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Happy New Year!

Frémont cottonwood, Desert fan palms, Cottonwood Springs, Joshua Tree NP (12/26/20) Mark Hanning-Lee

Sometimes, the best Christmas presents arrive late. Mark Hanning-Lee waited until the new year to send these shots, taken at Joshua Tree National Park on the Christmas weekend.

The Deserts is the last of California’s regions to peak and then, you have to know where the few winter deciduous trees can be seen. Hanning-Lee found peak Frémont cottonwood at Cottonwood Springs a short distance from the parking lot, scoring a first report for Joshua Tree NP. Before leaving for Joshua Tree, Mark watched the moon rise over an ornamental pear in Irvine.

  • The Deserts – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Marin Coho Run Begins

Coho salmon, Lagunitas Creek (11/24/20) Marin Municipal Water District

The winter run of critically endangered Coho salmon is running late, the Turtle Island Restoration Network reports.

The largest run of coho salmon and steelhead trout to be seen occurs in Marin County along Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek, Olema Creek and several other tributaries. It continues through February with peak viewing now through January. Steelhead trout spawn later, ususally between January and March.

Some 300 to 700 of the salmon are expected to spawn this year, which is considered to be above average.

This winter’s run begins at Tomales Bay where the salmon enter freshwater streams. This year, however, the run is late as little rain has fallen. To see the salmon, visit the Leo T Cronin Salmon Viewing Area, operated by the Marin Municipal Water District in the town of Lagunitas.

Salmon can be seen spawning in the creek directly below the parking lot and at several locations upstream along fire road. For more information on seeing the coho salmon run, CLICK HERE.

  • Coho Salmon Run, Marin County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Forest of Nisene Marks

The Forest of Nisene Marks SP, Aptos (12/4/20) Sam Reeves

The Forest of Nisene Marks in Aptos is an example of forest regeneration. 

Almost all of the redwood forest within the forest (south of Santa Cruz) “was clear-cut in a 40-year logging frenzy from 1883 to 1923,” explains California State Parks. “When the loggers left the Aptos Canyon, the forest began to heal itself; now, the scars grow fainter with each passing year. The Forest of Nisene Marks is a monument to forest regeneration and the future—it is a forest in a perpetual state of becoming.”

On a “First Report” visit this week, Sam Reeves found “still plenty of maple action everywhere on Aptos Creek.  The only challenge was the sun and shadows.  It was difficult to get a maple in full view without a big contrast range, but I found one exception on Aptos Creek Road.  A cloudy day would probably yield the best results.”

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park still retains fall color along both the road and the creek.  Sam observes that because “the canyon is wind protected from the normal northwest flow, so it should be good for another week.”

  • The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, Aptos (164′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

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Just Keeps Rollin’

American River, Rancho Cordova (12/5/20) Steve Arita

Fall color just keeps rollin’ along the American River.

Yesterday morning, Sacramento color spotter Steve Arita visited Hagan Community Park in Rancho Cordova expecting to find nothing along the American River. Instead, rich orange, gold and red lined its banks.

Peak color speckles the Sacramento area, though most urban forest color has now fallen.

  • American River, Sacramento (30′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Hagan Community Park, Rancho Cordova (72′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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A Colorful Ending

American smoketree (Cotinus obovatus), UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/30/20) Sandy Steinman

Weather has been kind to fall color this autumn, allowing it to last and last and last, right to its colorful ending.

At the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, Sandy Steinman found American smoketree (Continus obovatus) brilliantly toned in crimson, orange, green and yellow; American beautyberries robed in purple, and Japanese maple leaves as confections of red, magenta, orange, pink and yellow.

Similar vibrant display are appearing in Southern California where Kathy Jonokuchi found golden yellow gingko leaves and hot pink Honk Kong orchid at the Conejo Valley Botanic Garden.

Nuttall’s woodpecker, Conejo Valley Botanic Garden (11/28/20) Kathy Jonokuchi

Finally, Salil Bhatt made my day by submitting these images and scoring a First Report for the Sunol Regional Wilderness where valley oak and western sycamore have just crested peak.

Salil points out that the Sunol Regional Wilderness, in the mountains east of Silicon Valley, is one of a few areas where significant collections of winter deciduous native trees can be seen at peak in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Wilderness is east of Milpitas and south of Sunol on Calaveras Rd.

  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (171′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
  • Conejo Valley Botanic Garden, Thousand Oaks (886′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sunol Regional Wilderness, Sunol (500′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
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Fall, Not Spring Color

Trione-Annadel State Park near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County is better known for its spring wildflowers, not its fall color.

John Natelli found the opposite on Thanksgiving Day with black oak, toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) providing peak fall color. In doing so, he scored a First Report.

  • Trione-Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa (400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Asti

Asti (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

At one time in the 20th century, Asti in northern Sonoma County was more famous for its wine than many of California’s now legendary wine making regions.

Asti was the base of Italian Swiss Colony wines, established in 1881 as an agricultural colony focused on growing grapes and making wine to serve the large community of Italian immigrants in San Francisco (think North Beach and the names DiMaggio, Alioto, Ghirardelli, Ferlinghetti, Coppola, Giannini and Pelosi). By 1905, its wines had won international awards and acclaim and was producing huge amounts of wine from its 500,000 gallon cistern.

Under Louis Petri, the brand Italian Swiss Colony (ISC) was mass marketed across the U.S. following prohibition, but starting in the 1980s acquisitions and changing wine tastes led consumers toward preferring boutique wines compared to mass-produced ones, reducing the value of the brand. Eventually, Chateau Souverain, one of those boutique wines, moved its production to ISC’s Asti Winery.

Today, America’s sixth-largest wine production facility at Asti and the Souverain brand are owned by E & J Gallo Winery. The acquisition provides a lesson in how fortunes shift in the wine industry. In the 1960s, ISC was bigger than Gallo.

So, when North Coast color spotter Walt Gabler took these pictures, scoring a First Report, he struggled to identify the winery calling it the Asti Winery which it is. The image he captured is classic California wine country: rolling hills scored with rows of healthy vines leading up to oak-speckled, golden mountains. It’s all at peak this week in Asti.

Coppola Vineyards, Sonoma County (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

Walt reports that vines throughout Sonoma County are at peak and trees along the Russian River are also at full peak, “Better than I have seen in previous years.” Though, disappointingly, vineyards in Mendocino County were hit by a freeze and their leaves are brown husks hanging dismally from vines.

  • Asti (404′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Hometown Color

Elk Grove Regional Park (11/21/20) Steve Arita

Californians no longer need to travel long distances to see peak color. It’s now peaking in most California hometowns.

Steve Arita found it and a First Report near home at dawn in Elk Grove Regional Park.

  • Elk Grove (46′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Wind Wolves Preserve

Poison oak, Wind Wolves Preserve (11/11/20) Gary Skipper II

Every so often an unreported place surfaces. Today, it is Wind Wolves Preserve.

Located 32 miles southwest of Bakersfield, Wind Wolves is an ecologically distinctive place where the Transverse Ranges, Coast Ranges, Sierra Nevada, western Mojave Desert and San Joaquin Valley converge.

Ranging from 640 to 6,005′, it has a wide array of landforms and habitats. And, at 93,000 acres it’s the west coast’s largest non-profit preserve.

Most interesting to fall color spotters is its mix of deciduous foliage. Now, it takes a true connoisseur of fall color to appreciate this blend of blue and valley oak, Frémont cottonwood, red and sandbar willow, poison oak and California grape in the preserve.

Bobcat, Wind Wolves Preserve (11/11/20) Gary Skipper II

Many species of wildlife, including Tule elk, bobcats, coyotes, American black bear, rabbits, northern Pacific rattlesnakes, and mountain lions live within the preserve.

Gary Skipper II noted correctly that CaliforniaFallColor.com had overlooked Wind Wolves previously and said it gets “decent fall color in mid November.” Gary noted the bright red color of one plant. Let’s hope he didn’t touch it, as otherwise he earned both a First Report and a case of poison oak.

  • Wind Wolves Preserve (640′) – Peak (75-10%) GO NOW!
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The Bronx

Van Courtlandt Park, The Bronx, NYC (11/9/20) Gene Obermuller

Coming from the third-most densely populated county in the United States and a place not known for foliage, these images of The Bronx may be surprising.

East Coast color spotter Eugene Obermuller took them while out on a bike ride through Van Courtlandt Park in northwest New York City.

Today, the Bronx is mostly concrete, but at one time, of course, it was open, forested land. The Bronx gets its name from Swedish-born Jonas Bronck who established the first European settlement in the area, as part of the New Netherland colony in 1639.

Previously inhabited by the native Siwanoy band of Lenape Indians (known as the Delawares), it was called Keskeskeck. Dutch settlers bought tracts of land from local tribes and Bronck accumulated 500 acres between the Harlem River and Aquahung (later the Bronx River) to establish Bronck’s Land.

On Bronck’s Land, farms spread and manses were raised. One, built by mercatilist Fredrick Van Courtlandt in 1748 remains as a historical museum and as one of the nation’s finest best examples of Georgian architecture.

If the metaphorical tree that grows in Brooklyn flourishes even in the midst of the inner city, then Van Courtlandt Park is The Bronx equivalent. Only, it’s real.

Score Peak color for one of the boroughs of New York City on an unusual visit to a forested corner of the home of the Yankees.

  • The Bronx, NY (169′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!