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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!
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Pure Purisima

Bigleaf maple, Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve (11/6/20) Sam Reeves

Purisima Creek in San Mateo County was once my stomping grounds. I grew up on the San Francisco Peninsula and Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve was just over the hill in Half Moon Bay.

I haven’t been back in years, but as a Boy Scout I hiked its trails, endlessly. So when Sam Reeves sent these photos, memories of my youth at Purisima came flooding back.

As Sam correctly reports, “Coastal California has a very different set of fall colors, but it’s definitely there for the taking.  The maples in the redwood forest have created a very nice ground canopy of color.  Bigleaf maple leaves were everywhere in the creekbed, on the trail, among the fern groves, and scattered about the hillsides.”

What you’re seeing in Sam’s photographs is fairly typical of fall color along the San Francisco Peninsula’s mountains. Bigleaf maple, poison oak, black oak, red alder, and creek dogwood are the foliage that provide spots of color near drainages.

Sam admits he’s been CaliforniaFallColor.com user for quite some time, but finally got fed up with being a lurker and decided it was time to post a report.

We’re glad he did, as it was a walk down memory lane for me, and he scores a First Report for Purisima Creek!

  • Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve, Half Moon Bay (500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Hitting Hamburg

CA-96 (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

Hamburg is no more. It’s abandoned now, but was home to 5,000 souls in 1880.

That’s when Sarah Totten took over the General Store from her brother-in-law, Dan Caldwell, who had opened the store in 1859. Sarah continued to run the store until 1930. The Great Depression and the ability to motor to a bigger selection of stores in Yreka, an hour east, probably did in the store.

Today, all that’s left of Hamburg are a cemetery and decaying shacks that appear to date from Hamburg’s heyday.

Bigleaf maple, Hamburg (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

Phil and Jane Reedy stopped there on a scouting trip that included Lake Britton (see previous post). They concluded that it wasn’t a lack of fall color that made people move away. There’s lots of it near Hamburg which is located about 32 mi. east of I-5 on CA-96, along the Klamath River.

The following morning the Reedys did some exploring where Hamburg once thrived.  Mary noticed a sign to the cemetery, which led to the Caldwell family plot.

Appliance Graveyard, Hamburg (11/4/20) Philip Reedy

Across the road from the cemetery is the “appliance graveyard” Reedy photographed last fall.

Phil reported that the colors along Hwy 96 and the river from I-5 to Hamburg are just as he saw the previous day at Lake Britton with oaks showing auburn, carnelian, rust, terra cotta, lemon, gold, papaya, coral, pumpkin, butterscotch and tangerine.

Bigleaf maple, CA-96 (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

The oaks are mixed with cadmium yellow bigleaf maple and Phil had to stop “about every 100 yards to take a picture and must compliment my wife for her patience.” Been there, done that.

Mt. Shasta, Siskiyou County (11/5/20) Philip Reedy
Weed Golf Club (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

By lunchtime, they’d worked their way back to Yreka for a picnic lunch at Greenhorn Park. From there, they headed to a friend’s ranch, just south of Yreka, to take photographs of Mount Shasta, then worked their way back to Weed, stopping at the Weed Golf Club for its views of Mt Shasta, bemoaning only that the volcano hadn’t yet been dusted with snow.

Simms Bridge, Upper Sacramento River, Mt. Shasta (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

On their return to Davis, they stopped at the Simms bridge to discover that you can either photograph the bridge enveloped with color but backlit, or turn around and photograph Mt. Shasta rising above the Upper Sacramento River.

  • Siskiyou County (2,589′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW
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Lake Britton – Wow!

Lake Britton (11/4/20) Philip Reedy

On his drive up CA-89 toward McCloud, Philip Reedy caught a glimpse of Lake Britton to his left, and all he could say was, “WOW!”

He wrote, “The lake was surrounded by yellow, orange, and red, as were the mountainsides to the west.  I only wish I had been there in the early morning when the light would have been much better.”

Reedy’s wife remarked it looked like pictures she had seen with hills blanketed in color. Next November, he plans to visit in the morning on a day with, “fluffy white clouds in the sky.  I can already see the image in my mind.”

The color at Lake Britton appears to come almost entirely from black oak, Quercus kelloggii. That these trees exhibited a range of yellow, gold, orange, cinnabar and barn red is remarkable, as black oak – while known for their rich deep orange leaves – rarely show bright yellow or gold.

Lake Britton is a reservoir, surrounded by PG&E land, north of McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. A PG&E-run campground is on the lake’s north shore.

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Pot o’ Gold at Eagle Lake

Surprise, surprise. Just when you think an area is done, someone sends along two reports in a week to prove you wrong.

I’d given up on Lake Tahoe last week, after I’d been there two weeks in a row and seen it decline, but Michelle and Ron Pontoni are explorers.

On a late afternoon hike yesterday up the Eagle Lake Trail above Emerald Bay, to their surprise, bits of color shone along the steep, rocky trail. The largest patch, Michelle writes, “is just below the Upper Eagle Falls Bridge and in the last bit of late afternoon sun, it glowed brightly.

Eagle Lake Trail (11/2/20) Michelle Pontoni

“The climb to the lake is only a mile, but it took us over an hour as we stopped to admire the last few aspens of fall, as the sun dipped below the high rocky crags.  It got dimmer and dimmer but the color is still worth the hike, with glimpses of Emerald Bay and the eastern Lake Tahoe shore behind us.

“Then, as we topped the last crest and chose the fork to Eagle Lake, a final ray of sun burst through between the western crags to illuminate a brilliant orange Past Peak color patch. Just as we were leaving the lake, the breezes picked up and showered us with the reminder that these leaves will not make it to the weekend.”

If you can get there before Friday, do so. Also visit the Lam Watah Nature Trail in Stateline, for the last of Peak fall color at Lake Tahoe.

Ample parking is found off highway 89 on the Emerald Lake Rd. Currently, there’s no parking fee.

  • Eagle Lake Trail (6,600′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
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Gold Country Gold

Bigleaf maple and sycamore are carrying gold in (where else?) … Gold Country. David Sharp scores a First Report for discovering gold in Arnold and Murphys.

  • Arnold (3,999′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Murphys (2,172′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Holy Trinity!

Black oak, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

No sooner had I posted a disappointing report about Trinity County than I opened the next email to find Leor Pantilat’s vibrant study of peak color in the Trinity Alps. I herewith retract everything I wrote in the previous post.

Turns out, we were looking in the wrong place. Leor was in the right place at the right time. Peak fall color does exist in Trinity County and it’s gorgeous. GO NOW!

Black oak, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

Leor sends back images – in this First Report – of some of the most colorful examples of yellow, orange and red black oak we’ve seen. At first glance, their orange-yellow fall color and the size of the plant resembles Brewer oak (Q. garryana var. breweri), which is rarely posted on CaliforniaFallColor.com and is widely distributed throughout the Klamath and southern Cascade ranges, including the Trinity Alps, but Leor identified them as “scrub black oak.” On closer inspection, their lobes are more spiky than rounded, a clue that these shrubbery-sized oaks are, indeed, black oak.

There are all kinds of color spotters. Those whose biggest effort is to step out of a vehicle and set up a tripod to … well, Leor.

Over the years, Leor and his wife, Erica Namba, have blazed trails finding peaking fall color in the most remote corners of the Eastern Sierra, Central Coast, High Sierra, Marble Mountains and now, the Trinity Alps. This hike climbed into the Trinity Alps Wilderness on trails not previously shown here.

Ferns, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

On this trek, he photographed more variety than we’ve seen in many other regions, varieties of golden and vermillion ferns, brilliant crimson knotweed, rosy dogwood, yellow bigleaf maple and the oh, so beautifully rusty-orange toned black oak.

Leor reported that the dogwood are on their “way out,” while Indian rhubarb are “coming in.” Leor relates, “most of my photos were taken above 5,000′ which explains the discrepancy of the reports from Hwy 3 which is below 3,000′.  That said, I thought the color in the Lewiston area (cottonwood and willow) was coming along so it will probably peak there in the next week or two.

“Perhaps some areas in Trinity County won’t be as vibrant this year since it was a dry winter and big leaf maple prefer wet years for an ideal color show.  That’s in contrast to the Sierra where it seems like the aspen and cottonwood do better in dry years (less leaf fungus in dry years?),” Leor observed.

California fall color is not just hanging from branches in the Trinity Alps, it decorates the edges of mountain trails and is reflected in sky-blue lakes. On this sojourn, Leor found it all.

Click to enlarge and scroll through the beauty he found.

Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

The Trinity Alps wilderness is declared CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Hike of the Week. CLICK HERE for a variety of moderate to difficult-rated routes.

  • Trinity Alps (5,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Webcam Colorful

Ryan Boyd scores a First Report – and he didn’t even have to leave home – for webcam screen captures he found of Truckee on Tahoetopia.com.

Clearly, folks, Truckee is peaking as these images document. Good thing I’m heading there, tomorrow.

Now, if you know of webcams in places where fall color can be seen (Lake Arrowhead, Napa Valley, Mineral King, etc.), send similar screen captures and you could score a First Report, too.

  • Truckee (5,817′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Rush to June Lake

Rush Creek, June Lake (10/17/20) Steve Arita

Heavy smoke and haze have made the June Lake Loop not the place to be in the past month, though Steve Arita visited yesterday and one thing is clear … it’s time to Rush to June Lake.

He spent most of his time walking along Rush Creek, which was gorgeous though hazy, and which – surprisingly – scored Steve a First Report, as in the past 11 years no one had ever yet submitted photographs from Rush Creek, even though it is a prime location along the June Lake Loop.

Despite the haze, Steve recommends, “folks should go now to experience it. Even with the smoke, walking along the creek one can get some nice shots.”

As Steve states, “June Lake Loop had a lot of smoke yesterday (not as thick as before, but still very noticeable), but the fall colors around the loop were beautiful, at full peak with vibrant colors all around.

His shots of Silver lake give a sense of the air quality which presently is 52 in June Lake. On the right side of this page is a link to Air Quality. Click on it to see what’s happening in your area and all of California.

Aspen, Rush Creek Trail, June Lake (10/17/20) Steve Arita

Steve was impressed by the trails that follow Rush Creek, saying he, “totally enjoyed walking almost the entire length of the trail between Grant and Silver Lakes.”

Aspen and pine, Rush Creek Trail, June Lake (10/17/20) Steve Arita

Photographers, note above what Steve Arita did with a hazy day. He masterfully turned it into an advantage by shooting up into the trees where smoke might create God’s rays or at least be minimized as an element of the photograph. And, below, Doug Van Kirk contrasts highlights and shadows making the smoky air enhance the photograph by adding texture to its drama.

Silver Lake Campground, Rush Creek, June Lake Loop (10/18/20) Doug Van Kirk
  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!