Life and Eternity

Morning fog and mist, Carson Pass (9/19/21) Philip Reedy

In Taoist culture, the color vermilion represents life and eternity.

Perhaps what Philip Reedy and I call Vermilion Grove, a special stand of aspen near Caples Lake along CA-88, conveyed life and eternity to the aspen of the Carson Pass and Hope Valley, as on hearing that CA-88 had reopened, Philip Reedy scouted the route and found Vermilion Grove and aspen along Hwy 88 to be untouched by the Caldor Fire which had otherwise carbonized much of the forest.

At Carson Spur, Philip saw a spot fire below Caples Lake. A bystander had called it in to CalFire, though Phil opined that the morning mist may have helped keep it in check. As he drove toward Hope Valley, he held his breath, worrying that Vermilion Grove might be destroyed and wrote, “Just 90 degrees to the left below the earthen dam on Caples Lake, trees had burned up to the road.”

Vermilion Grove, East Shore, Caples Lake (9/19/21) Philip Reedy

However, that point was the eastern boundary of the fire along CA-88. Beyond it, the forest is unchanged. Vermilion Grove stood untouched and lit as usual in the morning light. Blackened forest behind it added to the moment’s drama. Vermilion Grove had survived, is Patchy and will likely peak in the coming week and a half. One of California’s most beautifully poetic scenes survived. Credit its name.

Beyond Vermilion Grove, there was little fall color to see. The aspen are still Just Starting, though the willows are flushed with a lovely tone of orange. The same occurs in Hope Valley where Phil found the forest to mostly green with some color developing, but noted that it’s still a week to two weeks from peak. Of note, Hope Valley’s aspen are devoid of blight and healthy, which means closeup photographs will provide attractive representations of them, this autumn.

Reedy noted that he’s learned, from early trips he’s made to the Hope Valley, that aspen just west of the Blue Lakes turnoff and along the Old California Trail are among the first to change. He found this to be true again with lots of yellow trees. Another spot to find them is in the grove overlooking the West Carson River where it crosses the highway. Orange and red leaves appear along with yellow at these locations and while the groves are not yet, of themselves to be sufficiently impressive, fallen aspen leaves provide colorful still life images.

  • Vermilion Grove (7,800′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

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