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Sierra Primed For Fall

North Lake (6/26/17) Alena Nicholas

Summer has just begun, but all indications are that the Sierra Nevada are now primed for a spectacular autumn.

Convict Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Virginia Lakes (6/17) Alena Nicholas

South Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

South Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

June Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

June Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alena Nicholas spent the past week touring the east and west sides of the central Sierra, returning with these beautiful images. She said all the lakes were “pretty much full to capacity” with locals reporting the lakes are as high as they can remember them ever being. Even Grant Lake (in Mono County near June Lake) is full. Alena says the last time she saw it, it was not much more than a stream of water.

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Creeks have become mini rivers in places where Alena waded, previously. Now, they’re so full its too unsafe to enter them.

Quaking Aspen (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

North Lake Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The aspen I’ve seen on springtime trips into the Sierra, and those which Alena captured, are healthy and green with no indication of black spot fungus. Though she also noted several aspen whose branches have been bent or snapped branches from heavy snows. This is particularly evident “along Silver Lake, and up below Sabrina Lake” where “a few of the Aspens seemed to have lost their leaves,” perhaps from broken branches.

Bishop Creek Meadow (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Western Blue Flag iris, Rush Creek (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Grant Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Western Tiger Swallowtail and willow (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Mule Deer, Rush Creek Meadows (6/17) Alena Nicholas

Mule Deer, Rush Creek Meadows (6/17) Alena Nicholas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alena reports meadows as being lush green and full of wildflowers and wildlife. At higher elevations, like Virginia Lakes, there’s still a good amount of snow melting with waterfalls everywhere. I returned from the east coast this past week, flying over the snowcapped Sierra which looked more like they do in March, than June.

Mono Lake (6/17) Alena Nicholas

What does this all mean for fall color spotters, leaf peepers and photographers? In past years when there’s been a lot of water, the autumn show seems to start slightly later (a few days to a week) and last longer. That’s because the leaves are healthier and less likely to dry out and drop sooner.

As for the intensity of the color, that all depends on autumn weather.  As, once days begin to shorten and trees stop producing chlorophyll, as long as the days remain warm and the nights cold (clear skies), autumn color should be intense and vibrant.

Until then, let’s enjoy California’s 8-month spring (wildflowers began appearing in the Deserts in February and continue to bloom at increasingly higher elevations through September).

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Why It’s Called Fall

McGee Creek, Mono County (10/10/16) Laura Zirino

McGee Creek, Mono County (10/10/16) Laura Zirino

McGee Creek, Mono County (10/10/16) Laura Zirino

McGee Creek, Mono County (10/10/16) Laura Zirino

Peak yellow aspen leaves were fluttering in the wind when Laura Zirino visited McGee Creek, yesterday.

This area of the Eastern Sierra will likely drop it’s leaves by the weekend, should strong winds blow through on Thursday.

It’s why the season is called Fall.

McGee Creek – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Sierra Gold Discovered in Mono County

Hikers along the Lundy Canyon Trail (10/2/16) Alicia Vennos

Hikers along the Lundy Canyon Trail (10/2/16) Alicia Vennos

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lundy Canyon (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Fall foliage is peaking in Mono County and will continue for two weeks.

Color spotter Alicia Vennos calls the brilliant yellow, orange and red leaves, her county’s “Sierra gold” and recommends visiting Lobdell Lake, Sonora Pass, Green Creek, Lundy Canyon, Parker Lake, and Rock Creek, this week. They are all at full peak and will be aglow through Monday.

Other  locations worth viewing are Monitor Pass, Summers Meadow (off Green Creek Road), Lee Vining Canyon, Lundy Canyon Trail, and McGee Canyon.

The West Walker River, Convict Lake, the June Lake Loop, and Little Walker Lake are just starting to show color and should be ready for the weekend of the 15th.

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

  • Monitor Pass – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Still green in some locations but groves near the top of the pass are peaking.
  • Lobdell Lake (9,200′) Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Colors are absolutely stunning along the road to Lobdell Lake just off Burcham Flat Road. 4WD vehicle necessary – high clearance vehicles ONLY!
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Last week’s storm blew a few leaves off the trees near the top of the pass. Areas near the Mountain Warfare Training Center near US 395 are a mix of yellow and lime.
Summers Meadow (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Summers Meadow (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

  • Virginia Lakes (9,770′)  – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!
  • Conway Summit (8,143′) – Patchy – (10 – 50%) – On the verge of a “go now” designation but still mostly green and lime green.
 
  • Green Creek (7,500′) Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! The hike to Green Lake is peak to past peak while colors around the campground and along Green Creek Road will be perfect this week. 
 
  • Summers Meadow Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Foliage along the mountain side are full red and orange while the colors along the road will be perfect in about 7-10 days.
Lobdell Lake Road (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Rd (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Rodruigez Flat (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Rodruigez Flat (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker River Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker River Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker River Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Little Walker Rd (9/29/16) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Road (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Rd (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Road (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

Lobdell Lake Rd (10/2/16) Jeff Simpson

LEE VINING 

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lee Vining Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Lee Vining Canyon is still very green but the upper elevations around Tioga Lake, Ellery Lake and Saddlebag Lake are in prime viewing condition.
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! Still a little early around the lake and campground. Lundy falls and the beaver ponds are at full peak and will be a perfect hike for this weekend..
  • BENTON & 120 EAST 
  • Sagehen Meadow – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

JUNE LAKE AREA

  • Parker Lake (8,313′) – Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak GO NOW! or YOU MISSED IT! – This is the weekend to go to Parker Lake. Take the Parker Bench Trail from Silver Lake Resort for a more difficult but worthy fall color experience.
Kevin Lennox reports the hike to the lake (2 miles) was past peak, but once at the lake, a rolling peak was occurring where some aspen were still green or lime, while others were yellow and orange. Color at Parker Lake will likely last another week, though don’t delay as “conditions are progressing fast.”
  • Laurel Canyon (8,500′) – Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak GO NOW! or YOU MISSED IT! – Some areas of Laurel Canyon are now past peak, though large areas of color remain in the aspen groves along the middle section of this 4WD road (high clearance vehicles required or hike it).
  • Little Walker Road and Lake – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – The Little Walker Lake Road is still a week from full peak. Leaves are turning yellow with patchy lime greens still present. HIKE OF THE WEEK – If you are up for a steep hike, take the trail to Sardine Lake where aspen are in full color.
  • Silver Lake, June Lake Loop – Patchy (10-50%) – Fall color is starting to spill down from the surrounding hillsides onto the June Lake Loop. Many sections are just starting to turn over to lime green and yellow with few groves ahead of the pack. The aspen grove that lines the western shore at Silver Lake is just starting to shift and should be at full peak within the next ten days, in time for the #SilverLakeInstameet on Oct. 15. 

CROWLEY LAKE/McGEE CREEK  

  • McGee Creek Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! The hike to the beaver ponds and beyond are prime for fall color while its still a little patchy around the campground and pack station.

ROCK CREEK CANYON

  • Upper Rock Creek (10,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Peak to past peak around the lake and in the high elevation areas. This will be the last few days to catch the color around the lake.
  • Middle Rock Creek Road – Peak (75-100%) Go Now! Colors along the road and in the campgrounds are at peak color and will be perfect this weekend.

LOWER RATINGS

  • Patchy (10 – 50%) – Mammoth Lakes Basin, Mammoth Creek Rd., Convict Lake and Canyon, Lower Rock Creek
  • Just Starting (0-10%) – Walker Canyon, Towns of Walker/Coleville, Twin Lakes, June Lake Loop/Hwy 168, Convict Lake Resort/Campground, Crowley Lake, Lower Rock Creek.
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Bishop Creek – Getting Past Peak, But Lots to Enjoy

Groves at Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Groves at Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

A lot changed this week which we were unable to report, due to “technical difficulties.” Fundamentally, high areas of the canyon were at peak on Friday, then conditions deteriorated with North Lake – in particular – taking the biggest hit.  Wind stripped the beautiful color on Saturday and it was gone by Sunday.

We weren’t sure, until we’d received confirming reports from several spotters, as some of our very reliable spotters up the canyon were unable to report. Now, I know you all want to know:

Q. “What does this mean for fall color viewing and photography?”

A. Peak color can be seen at many, many areas of Bishop Creek Canyon and throughout the Eastern Sierra. More areas will peak in coming days. So, despite that several favorite areas have peaked, the show isn’t over.  Far from it.

Please be mindful, however, of where it’s peaking and avoid fruitless trips to places where it has already peaked. You missed it, there.

In a nutshell, here’s where to go and where not near Bishop, Calif.

North Lake Road, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

North Lake Road, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

General Conditions – Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Above 9000’ – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!
  • 8,000’ and 9,000’ – Near Peak (50-75%) to Peak (75-100%)
  • 7,000’ to 8,000’ – Patchy (10-50%)

Weir Pond (9,650’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Campground Area (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) to Past Peak GO NOW! or YOU MISSED IT!  – The aspen along Hwy 168 are now past peak, however aspen within the campground itself and along the stream are still peaking.

Parchers Resort (9,260’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – The canyon walls to the east and west of the resort are now past peak.

Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – The campground and the aspen lining the road and the beaver pond are still holding their peak color, though many have peaked.

Table Mountain Camp (8,900’) – Peak to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – The mountainside down canyon from the campground is now past peak, though aspen along the creek are peaking.

Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Surveyor’s meadow is now a mix of peaking and past peak stands. Give it another week of peak color here.

Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!  

Sabrina Approach, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Approach, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Sabrina Approach (9,100’) – Near Peak (50-75%) – The approach to Sabrina and the small ponds below the dam are peaking.

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

Quaking Aspen, Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

North Lake (9,255’) – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

North Lake Road – Past Peak YOU MISSED IT!

Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Absolutely beautiful. This area has a week or two left of peak color.

Aspendell (8,400’) – Patchy (10-50%) Aspendell is often one of the last areas of Bishop Creek Canyon to change.  This area has many stands of lush aspen in it.

Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon slope from above Cardinal Village up to Cardinal Pinnacle is losing its peak color, though areas near the middle fork of Bishop Creek and surrounding Cardinal Village are peaking.

Four Jeffries (8,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)  – More yellow is appearing.

Intake II (8,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) – Lovely right now!

Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Yellow is now showing among the aspen.

Round Valley – Patchy (10-50%) – Gigi deJong reports that the Round Valley, northwest of Bishop, is carpeted with brilliant cadmium yellow rabbitbrush, providing a spectacular scene, particularly in morning light. Cottonwood along Pine Creek are a mix of developing gold and lime.

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A Perfect Hike to Fall Color Perfection: That’s Parker

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake by telephoto lens (10/2/16) Josh Wray

Parker Lake by telephoto lens (10/2/16) Josh Wray

The hike to Parker Lake is absolutely breathtaking, states Mammoth Lakes’ Josh Wray. “With a short climb at the beginning, it’s a perfect warm-up for the 1.8 mile hike to the lake.”

He continues, “After the short uphill section you’ll be hiking along the creek that flows from Parker Lake and the aspen groves along the creek are gorgeous.

“Bring along a hammock or another way to sit and rest, so that you can spend the day by the creek or lake.

“Upon arrival at Parker’s outlet and the main viewpoint, pull out your zoom lens because you’ll want to capture the colors across the far side of the lake. This spot is at full peak so go as soon as you can.

“Also, it is a busy trailhead on weekends. So, if you go this weekend be sure to arrive early, to get one of the few parking spots available, and for early solitude on the trail to Parker Lake.”

Parker Lake (8,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Need We Say More?

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/16) Elliot McGucken

Full Peak Above 9,000′ – GO NOW!

Sabrina Approach (9/30/16) Kevin Lennox

Sabrina Approach (9/30/16) Kevin Lennox

It’s peaking at the highest elevations in Bishop Creek Canyon (Inyo County) and that has color spotters wondering if autumn is arriving early. Actually, it’s right on time.

It always seems early when areas above 9,000′ in the Eastern Sierra peak in September, but that’s actually quite normal. Lake Sabrina, South Lake and North Lake often peak before October.

Kevin Lennox, a color spotter from Pasadena, was there today and assessed North Lake as Past Peak. Here’s what you’re likely to see this weekend:

Overall Conditions Above 8,500’ – Peak (75-100%) – It’s time to head to Bishop Creek Canyon to see high areas of the canyon at peak. All the highest areas are peaking, some are being reported as approaching Past Peak.

Overall Conditions Between 7,500’ and 8,500’ – Just Starting (0%-10%) to Patchy (10-50%) – Most of the lower canyon is still just starting, though areas between 8,000 and 8,500 are still patchy or just starting at the lowest elevations.

Weir Pond (9,650’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon wall above the pond are peaking with yellow and some orange. Aspen around the pond’s shoreline are now more yellow than lime.

Parchers Resort (9,260’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon walls to the east and west of the resort are brightly painted with yellow, orange and rose, as are many of the aspen on the resort grounds.

Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – This area has really developed in the past week with yellow filling in. Views up canyon from the campground are beautiful but the campground and the aspen lining the road and the beaver pond are a mix of lime and fresh yellow.

Table Mountain Camp (8,900’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The mountainside just down canyon from the campground is covered with brilliant yellow and a touch of orange. The aspen along the creek are now filling in with lime and yellow.

Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Surveyor’s meadow is gorgeous, though there are still many more stands to turn. This area should remain at peak for two weeks (conditions permitting).

Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – Lots of orange color can be seen at the lake along the back slopes that descend to the lake and along the eastern shoreline. The highest color will likely not last another week.

Sabrina Approach (9,100’) – Peak (75-100%) – The approach to Sabrina and the small ponds below the dam are full of bright orange and yellow aspen.

Sabrina Campground Area (9,000’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The aspen along Hwy 168 are going off in a big way right now and are at peak.

North Lake (9,255’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The approach to the lake and the groves on the mountainside above the lake are now at low peak color. More yellow is appearing along the road, though it will be another week to full peak on North Lake Road.

Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Patchy (10-50%) – Yellow is filling in.

Aspendell (8,400’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%) Cold nights have pushed the color, with a lot more yellow appearing in this neighborhood.

Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Peak ( 75-100%) GO NOW! – The canyon slope from above Cardinal Village up to Cardinal Pinnacle is at peak. More lime and yellow are now showing near the middle fork of Bishop Creek and surrounding Cardinal Village; give it another week for peak color there.

Four Jeffries (8,000’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Still scattered yellow branches.

Intake II (8,000’) – Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Lime and yellow, scrub aspen on the hillside have turned.

Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Just Starting – (0 – 10%) – Still green

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Bishop’s Canyon Glows

West of Bishop, Calif., Bishop Creek Canyon rises above treeline. Autumn color is peaking there now above 9,000′.

Here’s a short video from our friends in Bishop that provides a taste of what they’re now seeing up Bishop Creek Canyon.

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L.A. Has Rolled Out The Red Carpet

Liquidambar (June) Leaf Peeper

Liquidambar, Los Angeles (6/14/16) Leaf Peeper

Liquidambar, Los Angeles (6/14/16) Leaf Peeper

Liquidambar, Los Angeles (8/10/16) Leaf Peeper

I hesitated posting the top left photo received from Leaf Peeper when it arrived in June.

This is the same tree Leaf Peeper has submitted previously in summer, making it the third year that a Los Angeles tree gets attention for early color.

Now, this just may be that this tree shows red color in its uppermost branches and isn’t really changing color, though we’d need a tree expert to say.

Nevertheless, color is color and with Leaf Peeper’s report, Los Angeles again gets the nod for being the first to roll out the red carpet.

On Sunday, I head to the Eastern Sierra to check out Bishop Creek Canyon, Mammoth Lakes and U.S. 395 through Inyo and Mono Counties, and will report on what’s showing after returning on Thursday.

If you’re in the area, I’ll be talking to businesses about fall color and how to better serve fall color viewers in Bishop on Monday and Mammoth Lakes on Tuesday, sponsored by the local visitors bureaus.

Just Starting (0-10%) – Los Angeles County

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Mammoth Lakes Is Go Now! Golden

 

Snowcreek, Mammoth Lakes (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Snowcreek, Mammoth Lakes (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Lakes Basin Bike Path, Mammoth Lakes  (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Lakes Basin Bike Path, Mammoth Lakes (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Mammoth Creek (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Mammoth Creek (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Mammoth Creek  (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Mammoth Creek (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Just when you think it might be over, another set of photos arrives.

This one is from Josh Wray who toured his home town of Mammoth Lakes this morning and found “Go Now!” gold everywhere and snow dusting Mammoth Mountain’s ski runs.

Josh writes that the Lakes Basin Bike Path, Snowcreek and Mammoth Creek are all at full peak. We believe you, Josh.

Now, why did we ever think it might be ending!? Maybe we oughta read the Fall Color Report posted at the visitor center!

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Mammoth Lakes

Fall Color at Mammoth Lakes (10/29/15) Josh Wray

Fall Color at Mammoth Lakes (10/29/15) Josh Wray

JW-MammothLakes-10

Mammoth Creek (10/29/15) Josh Wray