What’s Coming: Intake II

Intake II (file photo) Matthew Pacheco

Often overlooked, because it peaks near the tail end of Bishop Creek Canyon’s show, Intake II is an area that Matthew Pacheco suggests adding to a list of must-photograph locations this autumn.

Intake II is less visited than many of the more popular locations up the canyon (South Lake, Lake Sabrina and North Lake), is reached easily and ringed with aspen.

Float tube angler, Intake II (File Photo) Matthew Pacheco

He writes, “it’s an amazing place to just sit and watch people fish or listen to the breeze through crisp colored aspen leaves. With a little luck and a fresh hot cocoa bought in bishop, you could make your way out to the docks to catch the early morning light as it catches the Eastern Sierra reflecting in the chilly waters of bishop creek, or maybe you’re like me and think taking your chances on the road less traveled to the opposite side of the lake might catch you the prize, either way… you can’t go wrong at Intake II, morning noon or late day.”

Aspen reflections, Intake II (File Photo) Matthew Pacheco

For those who choose to walk around the pond to the opposite shore, there are plenty of good spots to set up without other photographers nearby.

A review of past postings indicates Intake II peaks between the last week in September and the first in October.

Matt notes, “At approx. 8,000 ft elevation, there’s plenty of time to catch this wonderland in all its glory, after the higher elevation laser light shows dim down.”

Here’s more about this great location:


(8,103′)  16 miles southwest of Bishop
Managed by Southern California Edison, Intake II (aka: Intake No. 2) is the lowest lake in elevation in Bishop Creek Canyon. Easy to fish, Intake II is heavily planted during the season by CDFW with both pan-size rainbows and large trout. This lake is known as a great lake for both shore fishermen and tubers. The beautiful campgrounds at the west end of the lake are very popular. Intake II also provides wheelchair access for fishing with great opportunities for catching a big one. No boat rentals or services are available at Intake II.


Whoomp, There It Is!

The first leaf of autumn, Mono County (9/10/19) Jeff Simpson

Whoomp, there it is! The first leaf of autumn has been posted officially by Mono County color spotter Jeff Simpson.

Jeff said it was 24 degrees Fahrenheit in Bridgeport (the county seat) yesterday morning, causing him to leave the office and tour Rock Creek, Sagehen Summit and the Virginia Lakes in search of fall color.

He found mostly green to lime-colored coverage, though a few bright spots of yellow and orange aspen and golden willows were seen on his brief tour.

Jeff estimates that substantive change will appear near 10,000 feet near Rock Creek Lake in the coming week with areas between 9,000 and 10,400′ in elevation as the first to be worthy of “filling the card.”

Now, how does this compare to previous years?

At this time last year we were reporting about the same amount of color change … very little.

We had received reports of willows, ferns and shrubs turning golden, similar to what we reported last week. As, ground covers are the first to change their autumn colors.

So far, this autumn seems to be right on schedule, but then California is – if anything – consistent about its display of fall color. Here’s what Jeff found:

Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Just Starting (0-10%) A few leaves have begun to turn yellow. It’s still very early with almost foliage dressed in green or lime.

Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Just Starting (0-10%) Saghehen is still mostly green and lime. This location is often one of the first to reach full peak in Mono County. Jeff is predicting Near Peak and a GO NOW! designation within 7-10 days. 

Rock Creek Road (9,600’) – Just Starting (0-10%) Some yellow leaves are present around the lake level and in the upper elevations of Little Lakes Valley. Mostly green and lime green with another 5-7 days away from any real change.

At lower elevations in the Sierra, little to no fall color is yet visible. Color spotter Sylvia Wright drove Hwys 89, 88, 50 and 49 on a loop between Tahoe City and Auburn, finding zero color, “except for the bright new umbrellas at the Kirkwood Inn.”


Fall Events: Inyo County

Hot rod, hot color, hot photo at Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

In our series of reports on great fall events, we end where autumn begins … in the Eastern Sierra.

Inyo County is California’s dramatic backbone. It rises from the lowest point in North America (Death Valley, -282.2’) to the highest in the contiguous 48 states (Mt Whitney, +14,505’).

Because of that extreme elevation difference, fall color has been seen peaking in Inyo County from mid September to January. Prime peak, however, occurs up Eastern Sierra creek drainages from mid September through mid October.

U.S. 395 travels between Death Valley and Mt. Whitney through the Owens Valley. Along the route, the towns of Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine and Bishop and their locales hold one-of-a-kind events that celebrate the region’s cultural and natural history.

Inyo County is a place made famous for its western films, towering mountains, high plains, cattle and sheep ranchers, mountaineers, anglers, wranglers, native people, scenic touring routes, food and zest for fun.

Follow US 395 and this list to combine fall color viewing, festivals and events, this autumn:

  • Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 – First Friday Markets.  Downtown Bishop on Academy Street, between Main Street and Warren Street.  Handcrafted items, crafters and artisans, local produce, kid crafts, wine tasting, food booths, local beer and distillery and local bands.
  • Oct. 19 – Downtown Bishop Chocolate Art Walk, delicious to the tongue and the eye.

Fall events: Mono County

June Lake Autumn Beer Festival (file photo) Mono County Tourism

Each autumn, events bring together opportunities to see fall color and have fun at inexpensive gatherings. They vary from car shows, to brewfests, to nature walks, to history talks, to photo and art classes, to runs, rides and banquets with local legends.

To help add some of this fun to your fall color wanderings, CaliforniaFallColor.com will be publishing lists of California’s best autumn events. We begin in the Eastern Sierra.

For those unfamiliar with Mono County, it’s from where the sun rises over Yosemite National Park.

Mono County is best known as home of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain, June Lake and its famous loop, Tioga Pass, Mono Lake, Bodie Ghost Town State Historic Park, cattle rangeland that spreads across the Bridgeport Valley, the Owens River, Walker River and Antelope Valley, but it also has many precious surprises.

Mono County is reached by US 395, Monitor Pass (CA-89), Sonora Pass (CA-108) and Tioga Pass (CA-120E).

Fall color can be seen first near tree line (10,000′) at Rock Creek Lake by mid-Sept. Then, it descends at a rate of about 500′ a week, before it’s gone. During the show, these events add flavor and fun to a Mono County fall (Click bold titles for links):

  • Sept/Oct. – Field Seminars by the Mono Lake Committee, including such topics as: fire ecology, geology, fall color, arborglyphs, watercolor painting and photography.
  • Sept. 3 – Nov. 15 – Ambush at the Lake, a renowned fishing derby at Convict Lake, with Morrison’s Bonus Derby occurring Oct. 26 – 28.
  • Sept. 6 – 8 – Graniteman Challenge, combine three athletic feats into what is considered to be one of the most challenging triathlons on Earth.
    • Sept. 6 – Granite to Granite Swim, 2.4-mi on June Lake.
    • Sept. 7 – Mammoth Gran Fondo, 102-mi bike ride.
    • Sept. 8 – Tioga Pass Run, a 12.4-mi run up Tioga Pass.
  • Sept. 6 – 8 – June Lake Jam Fest at Gull Lake, a jammin’ concert benefitting the Mono Arts Council.
  • Sept. 20 – 21 – Mammoth Oktoberfest, beer, wine, family-friendly games and mouth-watering food.
  • Sept. 21 – Bodie Hills Stewardship Day, by Friends of the Inyo. Give back with other outdoor enthusiasts at a volunteer project then celebrate your good work with new-found friends.
  • Sept. 24 – 28 – Eastern Sierra ATV & UTV Jamboree in Coleville and Walker, ride your OHV on guided trail rides through gorgeous backcountry.
  • Sept. 28 – Ridge Rambler Half Marathon in Twin Lakes. Run downhill from Twin Lakes (7,100′) to Bridgeport (6,600′), past alpine lakes and over rolling hills. End up at the Bridgeport Autumn Festival & Wrecks and Rods Car Show.
  • Sept. 28 – 7th June Lake Autumn Beer Festival at Gull Lake. Brewers will present their craft brews in a music and fun-filled family-friendly beer garden.
  • Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day – Free admission to Yosemite National Park. Voluntourism projects.
  • Sept. 28, Oct. 12 and Oct. 26 – Historic Benton Hot Springs Fundraising Dinners. History-focused dinner talks provide fascinating insights to: Scandalous Women of Benton, Restless Spirits of the Old Stone Store, and Warren Davis, Gentleman Horse Thief.
  • Oct. 5 – 55th Deer Hunter BBQ. Dine with local legends on a legendary secret BBQ recipe with all the fixin’s and dessert at the Walker Community Center.
  • Oct. 6 – Crowley Lake Trail Run. 5k, 10k and kids 1k trail runs along scenic Crowley Lake and past Beaver Cove and Crooked Creek with views of the Sierra Nevada and Glass Mountains.
  • Oct. 10 – 13 – Mammoth Photo Festival. Learn from professional landscape photographers in panel sessions, keynote addresses and photo walks.
  • Oct 12 – Bodie Fall Photo Day, apply for access to photograph Bodie Ghost Town at this special photographer’s event.
  • Oct. 10 – 15 – Annett’s Mono Village Fall Fishing Derby. This is an ideal fishing event for kids and kids at heart.
  • Oct. 12 – Ducks Unlimited Dinner in Bridgeport. Support waterfowl protection at an evening of camaraderie and good food.
  • Oct. 18 – 20 – Leaves in the Loop at June Lake. A fall color focused festival that features photography and painting classes, contests, a history tour and “Taste of the Town,” restaurant sampling.
  • Oct. 25 – 27 – Eastern Sierra History Conference at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory Page Center (10 mi south of Mammoth Lakes). Historian-led discussions on the people, cultures and traditions of the Eastern Sierra.

Backroad Beauty

Drummond’s Cinquefoil (Drymocallis glandulosa), Baker Creek, Eastern Sierra (4/24/19) Gigi De Jong

The Eastern Sierra is now airbrushed with vibrant yellow, pink, blue, white, lavendar, crimson and purple wildflowers, reports Gigi De Jong from Bishop.

Gigi says most of the creeks leading out of the Sierra are feeding a flush of color along the foothills that is filling the sweet air with wild floral scents.

Flower types vary according to their proximity to the water and the soil and elevation where they’re growing, including cinquefoils, lupine, exotic bachelor’s buttons, tickseed and others.

Many are sprayed across the hillsides. The predominantly yellow flowers growing close to the ground are often obscured by sage and rabbit brush, until you get out among them.

This is a great time of year to explore by off-road vehicle or by hiking, as many dirt roads and trails travel near the drainages.

For the Jeep roads that climb into the Eastern Sierra foothills, high-clearance vehicles are often needed. CLICK HERE for a list of OHV Roads in the Inyo National Forest.


Owens Valley Coming Out

Chuckwalla (Sauromalus),Owens Valley (4/13/19) Gigi De Jong

It’s springtime in the Owens Valley and wildflowers are appearing first from the lowest elevations to the highest.

Gigi De Jong sends these images with a report that wildflowers are abloom in the southern Owens Valley and marching north.

Even the lizards are coming out.


25° x 36° x 118°

Alabama Hills, Inyo County (12/15/18) Bruce Wendler

Alabama Hills, Inyo County (12/15/18) Bruce Wendler

It was 25° when Bruce Wendler passed the Alabama Hills at 36° 35′ 41.141″ N by 118° 6′ 11.232″ W, yesterday.

Cold enough for a winter day, yet it was still autumn. The proof? These pictures. 

  • Alabama Hills (4,534′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Last Light

Pecan orchard, CA-20, Williams (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

The last light of fall color can still be seen in California’s orchards and woodlands.

Walt Gabler found it along CA-20 from Williams to Clear Lake, though noted “It is nearing its end.”

Black oak, CA-20, Upper Lake (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

The Lake County region (north of the Napa Valley) gets its fall color from its pear and walnut orchards, vineyards and California native trees (bigleaf maple, black oak, cottonwood).

This lovely area surrounds the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. It is also ancient. Samples of sedimentary levels date it as 480,000 years old.

Renowned as a bass fishing water, Clear Lake is also famed for watersports, including swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, sailing, jet skiing and boat racing.

More recently, the area’s wineries have attracted attention.  The best-known Lake County wineries include: Guenoc, Langtry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Ployez Winery, Steele Wines, and Wildhurst Vineyards.

Christmas berry, Toyon, Colusa/Lake County Line (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

This late in autumn, snow has dusted the High Sierra and California holly (Toyon) are now dressing coastal and valley woodlands with bright red Christmas berries. 

Conway Summit, US 395 (12/3/18) Walt Gabler
  • CA-20, Williams to Upper Lake – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed It.

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Death Valley Crossing

Lone Pine (11/25/18) Crys Black

The story of the first crossing of Death Valley is an epic tale of ’49ers who attempted a late autumn trek from the Great Salt Lake to California’s gold fields by way of the “Old Spanish Trail,” which was purported to travel around the southern end of the Sierra.

By the time they neared Death Valley, they’d run out of water, abandoned their wagons, and killed their oxen and horses for sustenance. An early snow storm provided life-saving water.

Only one of the party, which had split into separate groups, died along the route, but as they made their way west over the Panamint Range, someone is said to have turned back to look upon the deep valley they’d struggled to cross and proclaimed, “Goodbye, Death Valley.”

And so, the valley was named.

Northern California color spotter Crys Black made her own Death Valley crossing over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. She wrote, “After struggling to get to the Eastern Sierra on Wednesday night, we enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving at The Rafters in Mammoth Lakes.

“Foiled from traversing desert trails due to road closures, we went down Lower Rock Creek Rd and were stunned to see some color still hanging in that little community near the bottom that calls itself Paradise with these photos taken near the Lower Rock Creek Trail Lower Trailhead.

“Suddenly hopeful, we spent the weekend around Death Valley. Beatty, NV, home to wild donkeys, and Lone Pine were both in full and glorious peak color.

“We were terribly thankful to have been at the right places to continue to enjoy a continuing, wonderful fall color season,” Crys concluded.

We turn back and add, “Goodbye, Fall Color.” 


Fabled Hills of Western Lore

Cottonwood, Alabama Hills, Mt. Whitney, Eastern Sierra (11/25/18) Clayton Peoples

 The Alabama Hills, in the shadow of Mt. Whitney in California’s southern Eastern Sierra, are a fabled landscape.

Lone Pine Creek, Alabama Hills, Mt Whitney (11/25/18) Clayton Peoples

Virtually hundreds of films and television episodes were filmed there including such epic productions as Gunga Din and The Charge of the Light Brigade, though the Alabama Hills’ rounded and weathered rocks are visually synonymous with classic “Westerns.”

John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, Clint Eastwood, William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Roy Rogers, Will Rogers, Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger), Jimmy Stewart, Hoot Gibson and countless other Hollywood cowboys were ambushed among its rocks, draws and arches.

The hills were named by Confederate sympathizers after they heard news of the Confederate States Ship Alabama’s successes in raiding U.S. ships during the Civil War. The miners named many of their claims after the CSS Alabama and the name came to be applied to the entire range.

The Bureau of Land Management now manages the Alabama Hills which is a popular place for hiking, off-road touring, amateur astronomy (due to its clear skies), motion picture history and photography.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples visited on Sunday. He said, “I was delighted to find that fall color was still hanging on in the Alabama Hills. In fact, it was still what I would consider Peak and was some of some of the finest color I’ve ever encountered there.”

This is not unusual for the Alabama Hills. Photographs of the tree have been published here the past two Januarys, certifying California’s five-month display of peak fall color.

Clayton found the cottonwood “bearing a full coat of golden-yellow leaves.” And, in true ‘Westerns’ narrative style, continued, “Meanwhile, along Lone Pine Creek the variety of trees and shrubs that line its banks were sporting full color, ranging from yellow to orange to brown.”

Randolph Scott would be proud. 

  • Alabama Hills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!