California Fall Color
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Posts Tagged ‘Hope Valley’

There’s Still Hope

Sun ,11/10/2015
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.

Still Hope, Though Mostly Past Peak

Sun ,04/10/2015
Sorensen's Resort (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Sorensen’s Resort (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Last year, to the day, I drove the western Sierra foothills to Placerville, up Newtown Rd and Mormon Emigrant Rd. to CA-88, crossing Carson Pass and descending into the Hope Valley where it was peaking beautifully. I then returned over Luther Pass to South Lake Tahoe, then back over Echo Summit on US50. Today, I repeated the drive.

Last year, the Hope Valley was peaking.  This year, it’s beyond hope.

Carson Pass and the Hope Valley are now mostly Past Peak, though amid groves and groves of bare aspen, others are still fully green and Just Starting, while others are Patchy, and still others are Near Peak.

Caples Lake (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Caples Lake (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Last year, I stopped at the Caples Lake Resort to photograph a hillside of colorful aspen reflected in the lake.  This year, only the crowns of those trees carry any color.

It’s interesting that the willows that normally turn first, are now peaking while the aspen have lost their color.

Beyond Carson Pass, among landmark-sized Jeffrey pine, the ground between granite boulders is full of deep-orange ground cover.

Black Leaf Spot, Forestdale Creek Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Black Leaf Spot, Forestdale Creek Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Forestdale Creek Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Forestdale Creek Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

The effect of black leaf spot fungus is evident along Forestdale Creek Road, an off-road trail near Red Lake, where many aspen still carry spotted leaves.

One of the few nice aspects of the color this year is that many of the aspen are topped with golden crowns, though they’ve lost the color below and all that remains are their buff and white colored lower branches and trunks.

The forest’s remaining color is nice to look at, though photographers will be disappointed.

At 7,400′ in elevation on the east side of Carson Pass, there are several healthy stands of green aspen that should be Near Peak in two weeks. Patchy sections in the forest will turn sooner.  Healthy, lush groves are found near streams, but not far from denuded stands of bare aspen, their stemy branches raised to heaven as if imploring the skies to let them embrace the first snowfall.

Next weekend’s best hope to see full peak in the Hope Valley will be at Sorensen’s Resort.  There, the most promising grove along Hwys 88 and 89 is a brilliant, yellow-orange stretch of Near Peak aspen (seen above) directly across the highway from the Sorensen’s Resort.

I stopped to chat briefly with resort owner John Brissenden who said several of his cabins are still available this coming weekend for those who would like to see the best fall color the Hope Valley will provide this year.  He also admitted that, though disappointing, 2015 isn’t the earliest peak that Carson Pass has experienced.  Some years ago, it went Past Peak in mid September.

As for the rest of the route:

  • The black oak and bigleaf maple along Newtown Road (Placerville) are Just Starting.
  • Vineyards in El Dorado County’s Pleasant Valley are now showing yellow highlights, though they’ve a way to go.
  • There is little to no color along Mormon Emigrant Road, though a few dogwood are showing soft pastel-orange and rose leaves.
  • South Lake Tahoe is Patchy with yellow and lime just emerging among its mostly green aspen.
  • Grasses, willows, ferns and brush provide the most color along the entire route with maroon, yellow, buff, gold, crimson and orange decorating meadows and forest floors.
Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd. (10/4/15) John Poimiroo

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Carson Pass.  Nearly all the aspen at the highest reaches of the pass have lost their leaves. The most profound example of the change (seen at left) is the comparison of a stand of aspen shot last year off CA-88 at the trailhead to Kirkwood Lake and the same stand shot today.

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Hope Valley – The best stand is found directly across Hwys 88 and 89 from Sorensen’s Resort.  Room at the inn is available next weekend, if you want to see it at its best.  Unfortunately, all the aspen at and surrounding the resort have dropped their color.

Patchy (10-50%) – Lake Tahoe

Just Starting (0-10%) – US 50 – All elevations

Just Starting (0-10%) – Newtown Rd, Placerville (Gold Country)

Just Starting (0-10%) – Pleasant Valley Vineyards (Gold Country)

Carson Pass Peaking

Sun ,05/10/2014
Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Aspen, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Carson Pass, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Carson Pass, Kirkwood Lake Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Today, we chose to search for California’s gold and found it peaking on Carson Pass.

The pass is the high point of State Route 88.  It was named after western explorer and scout, Kit Carson, who, in January 1844, proposed that the Frémont Expedition turn west in order to resupply at Sutter’s Fort in present-day Sacramento. Local Indians warned against attempting a winter crossing, but always impulsive, John C Frémont forged on across the Sierra, reaching Sutter’s Fort in March.

Four years later, Mormon emigrants blazed a route along what they called the Carson Trail, from Sly Park,  across Carson Pass to the Carson Valley in Nevada.  The route they laid out is now called Mormon Emigrant Trail. Our drive in search of golden leaves began on Hwy 50 in Folsom, traveling east along historic gold miner routes to Sly Park where we linked up with the Mormon Emigrant Trail.

The route is getting mixed reviews.  We thought there was nice color, though Nanci Knight, a veteran color spotter didn’t see as much orange (true) as she’d seen in past years and thought the yellows to be pale, particularly continuing beyond Hope Valley to Monitor Pass (many trees there got stripped of trees by strong winds, the weekend before last).  Nanci also conjectured poetically that the drought has reduced the amount of green growing beneath pines and aspen, “leaving a pervasive dull brown tableau of lifeless, gnarly dead wood/sticks.”

Narrow Leaf Willows, (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Willows, (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Mormon Emigrant Trail – The first color seen is an orange-yellow tinge to black oak leaves at 4,200′.  At 7,500′, willows shine bright yellow, though the color spots are so few and far between that the road is hardly worth exploring for fall color, though as a road that is historic, wide, straight and untraveled, Mormon Emigrant has few peers.

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – West Slope, Carson Pass (Hwy 88) – As you near Silver Lake, stands of bright yellow aspen speckle the forest at 7,500′ elevation.  A particularly good stand of very large, old aspen flickering bright yellow is found on the north side of the highway at elevation 7,200′ at the entrance to the Kirkwood Lake Road.

Red Lake Peak Rim Trail, Kirkwood (10/5/14) Kevin Cooper

Red Lake Peak Rim Trail, Kirkwood (10/5/14) Kevin Cooper

Red Lake Peak Rim Trail, Kirkwood (10/5/14) Kevin Cooper

Red Lake Peak Rim Trail, Kirkwood (10/5/14) Kevin Cooper

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Kirkwood Mountain Resort – This was the weekend to be hiking goat trails surrounding the Kirkwood Mountain Resort, as color spotter Kevin Cooper (Coop) did to get these shots.  The hike got Coop psyched for Kirkwood’s new guided, off-piste backcountry ski experience called Expedition Kirkwood Backcountry that will explore deep powder bowls.

Caples Lake (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Caples Lake (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Caples Lake – The east shore of Caples lake has bands of day-glo orange-red and yellow aspen.  A nice view is from the fishing access parking area on the west shore of the lake at Caples Lake Resort.

East Slope, Carson Pass (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

East Slope, Carson Pass (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – East Slope, Carson Pass (Hwy 88) – The upper reaches of the Hope Valley near Carson Pass are at full peak.  We diverted driving a dirt road toward Red Lake to find a boulevard of yellow, peaking aspen.

Blue Lakes Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Blue Lakes Rd (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Hope Valley Recreation Area – Blue Lakes Road which travels through the Hope Valley Recreation Area has little color along it.  Though there are a few brilliant stands.  The best we saw was a boulevard of yellow aspen just beyond the winter road closure gates, after passing the Hope Valley Campground.

Hope Valley (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Hope Valley (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Hope Valley – There’s still quite a bit of green and lime, particularly on the north side of the valley, though too are wide swaths of red, orange and yellow among fir and pine forests.

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Sorensen’s Resort – This popular collection of cabins set in a forest of towering aspen flickers with yellow.  Across Hwy 88, large groves of aspen are mostly yellow and orange, though some trees still have green or lime leaves in abundance.

Sorenson's Resort (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Sorensen’s Resort (10/5/14) John Poimiroo

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Big Meadow – A little yellow is ringing Big Meadow on State Route 89, north of the Hope Valley, though it is still mostly green and lime.  The drive up 89 to the meadow from Hope Valley passes through groves of very green aspen.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – U.S. 50 – Also called the Lincoln Highway, US 50 has a few pockets of yellow aspen on the west slope of its summit at 6,400′; black oak are beginning to be edged with orange and yellow at 5,400′, black cottonwood are turning gold at 3,600′ and bigleaf maple seem almost sun burned with edging of yellow and brown at 3,300′.  US 50 is not known for its color, but get off the highway near Placerville onto Newtown Road in late October to mid November, and you’ll drive along branch-draped roads of fall color.

Hope Valley Hopeful

Fri ,03/10/2014
Sorenson's Resort, Hope Valley (10/2/14) Patty Brissenden

Sorensen’s Resort, Hope Valley (10/2/14) Patty Brissenden

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Hope Valley – Color spotter Patty Brissenden reports the aspen surrounding Sorensen’s Resort in the Hope Valley (Hwy 88) are mostly a mix of lime and yellow.  She predicts they will approach near peak next week and will require a GO NOW! alert in the coming two weeks.


Weekend Update: Hope Valley Reborn – Go Now!

Mon ,15/10/2012

Hope Valley (10/14/12) Kimberly Kolafa

75 – 100% – Hope Valley – Kimberly Kolafa posted this photograph taken in the Hope Valley over the weekend.  It shows the remarkable change that’s occurred there.  Reported last Friday, a spotter from the Hope Valley said the aspen near Sorenson’s were past peak, but as this photo shows, only half the aspen are at that stage, while fully another half are just turning lime colored.  So, we’re reclassifying the Hope Valley as peaking, 75 – 100%. Go Now!

Conway Summit (10/14/12) Carolyn Webb

Color spotter Carolyn Webb sends this photograph of Conway Summit seen from a hill across from her house.

75 – 100% – Conway Summit – Go Now!


Sorensen’s Resort Reports

Fri ,28/10/2011

Snowshoe Thomson Cabin, Sorensen's Resort (10/20/11) © 2011Patty Brisenden

Past Peak – Hope Valley – John and Patty Brisenden report theirs was a “beautiful, long fall this year.”  The secret is out, that stunning video posted on California Fall Color earlier this autumn (look back in the archives) was produced by their daughter, Elizabeth.  And, their other daughter Annie, with her husband PJ and Elizabeth produced a winter video for the Hope Valley resort.  Though, it is now past peak at Sorensen’s spots of color are still to be found in and around the resort, though we couldn’t leave the Hope Valley without posting these shots taken last week.  Now, though it’s mostly gone from the Hope Valley, read previous articles here to see where you can still see the color at peak, as peak has now dropped to 6,000 ft in elevation.

Sorensen's Resort (10/20/11) © 2011 Patty Brisenden

The resort is offering a winter special.  Stay four nights for the price of three (Sun-Thurs) or three nights for the price of two (Monday-Thurs). Valid:  Oct. 23 – Dec. 15, Jan. 7 – Feb. 9 and Feb. 26 – Jun. 14, during non-holiday periods. Cannot be combined with other Sorensen’s programs or specials. Mention you saw this offer on CaliforniaFallColor, when making reservations. Regular weekend rates charged on Sunday when using 4-for-3 special.


Hope Valley (10/17/11) © 2011 Patty Brisenden

CLICK HERE for information on these holiday workshops and festivals: Nov. 24 – Thanksgiving Feast; Dec. 3 and 4, Holiday Wreath-making Workshop; Dec. 5 – 9, Wood-block Holiday Card Printing; and Dec. 10, Winter Survival Class.

Peaking in the Hope Valley – Go Now!

Fri ,21/10/2011

When we write “Go Now!” in a headline, don’t delay… go as soon as possible.  If you delay a week, you’ll be muttering to yourself, “Uh, they lied to us, there’s no color here.”

The missive to head to the Hope Valley (Hwy 88) is true now, as color spotters are reporting spectacular yellow, gold, orange and red aspen there, right now.  Look down this blog to see the Oct. 6 posting of a video from Sorenson’s Resort.  It’ll give you an idea of how spectacular the color is there at peak.

75 – 100% – Hope Valley – Brilliantly colored aspen with gold, orange and red in the Hope Valley, Caples Lake and at Red Lake.  Don’t delay.

Fields of Gold in the Hope Valley

Thu ,06/10/2011

Sorenson’s Resort in the Hope Valley posted this video recently.  It shows the intense color to be seen in weeks to come in the Sierra.  With the snow behind us, scenes like this will be playing out this weekend in the Eastern Sierra along U.S. 395.

Hope Valley Video

Wed ,10/11/2010

This was posted on YouTube two weeks ago, but it shows some of the color seen then in this beautiful part of California.  Jack Durst provides good information about the Hope Valley near Lake Tahoe, photographing fall color and how fall color develops.