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Tastes of Chico

Gingko biloba, Esplanade, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

“Smoke from the Camp Fire has lifted somewhat,” allowing Robert Kermen to get out of his northern Sacramento Valley home to do some errands in Chico.

Gingko biloba, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

He found gingko biloba in full peak along Chico’s Esplanade and was moved by an American flag, seeing it as a symbol of how Butte County is rebounding from the Camp Fire, where many friends and relatives lost their homes and businesses.

While in town, he stopped to pick persimmons which he plans to turn into  persimmon cookies and persimmon jello for the holidays.

Robert recommends using the Hachiya persimmon, not the Asian or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) which can be eaten like an apple and are great on a salad topped with vinegar and oil.

Hachiya persimmons must ripen completely before they can be eaten otherwise they are astringent. 

American robin, Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

That doesn’t stop wildlife from getting to them before they’re picked, as the American robin in his picture is doing.

Persimmons are favorite fare for opossums, rodents, white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, black bear and skunks.

  • Chico (197′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen
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Peak on the Wing

White pelicans, Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

Sometimes you don’t need fall color to find Peak.

Alena Nicholas found it Sunday at Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains, south of Idyllwild.

“Great cloud formations and active wildlife made up for “peak color,” she wrote. “As usual, there where plenty of guests fishing and camping at Lake Hemet,” and, as seen in these photos, several of them flew in for the weekend. (click to enlarge photos)

Bald eagle, Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

A photogenic flock of visiting white pelicans and resident pair of bald eagles have become local celebrities.

Lake Hemet’s human visitors rent 12′ motorboats, 22′ pontoon boats and kayaks at the marina or launch their own craft, to get closer to the birds. The pontoon boats are the most stable platform for capturing wildlife photography and the have the room to allow use of a tripod, which improves image sharpness.

The best way to approach is slowly and not closer than the point at which the birds notice or indicate concern about your presence. Otherwise, you’ll interrupt their natural behaviors and they will fly to another less-busy location. Too much of that and they’ll find another lake.

These wild birds perceive humans as a threat. So, a telephoto lens is needed to get closeup photographs.

Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

Dramatic cloud formations made colorful reflections on the lake. Along the shore, spots of Past Peak color could be seen. Nicholas estimates the remaining color should last through the Thanksgiving Day weekend, providing one more location to celebrate Orange Friday (the day following Thanksgiving Day to photograph fall color). 

  • Idlyllwild (5,413′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Lake Hemet (4,340′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
Black oak, Idyllwild (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

A Place of Many Identities

Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga (11/17/18) Ken Lock

Sunland-Tujunga is a neighborhood in the San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles by the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Crescenta Valley.

Which is to say, Sunland-Tujunga is a place of many identities.

Though, in late autumn it is known for its beauty, as captured in this First Report by Ken Lock using a Samsung Note 9.

Peak yellow, orange and gold fall color is seen zigzagging beside Big Tujunga Creek through Pipe Canyon, Ybarra Canyon and Stone Canyon, heading toward Wildwood.

Native to the area are Frémont cottonwood, bigleaf maple, box elder, chokecherry, California ash, California sycamore, white alder, California black walnut, California buckeye and various willows. 

  • Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles (1,512′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Feather River Reflections

Red Bridge, Feather River (11/15/18) Michael Beatley

Faded glory paralels La Porte Rd from Quincy to the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley found it near Red Bridge, an historic and still active gold mining claim, where clear skies, warm days, low humidity and cold nights have sustained the beauty of river grasses, well past the point that they should have lost their luster.

Though they are truly Past Peak, their reflected beauty is unquestioned. 

  • Feather River – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.


An old red barn, Oak Glen (11/15/18) Alena Nicholas

At a mile high, Oak Glen in the San Bernardino Mountains is now past peak, though you couldn’t tell that from these photos submitted today by Southern California color spotter Alena Nicholas.

Unwilling to give up on autumn, Alena headed there today, returning with splashes of intense color to be seen along Oak Glen Rd. Firethorn, Pyracantha, hang heavy with their orange-red berries near the entrance to Parrish Ranch.

Pyracantha, Parrish Ranch, Oak Glen (11/15/18) Alena Nicholas

The 23 attractions along the route display a cornucopia of farm-fresh and farm-preserved apple butter, pears, apple pies, cider, blackberries, fudge, jellies and jams, cider-infused mini donuts and U-pick apples with a mix of hay rides, petting zoos and farm tours thrown in.

This weekend, the farms will be busy selling fruit pies and pastry for Thanksgiving dinners and entertaining visitors with homespun events.

Alena reports herds of deer are roaming Oak Glen orchards, feasting on unpicked apples that have fallen between the trees. 

  • Oak Glen (5,200′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
Pumkin patch, Oak Glen (11/15/18) Alena Nicholas

Hazy Daze

Haze envelopes Frémont cottonwood, El Dorado Hills (11/14/18) John Poimiroo

Haze and smoke from the Camp Fire (Paradise) has residents of the Sacramento Valley wearing paper masks outdoors, as health warnings discourage outdoor activity, just as fall color nears peak.

Frémont cottonwood and brush along creeks are otherwise crowned with gold and scarlet at Folsom Lake, Mormon Islands Wetlands Preserve and along the Humbug-Willow Creek Trail in Folsom and El Dorado Hills.

The Camp, Woolsey and Hill Fires have created widespread human and financial loss. The best way to help those displaced by the fires is by contributing to one of these nonprofit organizations (we’ve done so):

North Valley Community Foundation: This nonprofit in Chico is raising money to support organizations that are sheltering evacuees of the Camp Fire. These could include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, said Logan Todd, a foundation spokesman.

California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund: For 15 years, the foundation has offered aid to those affected by wildfires. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.

California Fire Foundation: This organization is on the ground distributing financial assistance to people who have lost everything in the fires. Through its emergency assistance program, firefighters distribute pre-paid gift cards to help those who need to purchase necessities like food, medicine and clothing.

Caring Choices: This nonprofit, which is in Chico, Calif., has turned into a hub for organizing volunteers to help those affected by the Camp Fire. The organization has paused taking on new volunteers for the next few days but still encourages applications. Caring Choices is also seeking monetary donations for its operations.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles: This local branch of the national organization is raising money for those affected by the Woolsey and Hill Fires, specifically to help low-income residents.

United Way of Northern California: This local chapter of the national nonprofit has established a disaster relief fund to offer emergency cash and help to people who have lost their homes, according to a news release. 

  • Folsom – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • El Dorado Hills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Autumn In Your Backyard

Blue oak, Quercus douglassii, El Dorado Hills (11/10/18) John Poimiroo

Fall color has descended to California’s urban forests with Peak color appearing at elevations below 1,000′, bringing autumn to your backyard.

I captured these images during a five-minute walk of my backyard in El Dorado Hills (Sierra Foothills). 

  • Urban Forests – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!
Pin oak, Quercus palustris (11/14/18) John Poimiroo

November Peak

Trentadue Winery, Geyserville (11/12/18) David Sharp

North Sonoma County vines are “making their fall color move,” reports Sonoma County color spotter David Sharp.

He observes that most of the grape vines between Windsor and Cloverdale peak from early to late November, continuing, “In west Sonoma County, where most of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grow, most of the vines have gone past peak and are losing their leaves.”

Whereas, vines in northern Sonoma County ripen later and their fall colors are “just coming on and should be colorful through Thanksgiving.” 

  • Northern Sonoma County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Orchard Pickings

Apple tree, Los Rios Orchard, Oak Glen Rd. (11/11/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Visiting orchards has become a late-autumn tradition, with Californians heading to Julian for apple dumplings, to Oak Glen for cider-infused mini donuts, to San Luis Obispo for hard cider, to Sebastopol for U-pick apples, to Kelseyville in Lake County for a Pear Belle Helene (pear ice cream sundae), and to Apple Hill in Camino for apple pies.

With so many calories ahead, Southern California color spotter Ravi Ranganathan recommends walking the Oak Glen Preserve Botanical Garden in Yucaipa, soon after the trail opens at 8 a.m. It’s  got kid-friendly sections, as well as others that get your heart pumping and “beautiful fall colors along the trail.”

Of course, if that hike works up your appetite, head over to Snow Line Orchard for their delicious apple-cider-infused mini donuts and a glass of freshly pressed cider. Ravi recommends picnicking under an ancient chestnut tree beside an apple orchard. 

  • Julian – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Oak Glen – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • San Luis Obispo – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sebastopol – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Kelseyville – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Camino – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Chestnut and apple orchard, Snow Line Orchard, Oak Glen Rd (11/11/18) Ravi Ranganathan
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Special Report: New England

Cambridge (11/8/18) Crys Black

While California and the west have experienced exceptional color this autumn, it was disappointing in the northeast.

One of the warmest summers on record, one that extended into October and that kept nights warm, was credited for delaying color development across New England. Trees remained green into October. 

Then, it rained as temperatures cooled, ruining the leaves.

California color spotter Crys Black enjoyed a trip to beantown this week and sent back these snaps of New England’s trees carrying Peak to Past Peak color.

Though the show was not New England’s typical brilliant scarlet, gold, gamboge and orange, its somber tones of marroon, burnt umber, auburn and feuille morte have a deadened dignity that remains beautiful, particularly in the soft glow of twilight. 

  • New England – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
Cambridge (11/8/18) Crys Black