“Changes Are In The Wind

Parcher’s Resort (10/11/12) Krisdina Karady


A dusting of snow in the Eastern Sierra and wind this week has changed the pattern of warm days, so far this autumn.  Here’s the latest.

Mono County

At 9 a.m. this morning, it began snowing lightly at the Virginia Lakes.  This and a light storm that passed through this week have changed the situation, there.

Carolyn Webb, our color spotter from the Virginia Lakes Resort reports that this week’s breezes stripped leaves from aspen above 8,300′ at the Virginia Lakes in the Eastern Sierra.  Virginia Lakes is one of the first areas to show color, so it’s not surprising that even a light storm, as occurred yesterday would affect the color.  Carolyn reported she closed the Virginia Lakes Resort for winter at 5 p.m, yesterday.   So, if you head up there, the lodge will be shuttered.

Carolyn recommends visiting Conway Summit (8138′) where, “…the aspens are almost in full color and if the wind does not come up they will hold for a couple days.  Southbound on the west side they are yellow to dark lime with a few turning rust and a magnificent grove.  The north side is simply beautiful and should peak in a day or so.  Driving down 395 toward Lee Vining, in protected groves they are in brilliant yellow to light green as you travel farther south they are brilliant alongside the west slope of the range.” (see additional update, below)

An early dusting of snow does not mean fall has ended.  We’ve seen early snows that have only added to the spectacular nature of color, by combining snow with fall color.  Also, at this time of year, the change can vacilate from warm sunny days to chill overcast ones.  The important measure is whether the days are mostly warm and the nights mostly cold, for the development of the best color.  Certainly, so far this autumn, the color has been exceptional in the Eastern Sierra, and there’s a lot of green yet to turn below 8,500′.  So, don’t cancel any plans you made to travel there, but stay tuned for reports on this site.

Past Peak – Virginia Lakes (above 8,300′) – Wind has stripped areas in Virginia Lakes Canyon.

75 – 100% – Conway Summit (8,138′) – Areas of beautiful color remain, with a range of color from lime to brilliant yellow, to orange to rust.  Color spotter Carolyn Webb reports (10/13/12), “Yellows and limes are slowly turning into dark gold and rust in the more protected areas, like the south end of Conway Summit which is down the draw, south of my house.  The north of my house, which is what most people like to photograph, has not fully hit its prime, but should be going in the next day, based on night temps.”

Crystal Lake, Mammoth Lakes Basin (10/7/12) Alicia Vennos

50 – 75% – Mammoth Lakes – The lakes basin is approaching peak, as is the Mammoth Scenic Loop.

June Lake Loop (10/7/12) Alicia Vennos

50 – 75% – June Lakes – The June Lakes basin is approaching peak, with still a lot of lime in the aspen.  This week and next should be spectacular.  Sunset magazine just ranked June Lake as among the top five places to see fall color.  We don’t disagree, but then we’d place all five in California.

75 – 100% – Monitor Pass – Now peaking.  For those in Northern California, the most scenic route is to take Hwy 88 east to Hwy 89, then south through Markleeville and over Monitor Pass to US 395.

Past Peak – Rock Creek –  While there are areas of color up Rock Creek at lower elevations, the upper end of Rock Creek Canyon is past peak.

McGee Creek – 75 – 100% – At peak.

Convict Lake (10/7/12) Alicia Vennos

Convict Lake – 75 – 100% – Convict Lake is peaking this week, with color intensifying as you hike along the canyon trail.

Lundy Canyon – 75 – 100% – At peak.

Walker River Area – 75 – 100% – Aspen and cottonwood along the Walker River area are providing spots of color.

75 – 100% – Sonora Pass – Good locations to see color are from the west near Chipmunk Flat and between 8,500’ and 9,000’  on the east side, there’s still good color from the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center to the foot of the eastern side of the pass, though the past dry winter has had its effect.  Many trees turned early in this stretch or lost leaves.

Alpine County

Past Peak – Hope Valley – Half the aspen in the Hope Valley (Hwy 88 and Hwy 89) have dropped their leaves.  A local color spotter said this has been an unusual year for the Hope Valley with an early change that’s peaked quickly.

Table Mountain Camp (10/10/12) Krisdina Karady

Inyo County, Bishop Creek Canyon – Go Now!

Overall Conditions above 8,500’ – Color spotter Jared Smith of Parcher’s Resort reports that peak color has come and gone in some areas, especially in the highest reaches of the canyon, while some areas are at peak right now. It is safe to say that conditions were better late last week but there are still quite a few areas that are worth a stop. A dusting of snow Wednesday night and into Thursday morning added to the scenic opportunities in the canyon. Some trees are starting to lose their leaves but there is plenty of color left to be captured.

Overall Conditions below 8,500’ – There is a lot of color between the 7900ft mark and the 8500ft mark with many of these areas peaking or near peak. Hopefully the cold snap and the few inches of snow we received won’t negatively affect the color developing in this area of the canyon. Both the middle and south forks of Bishop Creek are really looking good in this elevation range.

75 – 100% – Table Mountain Camp (8,900’) – Still some color to be seen here however many of the aspen in this grove have given up their color until next year. Certainly some good shots are available though, like the one pictured here.

View East from Surveyor’s Meadow (10/10/12) Krisdina Karady

75 – 100% – Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – While the aspen along the creek and on the west side of the road have already peaked and many of the aspen have lost their leaves, the east side of the road still looks beautiful.

75 – 100% – Willow Campground (9,100’) – The willows are fading and some of the aspen along the road near the Tyee bridge are looking a bit naked but there are some great areas of color in this area, especially for those walking into the campground or taking photos from near the road looking west. The bright yellows and oranges can be beautifully captured with the stark granite background of the hillside. The whole west side of the road between Willow Campground and Parchers Resort is brilliant.

Lake Sabrina (10/10/12) Krisdina Karady

75 – 100% – Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Lake Sabrina proper is past peak now but the aspen just below the dam around the bridge and pond are still absolutely stunning – this is still a can’t-miss in the canyon right now.

75-100% – North Lake (9,255’) – North Lake has peaked however there are still some good shots to be had for the photographer with skill. The best views in this area are actually along the creek near the North Lake turnoff or looking up canyon from the road on your way down from North Lake.

75 – 100% – South Lake Rd above Mt. Glen Camp (8,600’) – Mostly past peak but still a lot of nice creek shots with some yellow, orange and a little red to be found.

75 – 100% – Mountain Glen Campground (8,400’) – Although closed to vehicle traffic, there are some spectacular shots of brilliant color available in and above this little creekside camp. Ample turnouts along the road provide some great shots too without too much work.

75 – 100% – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Some of the aspen have peaked here but there is still plenty of bright yellow and lime green spicing up the scenery. The groves just above the waterfall are really starting to pop.

Cardinal Mine (10/10/12) Krisdina Karady

75 – 100% – Groves above Cardinal Village & Aspendell (8,550’) – One of the most spectacular views in the canyon is from the road just above Aspendell looking south towards the crest, the middle fork Bishop creek and the gorgeous groves of aspen snaking their way up canyon in full fall color.

50 – 75% – Intake II, Big Trees Camp, Four Jeffries Camp (8,000’ – 8,300’) – Color has is developing in an uneven fashion at present making for some interesting photographic opportunities in these areas. Some stands of aspen are in full color while others only a few yards away appear to still be hanging on to summer. There is very cool grove on the far side of Intake II that is showing very bright orange and red hues.

All Photographs Copyright 2012 by Jared Smith, www.SmithSierraPhotography.com or courtesy of fall color contributor Krisdina Karady.


Rabbitbrush, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/6/12) Amanda Sweeney


Lassen Volcanic National Park – Go Now!

Ranger Amanda Sweeney reports Lassen Volcanic NP is approaching peak with orange and yellow ground covers dressing the hillsides near Kohm Yah-mah-nee, the Southwest Visitor Center and gold, lime and yellow to be seen along the Main Park Road to Manzanita Lake, where orange and gold are prominent.

75 – 100% – Southwest Area – The rusty orange mat of Mules Ear is dotted with late-blooming yellow and sage rabbitbrush.

50 – 75% – Devastated Area / Hat Creek – The cottonwood are getting near peak color (gold) and the aspen are still slowly turning (lime to yellow).

Manzanita Lake (10/6/12) NPS Webcam

75 – 100% – Manzanita Lake –The alder (orange), cottonwood (gold) and occasional aspen (yellow)  are at peak color.

Tehama County

0 – 15% – Red Bluff- Experiencing 10% little no to changes

Plumas County

30 – 50% – Plumas County – Color spotter Karen Moritz says Plumas County is approaching 50% of change.  She provides photos taken along Mill Creek near Quincy of riparian foliage showing nice reds and oranges.

Karen recommends visiting Q-topia, produced by blogger Charley Arrowsmith for a most fascinating look at Quincy’s famous Thieler Sugar Maple.  Day by day photos show its change from full summer green in late September to red in October.  CLICK HERE to see Judge Thieler’s eastern sugar maple change color.  If you click on previous years, you’ll be able to see the sugar maple’s annual change of color.  Better yet, head to the Shasta Cascade for a first-hand look.

Mill Creek, Plumas County (10/9/12) Michael Beatley

Indian Rhubarb, Mill Creek (10/9/12) Michael Beatley

Mountain Ash, Mill Creek (10/9/12) Michael Beatley

Riparian areas are coloring nicely, particularly among the Indian Rhubarb, with its big orangy-red trimmed leaves, to Mountain Ash, Sorbus californica, of the rose family with its pinnately compound leaf and red berries.  These were seen at the Mill Creek inlet to Bucks Lake.

Joe Willis of Black Oak Naturalist (see blog at left) says mountain ash are found “generally at higher elevations, like 6,000′ an’ up, but we have a beautiful, large cultivated one on our courthouse lawn (Quincy) at 3,500′.”

Look for Plumas County’s abundant yellow bigleaf maple and evergreens to provide nice contrast in coming weeks.

Willis posted today, to our delight, that a jelly donut must have been dropped among the oaks near Papa’s Donuts in Quincy, indicating that the two young oaks are sugaring up beautifully.  From the colorful photo on Joe’s site, they look like exotic red oaks, though Joe is the best to say what variety they might be.

Aspen in Plumas County starting to change a yellow color and are at about 65% change! The area of Taylorsville is at about 35% with beautiful yellows and reds.  Silver Maples near Quincy are starting to change colors with a 20% change.

15 – 30% – Siskiyou County: Color spotter Grace Smith of the Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association reports there has been very little change with the colors in Siskiyou. With a 30% color change it’s been slow but with the colder air, brighter colors are on their way. The forest is highlighting a lot of limes, yellows and some red in maples. There will be more fall colors higher in elevation.

15 – 30% – Modoc County: Modoc is experiencing bright fall colors in their National Forest! They have reported bright reds, oranges, and yellows everywhere! The Alturas area is experiencing cooler nights with some difference in the leaves. They are showing a shift to the bright yellows and oranges.

Lassen County

15 – 30% – BLM Eagle Lake / Bizz Johnson Trail & Lassen National Forest- 30%, Aspens have begun changing to yellows, and few oranges and reds. The trees are just starting to change, but there should be more change in the next few weeks.

Shasta County

15 – 30% – Whiskeytown NRA is noticing about 25% Elms turning to bright yellows and oranges around the visitors center. Trees on the mountain are still filled with bright greens and yellows.

15 – 30% – Shasta Lake is experiencing slow changes also around 15%. Some yellows are starting to appear, but with little rain they are very dry.

30 – 50% – Trinity County – Color has been changing 40% to limes and yellows. Bright reds are also starting to develop, but the season is still early.

0 – 15% – Butte County – Experiencing 10%, slow changes expected through the middle of October but so far their leaves are mainly made of lime greens and yellows.  


Elk Meadow, Orick (10/11/12) Redwood Adventures

0 – 15% – Redwood National Park – Color is appearing in the foliage around Elk Meadow, where Roosevelt elk have gathered for the annual rut.


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