Entries by John Poimiroo

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Holiday Ornaments

Strawberry Tree, Arbutus menziesii (11/28/21) Philip Reedy

Numerous ornaments decorate trees in late autumn. 

There are, of course, the manmade type that are hung on Christmas trees, but also many types of colorful berries grow in the wild and in our gardens … crimson toyon, vermilion pyracantha, purple beautyberries and the yellow, orange and red fruit of the Madrone, Arbutus menziesii  (Strawberry Tree).

Today, Phil Reedy and I had the same idea. Instead of traveling afar to find fall color, just go outside and discover it in our yards. In addition to arbutus berries and blossoms, Phil noticed that all the sycamore in Davis had lost their leaves with just a lone flowering pear leaf nestled among their tan remains. It’s now past peak there and peak has dropped to sea level.

Strawberry Tree, Arbutus menziesii (11/28/21) John Poimiroo


San Ramon Valley

San Ramon (11/22/21) Salil Bahtt

Danville is the neighbor who hangs his holiday lights early in the month. San Ramon waits until Thanksgiving Day.

Salil Bahtt took a Thanksgiving Day hike through the Sunol Regional Wilderness and found decorations still hanging from many of the wilderness’ native trees.

Most of the color is found in East Bay drainages and canyons where western sycamore, valley and blue oak, bigleaf maple, white

alder, creek dogwood and black walnut reside. Of these, Salil noted , only the sycamore, cottonwood and a few maple remain decorated.

Whereas in nearby San Ramon a riot of pink, scarlet and gold decorates the town, as exotic trees (principally red maple) and native cottonwood haven’t yet gotten the word that autumn decorations are being taken down elsewhere throughout the East Bay.

  • San Ramon Valley (486′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

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Gone With The Wind

Western Sycamore, Malibu Creek SP (11/22/21) Kathy Jonokuchi

The Santa Anas are strong, downslope winds that flow out of the Great Basin toward Southern California in autumn. They’re fearsome, in that they often feed raging wildfires that incinerate dry areas of Southern California’s mountain ranges. This year, they scoured leaves from the branches of deciduous trees throughout the Santa Monica Mountains.

Southern California color spotter and naturalist Kathy Jonokuchi visited a favorite location, Malibu Creek State Park, where the forest appears Patchy with only a quarter of the trees still carrying their leaves.

The park was previously used for on-location filming of M*A*S*H the popular TV comedy about a Korean War mobile surgery unit. Once part of 20th Century Fox’s Movie Ranch, the location continues to appear in motion pictures and TV productions. However, Gone With The Wind was not filmed within the boundaries of the state park, although a scene in which Gerald walks with Scarlet was shot nearby at Malibu Lake.

Kathy did not visit Malibu Creek SP to study film history, but to study its trees and birds. She wanted to see how Western Sycamore have fared since the Woolsey Fire, four years ago, and found a grove that were spared the flames and are flourishing.

That’s good news for the Nanday Conure, naturalized parrots, which feed off sycamore seed pods during autumn. And, once the trees lose their leaves, it’s easier to see the conures. During her visit, Kathy noticed the appearance of ash on the ground, but realized it was the fluffy seeds of cattail rushes, blown to the ground by the Santa Anas. The seeds will propagate in marshy  areas, a benefit of the Santa Anas which are otherwise thought of as a Southern California inconvenience.

  • Malibu Creek State Park, Santa Monica Mountains .91 – 2,739′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)


Fly Me To The Moon

Snow Geese, Colusa NWR (11/26/21) Steve Arita

For a wildlife viewing experience that’s over the moon, head to the Colusa National Wildlife Refuge, an hour’s drive north of Sacramento (I-5) between Williams and Colusa off Abel Rd. There, thousands of migratory waterfowl overwinter.

In late autumn, you’re likely to see hundreds of waterfowl, including snow geese, Ross’ geese, greater white-fronted geese, Canada geese, northern pintail ducks, Eurasian wigeons, northern shovelers, falcated ducks and ring-necked ducks among their number. Numerous shorebirds take their place when the duck and geese depart.

One of the great dramas that can unfold is when a mass ascension occurs. That’s when thousands of birds take off suddenly in a loud flapping, squawking mass when alerted to the approach of  predatory eagles and hawks.

Steve Arita was there yesterday and captured these images. Consider arriving soon after dawn to photograph the birds as they wing into the pond at the observation deck at the entrance to the circular auto tour. 

Greater White-fronted Geese, Colusa NWR (11/26/21) Steve Arita

  • Colusa NWR – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!~


Capital Color

State Capitol, Sacramento (11/25/21) Vishal Mishra

Vishal and Seema Mishra returned to Sacramento on Thanksgiving Day, where fall color is peak to past peak.

Areas of peak color include: Capitol Park, Southside Park and William Land Regional Park. Though, beautiful fall color is also found in the Fabulous Forties (Avenues in the 40s), Curtis Park and in mid-town (east of the State Capitol between J and Q, 15th and 25th).

Many of the tallest trees along Sacramento’s streets are London Plane Trees (Platanus occidentalis), though also look for Chinese elm, Autumn blaze maple, Liquidambar, hickory and Gingko biloba.

The first reference to Sacramento being the City of Trees dates back to 1855. Prior to that, the city was known as “The City of Plains.” Then, a gold miner planted 12 cottonwoods. Soon after, it became a community effort to plant shade trees to make life in Sacramento more tolerable during its hot summers, Capital public radio reports.

By the 1930s, residents were planting one tree for every two residents. Paris had a ratio of one for every ten residents, but also many more trees in total that did Sacramento. Nevertheless, Sacramentans couldn’t withhold claiming more trees per capita than Paris, in a feat of civic boosterism. 

A 2018 study found 87,234 trees growing in Sacramento, with the Land Park neighborhood having the densest canopy. However, that figure only includes trees that grow along streets and in parks. An authority estimates that about one million trees grow in Sacramento, two for every resident.

With good reason, it has earned the sobriquet, “City of Trees.”

Gingko biloba, Sacramento (11/25/21) Vishal Mishra

  • Sacramento (30′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

Orange Friday

Sunset, Folsom Lake (11/26/21) John Poimiroo

Orange Friday (the day following Thanksgiving Day) ended with a cobalt, purple, crimson, orange and yellow sunset above the Sacramento Valley.

While some chose to get up early to stand in lines at shopping centers, we chose to rise late, eat pancakes in our pajamas, hike to Folsom Lake, play ping pong, shoot arrows at targets, take silly pictures of cousins and watch a college football game (my team lost).

Then, everyone sat around the TV to see the new Home Alone movie, but when someone said, “You oughta see the sunset,” cameras and cell phones were grabbed and we rushed out onto the porch.

We didn’t save a dime at a sale, but what we experienced on Orange Friday was far more valuable.

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Giving Thanks and Looking Back at 2021


On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is thankful to the 95 color spotters who contributed reports, photographs and videos in 2021.

They include (from first leaf): Philip Reedy, Jeff Simpson, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Clayton Peoples, Gary Young, Michael Beatley, Michelle Pontoni, Julie Kirby, Steve Arita, Vishal Mishra, Bruce Wendler, Kathy Jonokuchi, Jen Miyara, Mark Harding, Gabriel Leete, Sarah Wollock, Jim Van Matre, Soyoung Kim, Robert Kermen, John Ehrenfeld, Woody Elliott, Angie Plaisted, Don Vilfer, Mark Hanning-Lee, Alicia Vennos, Lucas Yan, Liz Grans, Jeff Hemming, Michael Tolchard, Elliot McGucken, Mike Caffey, Ryan Boyd, Emo Gyetvai, Austin Grove, James Haase, Walt Gabler, Jan Arendtsz, Jeremy Johnson, Morgan Terrell, Anusha Ravioo, Pierre Redmond, Frank McDonough, Bill McFall, David Sharp, Bob Simms, Gabby Tobar Balcunas, Gary Skipper II, Anson Davalos, Jason Branz, Max Forster, Liliana Beatley, Shanda Ochs, Parrish Todd, Jeri Rangel, Peter Robbins, Bin Lin, Adarsh Dattani, Lyle Gordon, Anish Sidhan, Gene Miller, Jason Francisco, Travel Crazy Katie, Mariana Dillingham, Wilderness Amani, Sweet Me Life, M&J, Golden Island Walks, Jobille Tuts, Bella’s Grandma, Nao Tharp (Sky Rock Media), Julia Jia Rao, Life of Fernandos, Farmer Omni, Natural Priyanka Vlogs, Bob Bong Travels, Sonoma Shorts, Jon Lenvik, Our & My Memories, SmithsGold, The Mads of San Diego, Biprajt Dutt, NBCLA, Strangers Abroad, Eastern Sierra Now, Kiran Kumar, Pete A, Robert Olsson, Hieu Nguyen, Modern Mangai, Happenin, Omni Nova, Rahi’s Wall, Wilderness Wanderers, Peter Mikuljan, Life after Halftime and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video. If, somehow, we missed you, please know it wasn’t intentional. We are truly indebted to every contributor.

Special thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau, Mono County Tourism and Mammoth Lakes Tourism for underwriting California Fall Color, and to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.

Of course, this list is not complete without mentioning Joan, my bride of 51 years. She has pulled the car to the shoulder so that I could jump out to photograph particularly beautiful locations; humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out spectacular color; and tolerated my exuberance in showing her countless stunning photographs taken by our contributors.

Our deepest thanks go to our readers who on over one hundred thousand occasions opened, read, followed, reacted to and commented here and on our social media pages. You are, after all, the reason we do this.

Above is our video impression of autumn across California in 2021. Fall began hesitantly, with the Dixie and Caldor fires burning huge areas of fall color in the Northern and Western Sierra. The fires eventually receded and after skies were clear of haze luster returned to the forests. A drought delayed the salmon run, then a bomb cyclone deluged the mountains reinvigorating streams and waterfalls. The dusting of snow from that event provided dramatic contrast just as leaves were at peak. Not as many locations were photographed this year – perhaps because of forest closures and lingering smoke. Though those that were submitted were beautiful.

The photographs selected for this year’s video represent: what happened (including a couple that show the impact of fires), the diversity of fall color across the state, and some of the finest photography of 2021. This was a notable year for Yosemite Valley, as evidenced by the many exceptional photographs taken there this autumn. Gorgeous color was also seen in the Eastern Sierra.

If you would like your photographs considered for inclusion in next autumn’s video, we recommend that you submit “horizontal,” high resolution (300dpi), not-watermarked photographs, within a week of having captured them. Pictures taken in places not often photographed have an advantage in getting selected, as competition is stiffest among pictures taken at popularly photographed destinations.

Autumn doesn’t end today. It continues for nearly a month longer. We’ll continue to post photos and reports, as received. Though today, we dial back reports and will post them less frequently. We’ve also stopped sending  weekly updates to meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.

So, enjoy your Thanksgiving Day and plan an Orange Friday of fall color spotting, tomorrow.

See you next autumn, dude.

California – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – In our hearts, California is always peaking.


Looking Back at Autumns Past

On Thanksgiving Day, California Fall Color posts its message of thanks and video review of autumn 2021. It will be the tenth annual “California Fall Color Looks Back” video. Although CaliforniaFallColor.com went live in 2009, it wasn’t until 2012 that our first video review was posted. In advance of seeing “California Fall Color Looks Back at 2021,” here are videos fom years past.

Ron Tyler created each video. Ron is head of the Tyler Marketing Group, an El Dorado Hills-based marketing communications consultancy with expertise in social media, product marketing and video. Previous videos were judged among the state’s best outdoor videos by the Outdoor Writers Association of California.

Each of the photographs selected for these videos is representative of what happened that autumn, the extent and diversity of fall color seen across the state, and some of the finest photographs taken that year.


Apple Hill

Apple Hill, El Dorado County (11-20-21) Vishal Mishra

Apple Hill, like so many other Sierra foothill areas, has long gone past peak. 

Vishal and Seema Mishra visited on Saturday to pick up a pie. The only thing at peak in Camino when they visited were the  bakeries out of whose ovens a steady stream of Thanksgiving Day pies emerged. As, there was little color on orchard branches. Most of it was on the ground or baked into the pies.

  • Apple Hill, Camino (3,133′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.