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Autumn’s Critters

California Gray Squirrel, Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Normally, photographs a week old aren’t published on CaliforniaFallColor.com. That’s done purposefully so that our readers see what colors are appearing now. However, when Gary Skipper sent these shots of autumn’s critters taken a week ago, I recognized they’re not about the fall color but about the critters, and that’s timeless.

Besides, there’s an autumn story to tell and it’s my birthday, so it’s my present to you … or more properly, Gary’s present.

Leading the birthday party is the California Gray Squirrel, Sciurus griseus. A trait of our native squirrels are that they are timid and will run up a tree at the slightest provocation and sound a hoarse chirping call. Also, they’re threatened by an invasive specie, the Eastern Fox Squirrel, Scurius niger. So, our California squirrel needs all the attention he can get, even if he is camera shy.

Lodgepole chipmunk, Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

California quail, Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

California Gray Squirrel, Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining the Western Gray Squirrel (its other name) is a Lodgepole chipmunk, Tamias speciosus, and standing at attention is a California quail, Callipepla californica.

Gary took the photographs at Jackson Lake near Wrightwood in Southern California. He said Vallyermo had good pockets of fall color when he visited, though admitted some of the subtleties may be missing, since he’s color blind.

The only word of advice we have is, “Gary, don’t adjust your white card. The colors are great!” And, because he did so well, despite not having the same ability others have at determining red or green, I’m gonna break that rule and post the rest of his shots, even though the Jackson Lake, Vallyermo and Wrightwood area is Past Peak.

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

 

Black oak, Jackson Lake (10/31/21) Gary Skipper II

  • Jackson Lake, Wrightwood (6,000′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.

Mining Gold

Sycamore, Empire Cottage, Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

Yesterday, Steve Arita went mining for gold at Empire Mine State Park in Grass Valley.  He found autumn colors at peak with a few trees past peak, but beautiful nonetheless, He recommends getting there quickly to see the best of the remaining color.

Maple Lane, Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

One exception is “Maple Lane,” a one-lane road that is surrounded by tall maples. “Most of the trees were lime green, with about 25% at peak.” Steve estimates Maple Lake should continue to improve this week with peak by the end of the coming week.

Empire Mine is described by California State Parks as being “”one of the oldest, largest, deepest, longest and richest gold mines in California” During its active life, the mine generated $10.556 billion in gold bullion in today’s dollars.

Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

Reflecting Pond, Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

Empire Mine SP, Grass Valley (11/5/21) Steve Arita

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Empire Mine State Park, Grass Valley (2,411′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

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Evolution

Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis (Sunbust [l], Rhus aromatica [r], LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is evolving. A week ago, it was just starting. Now it’s just … Patchy.

Walkers and photographers visited the day Frank McDonough took these pics. The Arboretum is a late November peak and it appears to be progressing toward that. It’s a bellweather for other arboretums in Southern California. So, plan your visits based on what you see here and if you’re trying to decide on the right tree or foliage to add fall color to your garden, this month is the time to visit them.

Liriodendron tulipfera, Meadowbrook Section, LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

Acer fremanii (Jeffers Red), LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

Baldwin Lake, LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carya ovata(Shagbark hickory), LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

Crepe myrtle, LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

Acer freemanii (Jeffers Red), Event Lawn, LA County Arboretum (11/5/21) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (482′) – Patchy (10 – 50%)

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American River Parkway

California grape, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

California Fall Color’s Hike/Bike of the Week is the American River Parkway. This 32-mile national recreation trail travels from Old Sacramento, downtown, east to Folsom.

There is not a profusion of fall color along the trail, but what is there is beautiful. Presently, California grape (Vitis californica) are Near Peak and Frémont cottonwood are Patchy.

Occasional bold splashes of color are seen along the route, though it is the sheer beauty of the trail, which meanders beside the American River, which makes it prime to bicycle or hike. Officially called the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, the multi-use path is used by eight million visitors annually, making it one of the most popularly used recreation trails in North America.

All of the trail is fairly flat and easy walking or riding. Among the best sections of trail are from the Guy West Bridge at Sacramento State University, west to Folsom. Good starting points are Guy West, William Pond Recreation Area, River Bend Park, Hagen Park, Lower Sunrise, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Negro Bar SRA and historic downtown Folsom. Expect to pay for parking, except at the hatchery. A great ride is the 12-mile Lake Natoma Loop which travels from the Fish Hatchery east to Folsom and back, looping Lake Natoma with several historic sites along the way.

A favorite stopping point is Historic Downtown Folsom, with its many great restaurants (Karen’s Bakery is a popular stop for cyclists), interesting shops, authentic gold rush era architecture and several historic sites. E-bikes can be rented at the parking garage in Folsom, if you don’t own or can’t transport a bike.

California grape, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

Frémont cottonwood, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

California grape, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

California grape, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

California grape, American River Parkway, Folsom (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Near Hazel Blvd in Rancho Cordova, the Nimbus Fish Hatchery just opened a new fish ladder which is an ideal place to see salmon spawning. Walk to where the fish ladder leaves the American River (bottom picture). There, hundreds of huge king salmon await their moment to run upstream and swim past spectators (watching them through picture windows) on their way to the hatchery. Inside the hatchery are interactive, museum-quality exhibits on the life of the salmon.

King salmon, Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Rancho Cordova (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Rancho Cordova (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Rancho Cordova (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

 

Nimbus Fish Hatchery, Rancho Cordova (11/4/21) John Poimiroo

  • American River Parkway (89′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%), Go Now.

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Another Yosemite Valley

Zumwalt Meadow Trail, S Fork Kings River, Kings Canyon NP (10/30/21) Bin Lin

Bet you didn’t know that there are three “Yosemite Valleys” in California:  Yosemite, Hetch Hetchy and Kings Canyon.

A “Yosemite” valley is the geologic term for a glacier-carved, U-shaped valley. California has three, though there are others on Earth.

This past Saturday, Bin Lin visited one of them … Kings Canyon, just as it was at peak.

S Fork Kings River, Kings Canyon NP (10/30/21) Bin Lin

S Fork Kings River, Kings Canyon NP (10/30/21) Bin Lin

S Fork Kings River, Kings Canyon NP (10/30/21) Bin Lin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Kings Canyon National Park (4,987′) – Peak (75 – 10%) GO NOW!

Fire Red

Poison oak, Ventana Wilderness (10/29/21) Lyle Gordon

On Lyle Gordon’s recent trek into the Santa Lucia mountains in the Ventana Wilderness, he found yellow bigleaf maple, orange black oak and fire-red poison oak at peak.

Pacific or Western poison oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum, thrives in chapparal, coastal sage scrub, oak woodlands and mixed evergreen forests as found in the Ventana Wilderness. Several native animals including mule deer, western gray squirrels and California ground squirrels can eat the toxic plant that’s otherwise toxic to human touch. Domesticated animals such as livestock and dogs aren’t bothered by poison oak, but they can transmit its toxic oils by brushing up against the plant.

It is urushiol, an oil produced by poison oak, that coats its leaves and causes a painful and irritating rash following contact. Native Chumash people were able to apply urushiol in medicinal uses, though with caution.

Despite its notorious reputation, poison oak has beautiful autumn color, varying from auburn to vermilion, to fire red. Just look, don’t touch.

Ventana Wilderness (10/29/21) Lyle Gordon

Black oak, Ventana Wilderness (10/29/21) Lyle Gordon

Brushy vegetation is normal in the fire-prone Ventana Wilderness. Its topography is characterized by steep-sided, sharp-crested ridges that separate v-shaped, youthful valleys, the US Forest Service describes.

Elevations vary from 600 feet where the Big Sur River drops out of the Wilderness to 5,570′ at its boundary near Junipero Serra Peak.

Fire is an integral part of this wilderness, so it has limited effect on vegetation other than to keep it stunted and struggling for all of the wilderness but a few virgin stands of coastal redwood that survive along the Big and Little Sur Rivers.

  • Ventana Wilderness (3,000′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

Poison oak, Ventana Wilderness (10/29/21) Lyle Gordon

Bigleaf maple, Ventana Wilderness (10/29/21) Lyle Gordon

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Why the Long Face?

Quincy Junction Rd., Plumas County (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

This horse seems to be replying, “Sure, it’s beautiful in this pasture, but there’s not an apple tree in sight. You wouldn’t happen to have one on you, would you?”

Vishal and Seema Mishra traveled north to Plumas County this weekend, catching the tail end of peak color in Quincy and Graeeagle on a weekend decorated with festive fall happenings.

Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Autumn color is now past peak in Quincy and Graeagle. The trees have lost the luster they carried just days earlier, though autumn can still be enjoyed along with its festive atmosphere in southeast Plumas County.

Graeagle (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra 

Indian picnic, Creekside Retreat, Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Indian picnic, Creekside Retreat, Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Creekside Retreat, Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

M Fork Feather River, Graeagle (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creekside Retreat, Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Bucks Lake Rd, Meadow Valley (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Old Meadow Valley Rd, Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quincy-LaPorte Rd (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy, Plumas County (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy, Plumas County (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy, Plumas County (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

Quincy, Plumas County (10/30/21) Vishal Mishra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Quincy (3,342′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Graeagle (4,373′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

 

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America The Beautiful

Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Yosemite locals are often asked, “Do you ever get tired of the beauty?” I would answer when living in the Valley for nearly a decade, “When you stop looking up, you’ve been here too long.”

I never tired of looking up.

Tunnel View, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Yosemite Valley is the most beautiful 2.12 square miles on Earth. Everything about it is perfection.

Elliot McGucken and Steve Arita visited this weekend and each said three words, “Peak, GO NOW!”

Their words may remain good for another day or two, but not much longer. Beyond that, you’ll miss the “at peak” visceral context expressed within America the Beautiful.

Steve noted that the bomb cyclone has “definitely brought back to life the famous waterfalls at Yosemite…the water was just thundering across the valley floor…and not obviously just the waterfalls, but the Merced river and all areas throughout the valley there was water, that combined with the gorgeous fall colors at peak…just made for a beautiful place to be.”

He recommends these locations for the best fall color:

Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita

1. The parking area near Yosemite Falls “was simply gorgeous, very bright and intense, more than I’ve seen in past years, so definitely a place folks may want to take time to see.” A forest of black oak extends from the base of Yosemite Falls, east to the Yosemite School and can frame the falls beautifully with orange and black.

2. Autumn color throughout the valley is beautiful and at peak.
3. Steve anticipated the Merced River approaching Happy Isles would be perfect, but this was one area that most trees were still green. Above Happy Isles, the river runs fast in the spring, as was the case yesterday. This area will be beautiful and perfect for picture taking in a week or two. Everything else is pretty much at peak.

Black oak, Upper Yosemite Fall (10/30/21) Steve Arita

 

 

 

4. The trail to Mirror Lake along the river is at peak all the way to the lake, with the river running fast and high.  The lake (more correctly called a lagoon) was high. One of the few disappointments park visitors have in visiting Mirror Lake is that the mirror, which used to reflect Half Dome, is no longer seen. It was manmade. The marsh would be dredged by park settlers to create the mirror reflection, and since this was not a natural process, the National Park Service stopped the practice and the lake has succeeded to meadow. Steve got to experience “Mirror Meadow” as a lake, and one whose trail is now peppered with bright fall color.

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

What is remarkable about Steve and Elliot’s images is that Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, Frémont cottonwood, willow and black oak – Yosemite Valley’s best autumn color – are at peak concurrently. Often, dogwood and bigleaf maple have peaked by now, leaving November to the cottonwood, willow and oak.
The black oak will continue at peak in Yosemite Valley just about to Thanksgiving day. However, all we can say at this point is … GO NOW!

Bigleaf maple, Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Cook’s Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Sentinel Meadow (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Three Brothers, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

El Capitan, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Happy Isles, Merced River (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Mist Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Meadow Loop Trail (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/30/21) Steve Arita

Gates of the Valley (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

El Capitan, Merced River (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Black oak, Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

 

Cook’s Meadow (10/29/21) Elliot McGucken

  • Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Mammoth Mountain Opening Day (10/29/21) Courtesy Mammoth Mountain

Nothing. Mammoth Mountain opened for the 21/22 ski season yesterday.

OK, so what’s wrong with this picture?

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/30/21) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

Again, nothing.

Today, just below where skiers and riders were enjoying Mammoth Mountain, hikers were enjoying full fall color along trails in the Town of Mammoth Lakes and nearby at Lower Rock Creek.

That’s one of the joys of outdoor California. We can ski in the morning and hike a fall color trail in the afternoon. Only at Mammoth Lakes in Mono County!

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/30/21) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/30/21) Alicia Vennos | Mono County Tourism

Snowcreek, Mammoth Lakes (10/30/21) Angie Plaisted

Mammoth Lakes (10/30/21) Angie Plaisted

Mammoth Mountain (10/30/21) Angie Plaisted

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Lower Rock Creek Trail ((7,087′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

It Hasta Be Shasta

Mt. Shasta (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Once fresh snow caps Mt. Shasta, if fall color can still be seen, it hasta be Shasta.
That’s the old advertising catchphrase of Shasta Beverages, which began as a mineral spring water company in 1889 on the slopes of Mt Shasta. People have been traveling to Mt. Shasta for more than a century for health, recreation and inspiration.
Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

Those motivations led the Reedys to explore the Mt Shasta area. Phil noted, as also reported by Michael Beatley, that last Sunday’s heavy rain flattened the Indian Rhubarb, eliminating their multicolored leaves from streamside scenes. “The only survivors I found were in the box canyon on the Upper Sac just below Lake Siskiyou dam.”

Disappointed at the loss of the rhubarb, he was still encouraged by the great color to be found just south of Mt. Shasta. It’s peak surrounding the Town of Mt. Shasta and Reedy exhorts, “So, it’s definitely time to go.”
Mt Shasta, south of McCloud (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

He recommends the following locations:

  • South of McCloud along Squaw Valley Road.
  • Down by Fridays Fly Fishing Ranch, pastures are filled with multi-colored bushes topped by snow-capped Mt Shasta.
  • The Siskiyou Lake Trail near the Mt. Shasta Resort.
  • Castle Lake Road just north of Lake Siskiyou.
Lower McCloud River (10/29/21) Philip Reedy

As for Lake McCloud, it is still too early.  Reedy notes that the rains pumped a lot of mud into the lake making river below the dam resemble chocolate milk, explaining why the river’s usual crowd of fly fishers were conspicuously absent.

Following the Mt. Shasta area, the Reedys headed down CA-89 toward Lake Britton and Burney Falls.  Last year the lake was surrounded by gorgeous oaks, reminding Phil of New England.  However, fog blanketed the lake on Phil’s visit. He could see that oaks there are peaking, but he didn’t wait for the fog to clear.
Lower McCloud Falls (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

Beyond Britton and Burney, they traveled south toward Manzanita Lake. As reported here, Manzanita Lake is now past peak and Lassen Volcanic NP is both closed in preparation for winter and resulting from the devastating Dixie Fire which burned the Summit Lake, Butte Lake, Warner Valley, and Juniper Lake areas of the park.

During the fire, park staff was so busy dealing with the fire that, understandably, they stopped reporting the normal changes occurring in the national park.

Lassen Volcanic is a popular location for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. With more snow and rain predicted this week, frequent park visitors are looking forward to that season of snowshoeing and backcountry skiing and hoping to forget what passed.

Fly fishermen, Box Canyon Trail, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Castella, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Lower McCloud Falls (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
  • McCloud Falls (2,400′) – Near Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Castella, Upper Sacramento River (1,900′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Box Canyon Trail, Upper Sacramento River – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Sims Flat Bridge (1,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!