The Beauty Begins

Canoe on Convict Lake (9/24/2011) © 2011 Alicia Vennos

0-15% – Convict Lake – Color spotter Alicia Vennos took this photo of Convict Lake on Saturday.  She reports that yellow is beginning to color “the underbrush and willows, grasses and meadows” and the aspen are beginning to show lime green, though most along the boardwalk are still “a fairly rich green.”

Dog-friendly Fall Color – the website for advice on where to travel with your dog in Northern California – lists U.S. 395 “right up there” with Highway 1 as one of California’s most scenic highways, and in autumn, there’s no competition.  U.S. 395 is the color champion.  In recent editions, DogTrekker has reported on where to travel with Fido.  CLICK HERE for a link to those tips.

Additional tips come from color spotter Rachel Anderson of the Owens Valley who says that Bishop Creek Canyon offers many colorful dog-friendly trails.  She recommends heading first to South Lake, Sabrina Lake, the Tyee Lakes and Intake 2 up the canyon.  In a few weeks, look to the Bishop Canal System for walkable dirt roads beside canals and among colorful cottonwood in Bishop, Calif.

When taking your dog into the Inyo National Forest, be mindful to: leave disruptive dogs at home,  keep dogs leashed (not more than six feet in length) when on trails, bed dogs inside enclosed vehicles or tents at night and bring not more than two dogs camping.  Maps of hiking trails and walks in the forest are available at USFS Visitor Centers.  A dog rest area is located at Bishop City Park.

We’re Off and Running!

We’ve got lots of reports today, so with the first day of Autumn tomorrow, we’re officially off and running.

Jared Smith reports first from Inyo County that, “Things are really progressing quickly in the canyon with nearly all of the aspens and willows above 8500ft beginning to show at least some lime green or some yellow. Very little happening below that elevation.We still have a ways to go before most of the canyon is in full color but its remarkable how fast things are changing. Even if you were here today there would be some great shots availailable and it’s just going to get better from here on out.”  Here’s his report:

Wier Pond (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

15-30% – Weir Pond (9,592 ft) – Still have another week or so before the Weir really goes off but the groves above the pond are already showing some bright yellows and the grass and willows are a beautiful golden hue.

15-30% – Parchers Camp (9,260 ft) – The hills to the south, west and east are beginning to show some color, especially near the spring to the east. Not at peak but beginning to look pretty good.

0-15% – North Lake (9,255 ft) – I was surprised to see such little change between last week and this week with the big grove on the far side of the lake showing pretty much zero color. There is some bright yellow trees along the paved section of road before the lake but that is about it. The dirt road along the lake continues to lighten to a beautiful lime green but little to no yellow yet.

15-30% – Lake Sabrina (9,150 ft) – Unlike North Lake, Lake Sabrina has seen some substantial color change over the past week with groves on the east shore especially showing hints of yellow and even a few aspens turning orange. We’re still a ways away from peak here but it’s nice to see some color starting at one of the most beautiful lakes in the Sierra.

Sabrina Camp Grove (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

30-50% – Sabrina Camp Groves (9,000 ft) – As usual, the groves below Sabrina campground are way ahead of most of the trees in the canyon with lots of yellow, red and orange happening already.

15-30% – Surveyor’s Meadow – Lots of lime green and yellow developing but this area will get a whole lot better in the coming week or two if the weather holds out.

0-15% – Aspendell (8,500 ft) – No color developing here, yet.

Cardinal Mine Grove (9/21/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

15-30% – Cardinal Mine Grove (8,700 ft) –Lots of  lime green with some yellow making an appearance this week.

0 – 15% – Table Mountain Campground (8,900 ft) – Not much color but the aspens have lightened up a lot. Look for this area to light up within the next week.

15 – 30% – Mountain Glen Campground – Yellow is beginning to show in many of the aspen in this area – should be a great spot to photograph within the next week, if not sooner.

 0 – 15% – The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek – Still a week or two off from much color at this location.

 0 – 15% – Four Jeffrey Camp Groves – Fall color in this area is always a late arrival – its going to be a few weeks at least before we see this area light up.

15-30% – Willow Camp (9,065 ft) – The willows are turning gold and the aspens have joined the party. It really is amazing how fast things are changing between Willow campground and the Tyee Bridge. Some of the trees that were dark green a week ago are now bright yellow.

15-30% – South Lake (9,768 ft) – Many of the trees on the back side of the lake are displaying gorgeous color and it’s getting better by the day. The rock slide area and boiler cove aren’t really showing much color but as fast as things

changed in the back of the lake I would expect that to be different in a few more days.

Convict Lake (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

0-15% – Rock Creek – Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos reports it’s been “bloody hot here!”  That’s great for fall color and for fall color watching, as warm days and cool nights are what’s needed for colors to intensify.  Certain species in Mono County have turned entirely… with elm trees near Walker being reported having turned.  We’ve noticed individual trees can change earlier than others, even species may change sooner, so this isn’t out of the ordinary.  Mostly, Mono County is following the normal pattern, with the higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra showing first.

Convict Lake Resort - Just the Slightest Color (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

0-15% – Convict Lake –Jennifer Heintzelman of the Convict Lake Resort reports willows are beginning to show signs of color, though their color is barely apparent in the great photos she sent, today.  Jen promises to send news of specials they’re providing to leaf peepers and photographers, which we’ll publish here.

Convict Lake - Early Color (9/22/11) © 2011 Jennifer Heintzelman

Goose Berries, Plumas County (9/21/11) © 2011 Richard McCutcheon

0-15% – Plumas County – Color spotter Richard McCutcheon send us this gorgeous photo of goose berries and reminds us to look not only up to the branches, but down  to the brush.  Richard says the only thing that’s turned so far in Plumas County are vines and berries… non-native Virginia Creeper, he notes, are always the first to turn.  They can be found on garden fences in Quincy.  Though Richard also reports, “As you are looking for fall colors, you run into some great mushrooms.”  The one shown here was 10 inches in diameter.

One Big Mushroom, Plumas County (9/21/11) © 2011 Richard McCutcheon

0-15% – Shasta Cascade – Continue reading below for yesterday’s report from the Shasta Cascade.



As Autumn Approaches, Shasta Cascade Reports

With the first day of autumn approaching (Friday, Sept. 23), few reports received yet include significant measurements of fall color anywhere in California.  Yesterday, Leilani, a color spotter from the Shasta Cascade region (northeast California) reported:

0-15% – Butte County – The colors in Butte County are not expected to change much until closer to the end of the month.  The area has been experiencing unseasonably warm weather.

Sundial Bridge (11/4/2009) © 2009 John Poimiroo

0-15% – Redding – Nothing yet to report, but plan to visit in early October to see the riparian vegetation and oaks along the banks of the Sacramento River framing Sundial Bridge with shades of yellow, orange and burnt sienna.

0-15% – Whiskeytown National Recreation Area- The national park is not experiencing any fall color changes, as yet.

0-15% – MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park– The Vine Maples at the bottom of the falls at Burney Creek are just beginning to turn.

0-15% – Lassen Volcanic National Park–  Neither upper elevations at the park or Manzanita Lake are experiencing any foliage change yet.

0-15% – Bizz Johnson National Recreation Trail-   Colors along The Bizz Johnson Trail in Lassen County are not expected to change until the middle of October.

0-15% – Lassen National Forest – The national forest will most likely not experience fall color changes until early October.

0-15% – Modoc National Forest – No color changes yet in Modoc County, but conditions are perfect for spectacular fall color, as the nights are starting to turn pretty cold, with warm days meaning that as the days shorten, the beginning of color change is expected in the next week or so.

0-15% – Mt. Shasta – California’s beautiful northern volcano, Mt Shasta, is not yet surrounded by fall color.

0-15% – Weaverville – Trinity County surrounding this fascinating gold rush era town along CA-299 has not yet seen any fall color.  Last year, we reported very lovely color along 299 and in the area.  Look to the middle of October for the color to truly swirl here.

0 – 15% – Plumas County – One of California’s premiere places to see fall color, Plumas County always delivers wonderful fall color and 2011 should be no change.  Area botanists are saying the colors are expected to be spectacular this season thanks to all the rain Plumas County has had throughout the year. Our dear friends at the Plumas County Chamber of Commerce will be posting to their fall webpage starting on Friday (Sept. 23).  Their reports feature local and visitor testimonies and pictures from all parts of this colorful destination.  Keep checking here for their reports, as well.  The Chester/Lake Almanor Chamber of Commerce in Chester stocks copies of a guide to regional fall color drives, many of which are on state and national scenic byways.

Latest Prediction… “another week for things to start popping”

Color spotter Jared Smith of the Parcher’s Resort in Inyo County reports today that the full glory of Bishop Creek Canyon is still a ways off, though each day he’s seeing more and more Aspen turning lime green with a few branches displaying some bright yellow.  Jared predicts it will take another week for things to really start popping.

Wier Pond (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

15-30% – Weir Pond (9,592 ft) – The grass surrounding the pond has turned amber and the aspens on the west hill above the pond are just now starting to turn lime green with a touch of yellow beginning to show. Things are progressing quickly here as there was zero color 1 week ago.

0-15% – Parchers Camp (9,260 ft) –A little yellow on the east hills but not much going on just yet.

Parcher's Camp (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

0-15% – North Lake (9,255 ft) – The grove on the west side of North Lake is still dark green but the aspens along the shoreline of the lake and along the road have started to lighten up considerably and are showing a nice lime green hue at present.

0-15% – Lake Sabrina (9,150 ft) – Not much going on at Sabrina just yet.

15 – 30% – Sabrina Camp Groves (9,000 ft) – One of the first areas in the canyon to show color is definitely on it’s way with some yellow and even some orange mixed in with the lime green aspens. I’m hoping this grove will be lit up within the next week. This grove is also one of the best areas to see bring red and orange when it peaks.

15 – 30% – Surveyor’s Meadow –Lots of lime green developing but only a few tiny patches of yellow showing.

Surveyor's Meadow (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

0-15% – Aspendell (8,500 ft) – Still mostly deep dark green aspens here.

0 – 15% – Cardinal Mine Grove (8,700 ft) –Lots of bright lime green showing but no yellow yet.

Cardinal Mine Grove (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

0 – 15% – Table Mountain Campground (8,900 ft) – Not much color but the aspens have lightened up a lot. Look for this area to light up within the next week.

15 – 30% – Mountain Glen Campground – A few tiny branches have turned yellow but the vast majority of the aspens are still green, albeit a bright lime green.

 0 – 15% – The Famous Mist Falls on South Fork Bishop Creek – Still a week or two off from much color at this location.

 0 – 15% – Four Jeffrey Camp Groves – Fall color in this area is always a late arrival – its going to be a few weeks at least before we see this area light up.

 0 – 15% – Willow Camp (9,065 ft) –The willows are turning gold but the aspens are still holding on to their lime green coloration. This area is notorious for developing color very fast and judging by past years I would expect some good stuff in the next week to 10 days.

Willow Camp (9/16/11) © 2011 Jared Smith

0 – 15% – South Lake(9,768 ft) – A few trees in the back of the lake are ahead of the game but 90% of the aspens are still green.

“What a year!”

“What a year,” color spotter Tim Fesko of the Meadowcliff Resort in Coleville reports today.  Tim has been out and about exploring in his ATV from 5,000 ft. all the way up to 12,000 ft. in elevation and says little in the way of fall color is yet showing .  Though, “at 9500′ in the Sweetwater’s, the yellows and oranges of flowers are fantastic. It’s mid September and the wildflowers are still blooming!”

0-15% – Eastern Sierra.  Some yellow showing among the Aspen at the highest elevations, though still a week to two away.  Wildflowers are still blooming.

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.

High Water – High Color

In previous high water years, we’ve noticed longer lasting fall color.  This, of course, is so dependent upon whether wind or storms in autumn knock leaves from the trees, but generally in wet years the color is long lasting.  Could that happen this autumn?  Stay tuned.