Carson Pass and Hope Valley

Red Lake Vista, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Today’s Sunday drive took us across Carson Pass and into the Hope Valley to scout fall color.

Meadow, Kirkwood Inn (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Caples Lake, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Log barn, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Hope Valley (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Sorensen’s Resort, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Willows, Woods Lake (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

As Joan and I neared the Kirkwood Lake turnoff, we were disappointed to see that winds had stripped the west slope of Carson Pass. Only the deep red and orange of meadow shrubs east of the Kirkwood Inn were still beautiful.

So, we approached Caples Lake hesitantly, finding the deeply textured vermillion aspen that Phillip Reedy had captured on 9/28 to be faded and Past Peak.

We then pulled off to explore Woods Lake, passing a few bright spots of yellow along the road to the picnic area. Woods is a picturesque subalpine lake, devoid of aspen, though chartreuse willows line its far shore. By noon, temperatures had only risen to the high 30s. So, we were glad to have brought along warm jackets, knit hats and fleece gloves, and promised ourselves to return in warmer months to kayak the lake.

Only when we reached Red Lake Vista near Carson Pass (8,652′) could full peak color be seen hundreds of feet below near the lake and extending south across the forest.

Continuing east into the heart of Hope Valley, aspen were front-lit and unexciting, but when you turned west, the backlit trees radiated vibrant yellow, while those to the north were orange, yellow and lime.

A stop at Sorensen’s found the resort bustling as usual for an autumn weekend. The waiting line for lunch was over an hour long. Visit midweek and you can get a table pretty quickly.

On both sides of the highway approaching and across from Sorensen’s, stands of aspen were irridescent yellow, as good as I’ve seen them there.

Now returning westbound through Hope Valley, the groves virtually caught fire, backlit with ten thousand points of intense yellow and orange.

Cars would stop at turnouts and unload occupants who would either hike out to the groves or stand by their cars taking cell phone pictures and selfies.

After taking a final shot at Red Lake Creek Cabin, I ran into an old friend who noticed that I seemed “to be on a mission” compared to others who were lingering to enjoy the color. He mentioned he’d missed peak in prior years, but was determined this autumn to spend the day with his wife celebrating her birthday and enjoying the Hope Valley at Peak.

He was not alone. CA-88 was bustling with leaf peepers. Annoyed motorists leaned on their horns to express frustration when they were forced to slow to avoid cars that were pulling in or out of crowded turnouts along the highway.

It made me think, was I becoming like the impatient motorists? I wasn’t honking, but I certainly wasn’t appreciating the moment.

Or was I? 

  • Kirkwood (7,690′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Caples Lake (7,800′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Woods Lake (8,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Vista (8,400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake (7,861′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Creek Cabin – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sorensen’s Resort (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
2 replies
  1. Luna says:

    Thank you for these beautiful pictures! I love autumn and looking at these pictures makes me happy. I hardly get to see foliage so being able to see it online is great.

    • John Poimiroo says:

      Thanks, Luna. Better get there quick, if you’re going to the Eastern Sierra. As, the upper reaches are now past peak.

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