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Appropriately Named

US 395, Coleville (10/29/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

In the late 1800s, a ranch along the California/Nevada line was named for the color of its quaking aspen.

Presently, it’s the black cottonwood in the town of Topaz, at Topaz Lake and throughout the Antelope Valley that deserve the description, as they are exuding the yellow-orange-brown color of the area’s namesake gemstone at every turn.

Topaz Lake (10/29/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Topaz marks the end of the line when driving north on US 395 before you reach Nevada. It’s the northern end of Mono County and it’s the figurative end of autumn in the Eastern Sierra.

Antelope Valley (10/29/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Antelope Valley (10/29/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Antelope Valley (10/29/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Mono County color spotter Jeff Simpson found, however, that autumn has not yet ended there. Lush topaz color is still carried by landmark cottonwood throughout the area and that it will likely last right into November whose birthstone just happens to be … Topaz.

  • Topaz, Coleville, Antelope Valley (5,033′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!

 

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Jurassic Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/21) Max Forster

Redwoods were the dominant tree during the Jurassic period, 180 to 135 million years ago. So, taking a walk through any of the Redwood National and State Parks in northwest California is truly to visit Jurassic Park. All that’s missing are dinosaurs.

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/21) Max Forster

North Coast color spotter Max Forster reports that Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, north of Orick, “is at peak for bigleaf maple, vine maple and approaching peak for cascara, alder and most other deciduous understory shrubs and plants.”

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/21) Max Forster

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/21) Max Forster

He recommends  hiking the Karl Knapp Trail (formerly Prairie Creek Trail) or the Foothill Trail to best see what the park offers.

 

Prairie Creek Redwoods SP (10/29/21) Max Forster

  • Redwoods National & State Parks (1,000′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!

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Come On Man, It’s Manzanita!

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

If President Biden were asked for his favorite place to see fall color, we’d like to think he’d say, “Come on man, it’s Manzanita!”

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

On that point, we’d have no quibble with the President. Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park is always beautiful.

This past Sunday evening, I pestered perennial Lassen Volcanic color spotter Shanda Ochs to send photos of her beautiful corner of California. I figured it was past ripe for picking. She didn’t disappoint.

Lassen Volcanic NP has been at peak for a little while. Shanda and the park staff had, however, been dealing with Dixie Fire aftermath recovery. As, it burned about two-thirds of the national park’s 106,452 acres and destroyed the historic Mount Harkness Lookout in the Juniper Lake Area. So, scouting fall color wasn’t top of mind.

Black cottonwood, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

Fortunately, the fire side-stepped many of the park’s most beautiful areas, including Manzanita Lake. There, towering black cottonwood are at peak, as are the willow surrounding the lake. Shanda described the scene as “stunningly beautiful.”

  • Manzanita Lake (5,900′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Los Padres Returns

Fire recovery, Sespe Wilderness, Los Padres NF (10/25/21) Parrish Todd

Los Padres National Forest delighted the senses with beautiful color, last autumn. Though, fans of the forest worried how it would recover from wildfires. Parrish Todd sends proof it is doing just fine.

Frémont cottonwood, Sespe Wilderness, Los Padres NF (10/25/21) Parrish Todd

She visited Rose Valley Falls Campground in the Topatopa Mountains within the forest’s Sespe Wilderness and found a gorgeous texture of vermillion, yellow, moss green and tan shrubs, grasses and ground covers populating the hills.

Los Padres National Forest has a long autumn. Presently, the color varies from Near Peak to Peak, though color will continue well into December.

Curiously, Parrish happened upon a Chinese pistache growing in the Sespe Wilderness. This is an exotic tree whose home area is Asia. So, for one to be growing in a wilderness area means it had to have been planted there at some time. Though they have lovely color, it’s probably not a tree that should remain in a natural area.

  • Sespe Wilderness, Los Padres NF (3,450′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now.

Chinese pistache, Sespe Wilderness, Los Padres National Forest (10/25/21) Parrish Todd

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The Amazing Race

Sierraville (10/27/21) Philip Reedy

The people who compete in the television reality show The Amazing Race have nothing on Philip Reedy, or many other color spotters who contribute to CaliforniaFallColor.com.

Sierraville (10/27/21) Philip Reedy

Today, Reedy drove from Davis to Truckee, then north to Satley and back west on 49 through Sierra City, Downieville and down, back into the Sacramento Valley … just to see what was peaking.

Tomorrow, his race continues north to the Shasta Cascade, where other avid color spotters will be going, as that’s where fall color prizes can now be found.

Bigleaf Maple, Lavezolla Creek (10/27/21) Philip Reedy

On his whirlwind loop of the northern Golden Chain Highway, he stopped at Cottonwood Creek, just south of Sierraville where patches of snow mix with fall color.

Satley (10/27/21) Philip Reedy

Phil suggests going for shots where fall color and snowfall combine – scenes you get only soon after an early storm like we got on Sunday and Monday. Frozen images like his say a lot about the change of seasons and the fragility of nature.

He advises that between Bassetts Station and Sierra City, there’s good color along the North Fork of the Yuba River and up the mountainsides beside it.

Lavezzola Creek (10/27/21) Philip Reedy

At Lavezzola Creek, Reedy was disappointed to find little sign of Indian Rhubarb by the river. River flows jumped from 200 cubic feet a second to over 8,000 cfs on Sunday night, washing away remaining rhubarb (a nugget to store for future reference). Phil had been planning to take fly fishing shots with peak orange-red rhubarb surrounding the angler, but “it was not to be this year.”

So, Phil is heading north to the Shasta Cascade in his amazing race to find other Indian rhubard which might have avoided being swept away. The race continues and the prize is a rhubarb.

  • CA-49, Sierraville to Downieville (4,957’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
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Shasta Cascade is Where It’s At

American Valley, Plumas County (10/27/21) Michael Beatley

California’s best peak color is being found across the Shasta Cascade in the northeast corner of California.

From Plumas County (this past week’s peak, drive and hike of the week), through Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties, peak is everywhere.

In the American Valley surrounding the Plumas County seat of Quincy, peak orange, red and gold tumble down the hillsides and light up the town like molten precious metals.

(click to enlarge photo)

This past week’s rain only intensified the color. To quote Jeri Rangel, a long-time color spotter from Trinity County, “It’s 100% … now would be the time to go. There is a lot of color this year!”

Trinity River, Trinity County (10/23/21) Jeri Rangel

That’s great news for a region that suffered through suffocating smoke and haze from late summer fires. Now, it’s crystal clear up north.

 

Viola (10/25/21) Peter Robbins

From Redding, CA-44 travels west through Shingletown to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The entire route is at or Near Peak and “just lovely right now,” reports Peter Robbins who found ponds ringed with color in Viola.

Shingletown, CA-44 (10/23/21) Peter Robbins

Along the way, volcanic explosions of dazzling color are seen. One of our favorites is Manzanita Lake just inside the National Park with its mirror-like reflection of Lassen Peak.

Right now and for another week beyond, the Shasta Cascade is where it’s at.

  • Quincy (3,342’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park (7,300’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Shingletown (3,491’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Redding (564’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.
  • Coffee Creek (3,068’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
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Winter Here & Autumn Gone

The Eastern Sierra bid farewell to a beautiful autumn on Sunday, when winter arrived.

Sunday’s storm filled streams and its snow pushed most Eastern Sierra locations past peak, leaving only lower elevations, principally: the West Walker River, US 395 through Topaz and Coleville, the Antelope Valley and in the Owens Valley, along the Owens River and near Bishop peaking.

A few groves of aspen remain at peak along the June Lake Loop at Upper Twin Lakes, Bridgeport and at Convict Lake, but they will fade quickly.

There were moments of absolute beauty this autumn and timing was everything. For the Eastern Sierra, it was here; now it’s gone. So, we report, “See you next autumn, dude.”

MONO COUNTY

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

  • West Walker River, Coleville and Topaz (5,200’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW! – This and Bishop are the last remaining hot spots in the Eastern Sierra. There’s great color along the Walker River and in the Antelope Valley. Towering Black cottonwood along US 395 and at Topaz Lake are perfect.

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

  • Twin Lakes (7,000’) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

JUNE LAKE LOOP

  • June Lake Loop (7,654’) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

CROWLEY LAKE / MCGEE CREEK / CONVICT LAKE /

  • Convict Lake (7,850’) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

ROCK CREEK CANYON

  • Lower Rock Creek Canyon Rd (7,087’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW! – The lower section of the road and trail is at full peak and is a great hiking/mountain biking route.

INYO COUNTY

Bishop

  • Bishop (4,150’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW! – Groves of tall black cottonwood and oak at Buckley Ponds and along the Owens River are at peak.
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San Gabriel Glory

The San Gabriel Mountains surrounding Jackson Lake are near full glory, reports Gary Skipper.

Black oak, San Gabriel Mountains (10/23/21) Gary Skipper

Gary explored paths around the lake and past campgrounds finding the color to be vibrant and the weather inviting.

He found a particularly illuminated tree in Wrightwood, where desert Joshua Trees live beside Fremont cottonwood and was thrilled to encounter foxes, squirrels, chipmunks and deer out enjoying the autumn sun.

  • San Gabriel Mountains (5,900’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.

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Spotting in the Rain

When it starts raining what does Vishal Mishra do? He goes out color spotting.

Spent Bigleaf maple, Stevens Creek Canyon (10/24/21) Vishal Mishra

Vishal spent Sunday outdoors, when many of us chose to be indoors and came away with these images of wet, though Near Peak bigleaf maple along Stevens Creek Canyon in the Bay Area.

Stevens Creek Canyon (10/24/21) Vishal Mishra
  • Stevens Creek Canyon (554’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.
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Tastes Like Chicken

Chicken of the Woods (10/23/21) Gabriel Leete

Joe Staton of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University once studied what plants and animals would taste like chicken (They must have a lot of time on their hands at Harvard).

He concluded that alligator, frog, quail, rabbit, rattlesnake, swordfish, kangaroo, Iguana, snapping turtle, goose, pigeon, swordfish, giant salamander and the 2-toed Amphiuma all taste like chicken. We’re unsure if he ate one of each to make that declaration, though we’re confident he never took a bite out of the last of his choices … Tyranosaurus Rex.

It’s pretty hard to prove your hypothesis when you have to eat an extinct dinosaur. It would be much easier to join Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete and search of Laetiporus sulphureus. We are confident that they are much slower and easier to find.

Laetiporus are mushrooms, commonly known as chicken of the woods. With this past week’s storm, Gabriel says they’re sprouting prolifically across Northern California.

Another similar edible polypore, the Grifola frondosa or Hen of the Woods is also known for its distinct chicken flavor and texture.

Gabriel says that although the rain has encouraged the growth of all kinds of mushrooms, edible varieties are often scared by being harvested.

Also called sulphur shelfs, the mushrooms have a moist, rubbery sulphur-yellow to orange body with protruding lips at maturity.

As with any mushroom, caution is advised before consuming it. Make sure a mushroom expert has identified it as edible. Common advice is that if the mushroom cannot be identified positively, it should not be eaten, even when you think it just might taste like chicken.

  • Laetiporus sulphureus hunting, Shasta Cascade – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!