Black oak have begun to glow in Yosemite Valley, like jack o’ lanterns on All Hallows Eve.
By Halloween and into the first two weeks in November, their leaves will darken to a deep orange. Contrasted against their black trunks and branches, they are California’s Halloween tree.
Southern California color spotter Benjamin Vu captured these images at the beginning of their transition from yellow to orange. Look for the tell-tale black trunks to identify black oak (Quercus Kelloggii). Other trees in Vu’s photos are mostly cottonwood.
San Jose color spotter Son Nguyen found it perfect on Saturday, but strong winds and hail arrived on Sunday, stripping oaks of their leaves. He doubts they will last to the coming weekend.
At Fern Spring (Yosemite Valley) trees are bare at the spring, though “dogwood and maple are fantastic from the Pohono Bridge to Bridalveil Fall.”
Son was disappointed to find the bridge closed for construction with a large container on it in a way that would ruin any shot of the bridge. He estimates this area “will last another week, despite the hail.”
El Capitan Meadow was hit hard by the storm and most of the oaks “were done by Sunday afternoon.” Nguyen notes that he’s visited Yosemite Valley many times, but finds, “this is the weirdest year, ever. Usually, black oak are the last to start, but they’re pretty early this year,” though he added, “that makes the whole valley spectacular because of a different mix of colors.”
If there any black oaks remain to peak in the Valley, they likely will be found at Cooks Meadow, below Yosemite Falls, which Nguyen rates as Patchy.
Typically, Cooks Meadow’s peak continues past Halloween for a week or two, but considering the strong winds predicted this week, we will need additional reports from Yosemite spotters to say whether fall color will continue hanging on in the Valley.
Son found the go-to spot to be the Wawona Roadnear the south entrance of the park (CA-41 – Fishcamp), which he described as “amazing” and that “will last for a while. The dogwood is the best in this area. Strawberry Creek and Bishop Creek along the Wawona Road are also great.”
Returning to So. Calif. on Sunday, Oct. 27, Benjamin Vu crossed Tioga Pass to the eastside, then drove south on US 395, finding black cottonwood and black oak at Peak near McGee Creek Canyon as a light snow swirled around his vehicle, while hail was dropping on the westside.