Full Peak Above 9,000′

Fall color at higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra is peaking right now, with the overall display being exceptional.

Jared Smith of The Parchers Resort at South Lake in Inyo County reports that the majority of aspen below 8500’ still have a lot of green going on, but those above that elevation are glowing yellow, orange, red and auburn.

A big wind came through this past Tuesday night, but did not knock many of the leaves from the trees. Jared opined that “if the leaves can withstand Tuesday night’s wind and cold snap (17 degrees at Parchers – brrrrr!) there’s still a lot of great color.” So far, this has been an awesome year for fall color viewing. Here are the most recent reports:

EASTERN SIERRA

75-100% – South Lake (9,768’). Jared continues that the aspen at South Lake are ablaze, especially the groves at Boiler Cove, the Rock Slide on the west shore, and the patch in the back of the lake near the Long Lake inlet. The area did not experience the 80mph winds that had been forecast so a lot of the aspens were spared.

75-100% – Weir Pond (9,592’). This lovely pond is absolute at its best right now, according to Jared who reports the aspen surrounding the pond are showing brilliant color. We have lost a good number of aspen in the grove climbing up the hill to the west but the view at Weir is still breathtaking!

North Lake (9/29/09)

North Lake (9/29/09)

75-100% – Parchers Camp (9,260’). Who better to report about Parcher’s than Jared Smith who says the view from his porch at Parchers “is nothing short of spectacular right now. There is still a mix of green to go along with the yellows, oranges and reds, but it really doesn’t get much better than it is right now. We had some seriously cold weather at the camp last night but only time will tell if it was cold enough to kill off the color. As I write this report it is 18 degrees but the color is hanging tough at present.”

North Lake Road (9/29/09)

North Lake Road (9/29/09)

75-100% – North Lake (9,255’). Again, Jared reports (what are we going to do when his elevation is past peak?!) “The hillside above North Lake is brilliant right now. In some places the aspens have turned to a bright orange/red and it almost looks like the mountain is on fire, awesome stuff! I was also excited to find that arguably my favorite place in the canyon to take pictures, the North Lake Road, went from mostly green to bright yellow and orange in just a week. This is one of those places where even novice photographers can capture an image worth hanging on the wall. I would rate both the lake and road at nearly 100% if its fall scenic glory.”

North Lake Road (9/16/09)

North Lake Road (9/16/09)

Check out the before and after comparison shots of the North Lake poplar road to see how the color has changed from in the past two weeks.

75-100% – Lake Sabrina (9,150’). Typical of Lake Sabrina, it is delivering some of the best views in the canyon. Just like with South Lake, according to Jared, the forecasted winds could have stripped the glowing aspens bare and ended the photographic party here in no time. Thankfully Rick Apted, operator of the cafe and marina at the lake, only saw gusts to 41 mph and the majority of the aspens were spared. We are starting to see some of the trees past their peak but there are plenty that are still increasing in color.

Sabrina Camp (9/29/09)

Sabrina Camp (9/29/09)

75-100% – Sabrina Camp Groves (9,000). Jared comments that the aspens below Sabrina Camp that had offered such brilliant colors over the last few weeks are “now past peak and rapidly losing their leaves. Thankfully, the majority of trees at the campground and just above it are making up for that loss in a big way.”

75 – 100% – Lake Sabrina Approach (9,100’). Jared says the approach to Lake Sabrina just before the dam is another of his favorite shots in the canyon. It is now peaking later than occurred last year but with some exquisite color. There is still quite a bit of green mixed in with the red, yellow and orange so Jared says he’s hopeful the Lake Sabrina Approach will “stay good for a bit longer – mother nature is the boss, though, so who knows. I rated this in the 75-100% range but it is probably on the lower end of that scale with all the green that is left.”

75 – 100% – Willow Camp (9,065’). Jared writes, “Willow Camp is lit up presently, with most of the trees displaying brilliant color. There is still some green mixed in so if the weather cooperates we’ve got another week of good viewing here. The row of trees that lines the creek from the camp down to the Tyee bridge is looking fantastic right now, as is the approach coming up canyon towards Willow. Gorgeous!” Check out the comparison shots to see how it has changed in the past three weeks.

75 – 100% – Table Mountain Group Campground (8,845’). Aspen above and below Table Mountain Campground are as beautiful as Jared has ever seen them. He writes, “It seems to me that there is a bit more red and orange this year, a very good thing in my opinion. I would consider these areas to be very close to 100% of their peak. Surprisingly these groves are moving a bit slower than some of the other areas so hopefully the best of the color will stick around for another week or so.”

15-30% – Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek. Mist Falls remains very green, though Jared remarks, “a bit of yellow, and even a little orange, are starting to join the party. We’re still a ways off from the best of this areas color but it could start coming on fast in the next week, at least I hope so.”

Cardinal Mine South (9/29/09)

Cardinal Mine South (9/29/09)

50-75% – Cardinal Mine Area. Aspen by Cardinal Lodge are still “green as green can be but above the lodge and all the way up the hillside to the east of the Cardinal Mine towards Cardinal Pinnacle the aspens are looking fantastic. There are some really great shots available both looking up and down the canyon,” Jared reports.

Cardinal Pinnacle (9/29/09)

Cardinal Pinnacle (9/29/09)

0-15% Miscellaneous. Jared Smith reports that these areas have “tremendous concentrations of aspen which have almost no color yet: Aspendell, Big Trees Camgpround, the grove above Four Jeffrey, Intake 2, Intake 4 and the groves above Forks Camgpround are all in the 0-15% range present. Look for these areas to start to pop in the next few weeks if the weather holds up.”

30-50% — McGee Creek Canyon. Sarah McCahill in Mono County reports that she hiked up McGee Creek near Mammoth Lakes this week and “Wow, was it beautiful!” Photos she took show the transitional character of mixed aspen and cottonwoods in the canyon with lots of green evolving to yellow and gold. She says that at this elevation there’s still a lot of green. Some aspen groves are colored from 75 – 100% gold while others seem not to changing at all (0-25%).

GOLD COUNTRY

0-15% — CA-49 (El Dorado and Amador Counties). Just like panning for gold, it takes a bit of effort to find gold leaves in the Gold Country, right now. At 800′, sumac trees along CA-49, between El Dorado and Plymouth (El Dorado and Amador Counties), are beginning to flare bright yellow. A few black oak are flickering yellow-orange and flashes of red can be seen among the poison oak near the Cosumnes River. Although individual examples of fall splendor can be seen in the Gold Country, the Mother Lode region will not be fully colored until mid to late October.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

Sacramento Bee columnist Rick Kushman describing Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra as, “a thousand-foot, Day-Glo waterfall of orange, yellow, gold and bright green.”

Photography copyright 2009 Jared Smith