Three weeks ago, Vince Piercy captured this scene in the Hope Valley. It will be beautiful there and in Mono County this weekend, though with a few less leaves a fluttering.
Posts Tagged ‘Hope Valley’
Fall color remains so striking in Alpine County’s Hope Valley that even bluebirds are staying around to do some leaf peepin.
Color spotter Clayton Peoples reported, “with delight,” that color still abounds despite the recent storm.
He drove along Carson Pass (CA-88) and found all kinds of color left on aspen in the Hope Valley, seeing lime, yellow, orange and red, with orange being the predominant color.
He wrote, “There are places at the higher elevations of the pass where the leaves were stripped by the wind, but overall it is still “Peak.”
He says it’s certainly not ‘Past Peak,’ yet.”
Hope Valley is Clayton’s pick as “Peak of the Week” given the added beauty provided by the dusting of snow on surrounding peaks, but then a lot of the same can be seen in other peaking areas of the Eastern Sierra, including June Lake.
Hope Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Debbi Waldear of Alpine County says color spotters should not give up hope. Though higher areas of the Hope Valley are past peak, she sends these shots, taken today.
Hope Valley – Peak to Past Peak – YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
Color spotter Vince Piercey visited the Hope Valley yesterday and returned with these photos of Near Peak color springing out.
It would take an essay to fully describe this lovely valley on the east side of Carson Pass (CA-88), but this editor is no Alexander Pope.
Instead, just a lover of Hope.
Hope Valley (7,300′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
Now, this is our kinda festival… one dedicated to autumn aspen, and it happens in Alpine County.
Alpine is California’s smallest county by both land area and population. Not even 1,200 people live there.
Located South of Lake Tahoe, it is surrounded by El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mono Counties. Alpine was created in 1864, during a silver rush, from bits and parts of each of those counties.
The county was named Alpine because it resembles Switzerland, though Switzerland is 21 times bigger and has over 4,000 times more inhabitants.
Autumn is a special time in tiny, remote, Alpine County. Quaking aspen, black cottonwood and willows decorate its meadows and streams with yellow, gold and orange. And, all this autumn splendor is canopied by the bluest of blue skies.
The most famous of Alpine County’s fall color viewing areas is the Hope Valley (intersected by CA-88, Carson Pass). There, large stands of aspen line streams, a long, scenic meadow and high mountain rangeland.
On Oct. 8 and 9, the Hope Valley will host the Alpine Aspen Festival along Blue Lakes Road with: guided nature walks, horseback rides, fly-fishing and outdoor yoga, demonstrations of Dutch oven cooking, photography and watercolor workshops, native-American cultural demonstrations, tent talks on local history and alpine folk music.
CLICK HERE to reserve your place at the Alpine Aspen Festival (recommended).
Hope Valley, Alpine County (7,300′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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!
Color spotter Carolyn Webb sends this photograph of Conway Summit seen from a hill across from her house.
75 – 100% – Conway Summit – Go Now!