Getting Philosophical

Yosemite Falls, Autumn (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

After a big storm (and we had one yesterday), color spotters get a bit philosophical.  Plumas County’s black oak naturalist, Joe Willis blogged yesterday that the storm had discouraged taking pictures until he noticed the leaves knocked down by the rain and found beauty in them.  He continued, “we might not have a real peak this year. The unusual sequence of rain and temperature patterns seem to have made for a very uneven and unpredictable [although I did predict this in an early September post!] season for viewing fall colors. Some species of maple have turned bright red and are already losing leaves while just a few blocks away the same species of trees is still green. Some maples are turning yellow then falling, skipping the red period altogether.”

What I’ve seen over the years is that while rain, snow and wind do reduce the number of or damage leaves that have already turned color, they seem not to have much effect on leaves that haven’t yet turned from green to lime.  What’s interesting about this year is that the color change has been late this fall and until late Saturday and Sunday, we’d had very little rain throughout California this autumn, providing for ideal color.  The photos taken by Rob Bohning a week earlier in the Eastern Sierra attest to that.  Of course, much of that color has been blown off branches by yesterday’s strong winds, but below 7,000′ there’s still lots of color yet to develop.

Photographer Michael Frye was reporting in his blog three days ago that in Yosemite Valley (5,000 ft) 50% of the bigleaf maple have turned and only 20% of the dogwood and cottonwood, which means there’s still lots of color yet to show.  One of my favorite colors of autumn are the bright orange leaves and dark branches of the black oaks of Yosemite National Park, as they’re so reminiscent of Halloween.  These trees are particularly beautiful when framing a waterfall and with yesterday’s storms, Yosemite’s waterfalls should be flowing again for that kind of photo.  Another popular photograph is of Fern Spring, the smallest waterfall in Yosemite Valley.  In its dark reflective waters, colorful maple leaves gather for a classic shot.

Fern Spring (file photograph) - John Poimiroo

Past Peak – Above 8,000 ft.

75-100% – High Sierra below 7,000 ft.  There’s still lots of color in the canyons among aspen that had not yet turned color.  If you base your trips of the East Side in Bishop, be sure to visit Mountain Light, Galen and Barbara Rowell’s visually motivating photographic gallery.

30-50% – This week through Wednesday and coming weekend should be good times to head to Yosemite, though it is predicted to rain on Thursday and Friday.

30-50% – Another good choice for weekend adventures would be a tour of the Shasta Cascade, including a loop from Redding to Weaverville on CA-299, or to Lassen Volcanic National Park on CA-44, then north on CA 89 toward Mt. Shasta, past McCloud before returning to your base in Redding.  For those planing to drive through Lassen Volcanic National Park, the Lassen Park Road closes intermittently when storms pass through.  Closures can exist from the Devastated Area at the north to the Sulphur Works to the south, meaning that you can no longer drive entirely through the park when it’s snowing on Lassen Peak, but in areas you can drive there remain nice stands of aspen showing yellow.  Though, there’s no telling how long that will last.

30-50% – Vineyards are glowing yellow with flares of red and orange.  Head to the Napa Valley, Sonoma County and the Sierra Foothills for a bit of wine tasting mixed with leaf peeping.

15-30% – Color is also beginning to show in our urban forests.  Sacramento, San Francisco and Chico have beautiful displays of color, particularly in their great parks (Land Park, Golden Gate and Bidwell).  So, don’t get to philosophical about one storm.  Grab your camera, your sweetheart and the wheel and see the color in places where it’s at its best… after all, California is a big state!

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