healthier, more fulfilling life are found at the end of our legs… our feet.

They can take us to places where nature’s beauty can cure what ails us, in ways none of those other aids can.

Casey has asked his readers to post trails leading to beautiful fall color.  Similarly, I’m asking our readers to post fall color they see that is reached by trails. The Little Lakes Valley Trail, seen above in early September, is one of those trails. You’ll find other recommendations at

Happy fall color viewing… and hiking!