California Fall Color
Dude, autumn happens here, too.

Rain Storms Push Shasta Cascade Past Peak

     Posted on November 19, 2014 by admin
Brandy Creek Falls, Whiskeytown NRA 11/18/14) Jack Kirchert

Brandy Creek Falls, Whiskeytown NRA 11/18/14) Jack Kirchert

Color spotters from across the Shasta Cascade were reporting enduring spots of fall color until today.  Then, a series of rain storms began passing through northern California.  They have dampened and spotted the remaining color, pushing most areas of northeast California past peak.

Butte County (Peak to Past Peak) – When last reported, walnut groves along Hwy 99 were nearing peak. though the last of peak color on the CSU Chico campus, in Bidwell Park, downtown Chico and Paradise is being rained upon and is moving past peak. GO NOW!

Tehama County (Past Peak) – The Sacramento River, Red Bluff and Cottonwood have moved significantly to past peak this week with storms wetting remaining color.  What little remains will probably be gone by this weekend. YOU MISSED IT.

Landscape tree, Anderson (11/18/14) Brittany Pozek

Landscape tree, Anderson (11/18/14) Brittany Pozek

Shasta County (Past Peak) – The last of the fall color in Shasta County flared this past week at Brandy Creek Fall in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area, west of Redding, though as Jack Kirchert’s photo shows, it’s now well past peak. Landscape color is still developing in Anderson. YOU MISSED IT.

Trinity County (Past Peak) – Weaverville was the center of attention this week for Trinity County fall color spotters, with the Gold Rush era town framed by autumn color. YOU MISSED IT.

Modoc County (Peak to Past Peak) – Color has descended throughout the Modoc National Forest to its lowest elevations. GO NOW!

Siskiyou County (Past Peak) – Native foliage throughout Siskiyou County is now past peak, though color is reported at the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens where exotic Japanese Maples, Eastern Redbud and Pacific Dogwood are reported to be still showing red, yellow and rose. YOU MISSED IT.

Plumas County (Past Peak) – The show is finally over in Plumas County, though a few spots of color are seen near Quincy and down the Feather River canyon. YOU MISSED IT.

Plumas County (11/18/14) Mike Nellor

Plumas County (11/18/14) Mike Nellor

Lassen County (Past Peak) – Peak color has gone though there’s a lovely mix of yellow and red color and bare branches still to be seen off Hwy 44E. YOU MISSED IT.

Survivor: San Bernardino Mountains

     Posted on November 18, 2014 by admin
Rim of the World (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Rim of the World (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Until this past weekend, fall color in the San Bernardino Mountains has survived a lack of Santa Anas, though winds are predicted to begin rising this week. Nicholas and Alena Barnhart toured the SB Mountains’ major fall color viewing locations: Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Grass Valley Lake, Lake Gregory and Silverwood Lake to bring back this update.

Silverwood Lake (11/16/14) Alena Barnhart

Silverwood Lake (11/16/14) Alena Barnhart

Big Bear (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Big Bear (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Big Bear (11/16/14) Alena Barnhart

Big Bear (11/16/14) Alena Barnhart

Silverwood Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Silverwood Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Grass Valley Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Grass Valley Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Grass Valley Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Grass Valley Lake (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lake Gregory (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lake Gregory (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lake Gregory (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lake Gregory (11/16/14) Nicholas Barnhart

San Bernardino Mountains (Peak to Past Peak) – Nick reports, “Silverwood Lake is one of the SB Mountains largest lakes, located on the backside of the mountains heading towards the desert (Apple Valley/Victorville).  So, most people miss it when they head up to Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear and even fewer photographers spend time there. It has a Mountain/Desert look to it, and offers Fishing/Boating, Camping, Hiking, Bicycling, Waterskiing, and has places around to eat.

“Since it’s the lowest Lake in the mountains, Silverwood Lake usually stays warmer/drier longer-lasting fall color than the other SB Mountain lakes.”  Silverwood Lake was peaking this past weekend though, like other SB Mountain fall color spots, is susceptible to wind.

Nick confirms that autumn is “winding down” at the SB Mountains’ other lakes: Big Bear, Arrowhead, Grass Valley (not to be confused with Northern California’s Grass Valley) and Gregory, though spots of fall color remain. and the sunsets… well, they’re Southern California worthy. GO NOW!

Lake Gregory (11/18/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lake Gregory (11/18/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Hike of the Week: Doane Valley Nature Trail

     Posted on November 17, 2014 by admin
Dogwood, Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Dogwood, Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Modern Hiker’s Scott Turner recommends the Lower Doane Valley Loop/Weir Trail as an easy three-mile hike on San Diego County’s Mt. Palomar in the Cleveland National Forest.  The trail has brief episodes of climbing (300-400′), but is otherwise smooth, well-traveled, easy to follow and travels past some fine black oaks with bold gold and orange leaves.

Temperatures along the trail now hover in the mid to upper 50s, so carry a light layer should warmth be needed. Sturdy shoes should be worn and at least a liter of water should be carried. You will also want to bring along a good camera not just for the foliage but for frequent wild life sightings, including mule deer, wild turkey, bobcats, coyotes, and even banana slugs.  Yes, banana slugs!

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Doane Valley Nature Trail (11/16/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Palomar State Park (Peak 75-100%) - Color spotter Scott Turner reports that “Mt. Palomar State Park is at full peak with some really beautiful color in the black oaks and some of the riparian vegetation along Doane Creek and the Weir Trail. Oaks along Thunder Ridge and Boucher Hill are also looking pretty good, but the best color is near Doane Pond and in Lower Doane Valley. Sadly, the foliage near the Observatory is past peak, so there were no classic foliage/Hale Telescope shots to be found. Now is the time to go up, as the Santa Ana wind event forecast over the next few days could have its way with the foliage.” GO NOW!

Hike of the Week: Lower Doane Valley Loop/Weir Trail - Find the trailhead at the Doane Pond parking lot on Mt. Palomar.  You’ll need $8 cash for parking.  The trail enters a dense patch of willows before crossing the road and descending to follow a creek bank. Continue right onto the Doane Valley Nature Trail when it splits from the Weir Trail (your return route). Follow the Nature Trail until it junctions with the French Valley Trail. Turn left and follow this trail as it splits off toward Doane Valley. At the next junction, turn right to cross Lower Doane Meadow.

After a few tenths of a mile, the trail connects with the Weir Trail. Turn right to follow the trail to the Weir where some of the best fall color is seen. Use extreme caution on the rocks here, as they get very slippery even when dry. Return along the Weir Trail and stay straight at the junction. The Weir Trail will merge back onto the Doane Valley Nature Trail as it passes through dense forest with a number of fully-turned black oaks and riparian vegetation to add a splash of color. The trail will return to the parking lot where your hike will conclude.

Peak of the Week: Valyermo

     Posted on November 17, 2014 by admin
Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

US Post Office, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

US Post Office, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Duck Pond, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Duck Pond, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Abbey of St. Andrews, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Abbey of St. Andrews, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Cottonwood, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Cottonwood, Valyermo (11/16/14) Frank McDonough

Valyermo (Peak 75-100%) - Usually, we find Frank McDonough reporting from the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, but this past weekend he traveled to Valyermo, a tiny community in the San Gabriel mountains.  He writes, “I was amazed at the intensity of the Fall color. It’s easily 70-80% there.”

Valyermo has not been reported previously on California Fall Color. Kudos to Frank who joins only two other color spotters, this autumn, who provided reports and photos of areas not previously seen on CaliforniaFallColor.com.

Frank notes that the Valyermo area’s location on the east slope of the San Gabriel Mountains is “spared the coastal influence that could make it too mild for good color change, plus the days are sunny and the nights are quite cold for an extended period of time compared to Southern California’s coastal areas.”  Of note there is the Abbey of St. Andrews and the “iconic Valyermo post office.” GO NOW!

Santa Cruz Nearly Past Peak

     Posted on November 17, 2014 by admin

Potrero St., Santa Cruz (11/16/14) Anson Davalos

Potrero St., Santa Cruz (11/16/14) Anson Davalos

Potrero St., Santa Cruz (11/16/14) Anson Davalos

Potrero St., Santa Cruz (11/16/14) Anson Davalos

Santa Cruz (Peak 75-100%) - Color spotter Anson Davalos was “soaking up the nice waves and weather” this past weekend in Santa Cruz, while noting that landscaped trees are nearly past peak there, with Chinese pistache, sweet gum, pepper and autumn blaze maple providing hot spots of orange-red, yellow, and auburn. GO NOW!

Upper Sacramento River Swirls Past Peak

     Posted on November 17, 2014 by admin

startrailcropdonejpgColor spotter Cory Poole was out and about the Upper Sacramento River, finding color mostly past peak, though he took this amazing nighttime exposure of fall color and a swirling universe at the confluence of Castle Creek and the Upper Sacramento River.

The Other Napa Valley

     Posted on November 16, 2014 by admin

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!

LA County Arboretum Near Peak

     Posted on November 15, 2014 by admin

Chinaberry, LA County Arboretum (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Chinaberry, LA County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Southern California is not often thought of as having much fall color, though its mountains have a reasonably long show, its urban forests can have beautiful color (when the Santa Anas don’t blow) and each year we can count on the LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden to be the final celebrity to walk autumn’s red carpet.

In the mountains, color is now past peak in the Angeles National Forest, north of Los Angeles, though the San Bernardino National Forest, north of San Bernardino, still has nice pockets of peak color at lower elevations such as surrounding Lake Gregory. The San Jacinto Mountains near Mountain Center are peaking and the Mt. Laguna, Mt. Palomar and Julian areas vary from peak to past peak.

Color spotter Frank McDonough of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Garden is California Fall Color’s end-of-season reporter, the counter to Jared Smith’s early announcements from the Eastern Sierra.  Frank notes that “All around the Arboretum fall color is starting to subtly appear. The first yellowing signs of color are showing up on California grapes, Crepe myrtles and many others.

Eastern Redbud, Cercis Canadensis (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Eastern Redbud, Cercis Canadensis (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Sour Gum, Nyssa sylvatica (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Sour Gum, Nyssa sylvatica (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Pin oak, Quercus palustrus (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Pin oak, Quercus palustrus (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Jerusalem Thorn, Parkinsonia aculeata (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Jerusalem Thorn, Parkinsonia aculeata (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Autumn Blaze Maple, Acer xfreemanii (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

Autumn Blaze Maple, Acer xfreemanii (11/13/14) Frank McDonough

“Some trees, like Nyssa (the Tupelo) and certain maples are at their peak while most like Ginkgo biloba and the Pin oak are about halfway to brilliance.”

He wonders if this year “will be a ‘great one’? Hard to tell. Some conditions like low nighttime temperatures and high daytime temperatures have been present but others, especially moisture, have not.” 

This autumn occurs in the third year of a major drought.  So, such observations have been stated by others who noted drier leaves and short-lived color in specific areas.  Though overall (look back at this autumn’s photos for confirmation), the color has been bright and long-lasting. 

Drought seems not to have significantly diminished the show.  2014 compares well to other years for the brilliance and duration of California’s fall color.

LA County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens (Near Peak 50-75%) - Frank’s report indicates it’s time to explore our state’s urban forests and arboretums.  At the LA County Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, sour gum, chinaberry, Jerusalem thorn, eastern redbud and maples are filling with yellow, golden, orange and crimson color. GO NOW!

Hike of the Week – Empire Mine SHP

     Posted on November 14, 2014 by admin
Empire Mine SHP (11/12/14) Barbara Matthews

Empire Mine SHP (11/12/14) Barbara Matthews

Color spotter Barbara Matthews noted on our Facebook page that she took a walk in the woods at Empire Mine State Historic Park, providing this panoramic montage of its trails littered with spent bigleaf maple leaves, inspiring us to name it hike of the week.  Way to go, Barbara!

Napa Valley Continues to Glow

     Posted on November 14, 2014 by admin

Napa Valley (11/9/14) Susan Taylor

Napa Valley (11/9/14) Susan Taylor

Napa Valley (11/8/14) Susan Taylor

Napa Valley (11/8/14) Susan Taylor

Napa Valley (Peak 75-100%) - Reports from the Napa Valley have been that this has been one of the most gorgeous autumns in years.  Susan Taylor’s striking photos from this past weekend show what’s happening. GO NOW!