Two For One – Spring and Fall!

Indian Paintbrush, Rock Creek, Mono County - Alicia Vennos (9/11/2011)


California not only has the longest and most varied autumn in the USA, but it also has a six-month spring… er, should we correct that to read seventh-month spring?  As, California Fall Color spotter Alicia Vennos of Mono County called today to report that she saw the first signs of fall color… Wildflowers AND fall colors?!

“Looks like this rare overlap just might be in store this season in Mono County!” she reported, “Yesterday at Rock Creek’s popular Little Lakes Basin trail, the Indian Paintbrush was still in vibrant bloom, along with purple Fireweed, Lupine, Columbine and creek beds full of tiny yellow flowers, the name of which escapes me.  At the same time, the underbrush is starting to turn deep crimson, and some meadows are already going for gold, although the grass along the lakeshores is still spring-time green!  Aspen leaves are also a healthy summer green but temps  yesterday were chilly at times, and there was a mix of sunshine, rain — and yes, snow as low as Rock Creek Lake.  It will be interesting to see if the wildflowers are tenacious enough ,and the fall colors eager enough, that the two might co-exist together for a stretch this year!   P.S.  May I just say that the fresh blackberry/loganberry pie was unbelievable at Pie in the Sky, everyone’s favorite après-hike pit stop at Rock Creek Lake Resort…wow!”

Carolyn Webb, also from Mono County, reports that the first splashes of yellow are beginning to appear in the Virginia Lakes area.  That means the full start of color change is likely still two weeks away at the highest elevations.

The same reason you can see fall color for three full months in California is the same reason wildflowers can bloom for up to seven months, here… elevation change.  Actually, wildflowers bloom in winter in the deserts, so – what the heck – we might as well call it a twelve-month spring.

Here’s our first report of 2011!

0 – 15% – Eastern Sierra above 9,000 ft beginning to show some yellow among the Aspen.  Look to the ground, as ground covers are turning red while wildflowers continue to bloom.

2.5 Weeks and Counting

With only two and a half weeks until the first day of autumn, California Fall Color is now online with weekly reports.

We welcome the participation of  volunteer color spotters.  It’s easy to do… just email us the color you see in your area (submit a comment with your email address and we’ll reply and add you to our confidential list of fall color spotters).  If you would like your photos to appear here, email your best shots as 300 dpi .jpg images with permission to publish them or forward them to media.  Your shot could appear on a major television station or newspaper, with credit to you.

If you look back at our blogs, you’ll see how  we describe color.  We report the percentage of change along with other aspects such as: the types of trees changing, colors seen, effect of recent weather on color change, and so forth.  Here’s our rating scale:

  • 0 – 15% means that none to only a few of the trees in a given forest begun to change color.  (Too early)
  • 15 – 30% says that no more than a third of the trees have begun to change color… the forest  is mostly green with lime green to yellow or reds  just beginning to show. (Too early, though getting there)
  • 30 – 50% indicates that nearly half the forest is showing color in the area reported.  There’s mostly green, though half the forest is showing lime,  yellow, orange and red.  (There’s still more to come)
  • 50 – 75% is approaching peak with only a quarter of the forest still green and the rest in stages between lime and full color. (Go Now)
  • 75% – 100% is at full peak with very little green or lime and mostly yellow, orange, gold, red and auburn. (Go Now)
  • Past Peak means the color has peaked and now leaves have dropped or are dropping.  Wind can transition a peaking forest to past peak, quickly.
So, send us your fall color reports and visit often to see what’s happening and where it’s happening in California.