Lake County Reports Chill and Crows in the Air

0-15% – Lake County – Color spotter Debra Sommerfield reports that a chill is in the air as the walnut trees are beginning to show the first signs of turning.  Growers anticipate harvesting the nuts in the next week. Meanwhile, on streets in and around Kelseyville and Lakeport, it’s fascinating to watch the occasional gathering of crows swoop on light breezes in and around orchards. Look closely to spot those with beaks firmly clenched on prized walnuts as they soar high, then dive while dropping their treasures to the pavement in an effort to crack the husk and dislodge the nut.  Lake County is two hours from the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento Valley, and coast.   More is found at

Clearlake Oaks – Golden Wildflower Field

An expansive pasture of golden wildflowers is seen east of Clearlake Oaks on CA-20.  The brilliant yellow flowers color a field dotted with majestic valley oaks.  Some of the oaks are showing yellow to orange tints.

Pockets of Red, Orange and Gold

Pockets of red, orange and gold are showing in the upper reaches of the Eastern Sierra, according to color spotter Jared Smith of the Parcher’s Resort at South Lake.  Sabrina Camp was showing beautifully in areas last week with mostly green to lime in the draws leading up from Lake Sabrina.  Look for the color change to descend rapidly this week from higher elevations (above 9,000 ft).

30-50% – Sabrina Camp – Showing beautiful mixed color.
15-30% – Sabrina Lake – Coloring up rapidly.  Still lots of green to lime-green in the aspen.

Seasons Change from Fall Color to Holiday Sparkle

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Although autumn doesn’t end until December 21, Thanksgiving Day always seems to be the last day of the year in  which Californians are in an autumn state of mind.  After that, a blizzard of holiday sales make falling prices overwhelm falling leaves.

While there’s still lots of color to be enjoyed, most Californians shift their search from looking for fall color to searching for colorful Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

However, just because the holiday season is upon us does not mean that Mother Nature has given up her beautiful show of autumn color.  California’s urban landscape flickers with auburn, orange, crimson and yellow within its parks and along its boulevards.  Because California’s weather has been mostly mild and clear this fall, 2009 will be remembered as one of the best for beautiful and long-lasting displays of fall color.

This is the last planned California Fall Color report of the season.  Our thanks are expressed to the many color spotters across The Golden State who emailed photographs and reports.

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

75-100% — Lake County. Terre Logsdon reports that “While the harvest of pears, walnuts, and wine grapes has ended for the year, large swaths of color throughout the county remain to be enjoyed as the many oak varieties – black, blue, valley, and Oregon – are at 75% of peak and turning a muted gold to vibrant orange against a backdrop of evergreen pines. Sweet gums are a riot of color in the town of Lakeport, at their peak of color ranging from gold to deep burgundy. Flowering mulberries are nearing their peak ranging from canary yellow to bright green.

Lakeport Dickens Faire (stock photo)

Dickens Christmas Market, Lakeport (stock photo)

An annual Dickens’ Christmas Market occurs Nov. 28 in Lakeport.  This annual Christmas event transforms Lakeport into an old English village, complete with costume-clad characters, food booths, and entertainment, as well as an all-day Christmas Market from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lighted parade begins at 6 p.m. and Christmas tree lighting follows at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street. CLICK HERE for more about this event or call (707) 263-5092.

75-100% — Onyx. Color spotter Danna Stroud of Mammoth Lakes reports that lovely gold colors clusters of trees in the Southern Sierra along CA-178 west of CA-14 and east of Lake Isabella.  Danna oversees the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau which will soon open one of the three new California Welcome Centers recently approved for designation by the California Travel & Tourism Commission.  The new Welcome Centers are located in Mammoth Lakes, El Dorado Hills and Vista and should open in early 2010.  When these state-sanctioned visitor information centers open, the number of California Welcome Centers will increase to 17.  California Welcome Centers bring together visitor information from across California and are great places to get maps and guidance on visiting California.

75-100% — San Francisco Bay Area. Color is at or past peak around San Francisco, providing lots of nostalgic autumn color in the Bay Area for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.  If you’re in The City this weekend, head to Yerba Buena Gardens and Golden Gate Park for the most diverse show of color.  Cindy Hu reports that russet and gold have “been supplanted by LEDs in many corners of The City.  Market Street is adorned with illuminated snowflakes and the palm trees in Union Square have been encircled with white lights.”  She recommends checking out these “bright spots:” Embarcadero Center, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Huntington Park, Castro and 18th Streets, Union Street, Golden Gate Park, The Presidio and Fisherman’s Wharf.  CLICK HERE for more details.

Beautiful color may also be found down the Peninsula in Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton, Palo Alto and Los Altos; in the East Bay communities of Danville, Moraga and Walnut Creek; and in the north bay cities of San Rafael and Novato.

75-100% — Sacramento. This Central Valley city is known as being second only to Paris in the number of trees, per capita.  Sacramento has so many trees that special rules govern when and where you can park, so that leaves can be cleared during autumn.  The best displays of fall color are found downtown, surrounding the State Capitol, in the Fabulous Forties (avenues numbered in the 40s) and surrounding Land Park, south of US 50 and downtown.

Past Peak — Plumas County. Color spotter Suzi Brakken reports that the Plumas and Lassen National Forest offices are now selling Christmas tree cutting permits for $10.  All you need is a saw, dry boots and snow clothes. Keep in mind that snow is plentiful in the higher elevations, especially where the favorite Silvertips are found. The permits for Plumas National Forest are also available at many local businesses, including at the Plumas County Visitors Center at the Quincy airport, a half mile west of Quincy on CA-70.  Maps of approved cutting areas come with permits, which are on sale through Dec. 24.

On the Thanksgiving weekend, holiday light parades will be held in Chester and Taylorsville, and merchant open houses with refreshments and tree-lightings will be held in small towns throughout Plumas County this weekend and next. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Past Peak — Gold Country. Color has now descended below 1,000′ in the gold country with little left to change among the oaks and maples.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  See you next fall!

Pear Orchards Now Golden in Big Valley

50-75% — Cobb Mountain (2,800’). Along Diamond Dust Trail and Salmina Road off CA-175,  maples and dogwoods are aglow against a backdrop of forest green pines and oaks.

75-100% — Kelseyville. Strong gusty winds in the lower elevations near the Big Valley area have helped the pear trees stand out more, as the walnuts are now past peak and lost many leaves. Pear orchards are showing golden in this area that was once known as the “Pear Capital of the World.” Bring along a basket for a stop at any of several roadside stands selling Lake County Mountain Pears in the Big Valley area. Vineyards in the Red Hills AVA nearby are deepening to russet, vermillion, and mahogany.

Topsy Turvy in Lake County

Salmina Road (10/20/09)

Salmina Road (10/20/09)

An unusual switch has been happening in Lake County, where fall colors developed first at Clear Lake (el 1,600′) than in the higher terrains on Cobb Mountain (4,700′) reports Terre Logsdon.

75-100% — Forest Lake. At Forest Lake (el. 2,700′), the cottonwoods are a riot of gold, backgrounded by dogwoods and oaks.

75-100% — Salmina Rd. Terre says that Salmina Rd, off CA-175 near Loch Lomond at 2,500 feet where Salmina’s Resort was at the turn of the 19th century, the trees are at their prime color – oaks and cottonwoods are golden with the dogwoods casting a warmer glow.

Amber Knolls Vineyard (10/20/09)

Amber Knolls Vineyard (10/20/09)

15-30% — Red Hills. The vineyards in the Red Hills AVA, especially the red varietals, are turning yellow and orange, with hints of burgundy veining the leaves. Pear and walnut orchards in the Big Valley bordered by Hwy. 29, along Soda Bay Road, and in Upper Lake on CA-20 are continuing to show yellow and golden.  With Lake County weather predicted to be in the 40s at night and days in the 70s and 80s, there are continued prospects for good color.

Photography: © 2009, Lyle Madeson

Lake County Colors a’ Poppin’

Terre Longsdon reports that fall foliage is beginning to pop in Lake County.  Terre recommends driving CA-175 from southern Lake County between Kelseyville and Middletown and up over Cobb Mountain.  You’ll pass through towns the likes of Whispering Pines, Pine Grove and the area’s hub… Cobb, which she recommends as a good place to stop and eat.  There’s not much time for golf if you’re leaf peepin’, but Terre says the course there is fun to play.

After you travel through the Big Valley, leave CA-29 at Bottle Rock Road to Cobb Mountain where you’ll see vibrant chartreuse, yellow, orange and burgundy.  When Bottle Rock Rd meets CA-175 in Cobb, turn right and continue south on CA-175 for more color.

Walnut Orchard, Kelseyville (10/12/09)

Walnut Orchard, Big Valley, Kelseyville (10/12/09)

30-50% Walnut Orchards.  Most walnut orchards are approaching 50% with very intense yellow leaves.

Vineyard, Lower Lake (10/12/09)

Vineyard, Lower Lake (10/12/09)

15-30% Vineyards.  The vineyards are beginning to show yellow, orange and red in their grape leaves.

30-50% – Coast Range (1500′).  Oaks in California’s Coast Range above 1,500′ in elevation are approaching 50% of peak with the next two weekends positioned for good color in Lake County.

Photography: © 2009, Lyle Madeson