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Guilt-Ridden Post

US 395 and Walker River, seen from Burcham Flat (10/17/20) Crys Black

Color spotter Crys Black seemed guilt-ridden when she sent thumbnails of Mono County, this past week. She apologized for covering the same locations previously shot beautifully and extensively by Jeff Simpson.

Then, she made up for the duplicative images, by sending a First Report exploration of Burcham Flat Rd with scenes and angles that this site had never published before.

Crys writes, “Burcham Flat follows the Walker River in Antelope Valley south of Walker. If you’ve ever been southbound and looked up from US 395 to the side of the mountain and seen a road, that’s where these photos are from.”

Crys outdid herself in finding the unexpected angle, when she followed up with another First Report on Haypress Flat.

She explains, “Haypress Flat is off of NF-190 east of the intersection between CA-4 and CA-89, by the old Morningstar Mine. While this area is past peak, there is still great color to be had for those who have 4WD. There was something really nice seeing this burn area starting to come back, that makes me hopeful for the new growth we’ll see after this year’s fires.”

Crys closed this loop by scoring another First Report by taking the Leviathan Mine Rd back to 395. She says that “up and around Leviathan Mine itself still has wonderful color and the canyon just south of the Nevada border was also beautiful.

Crys had no reason to be guilt-ridden, though selfishly, we’re glad she was, as it caused her to look for places others were ignoring and thus score the first Triple Crown of California Fall Color First Reports.

  • Burcham Flat Rd., Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Haypress Flat Rd., Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Leviathan Mine Rd. Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Dunderberg Meadows Road – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Leavitt Creek Cascade

Leavitt Creek, Sonora Pass (10/14/20) Philip Reedy

In his constant search for great fly fishing photo locations, Philip Reedy never has to leave California.

Today, he sent this shot – part of a package he’d taken with a fly fisherman in the frame for a fishing publication – of Leavitt Creek. It’s located near Sonora Pass (CA-108) and presently it’s surrounded by peak fall color.

Sardine Creek runs nearby. There are two Sardine Creek Falls, an upper one and a lower one, but for all their power, this cascade on Leavitt Creek is lovelier.

Nevertheless, should you choose to hike to Sardine Falls, Sonora Central describes the hike as follows, “Reaching Sardine Falls requires an easy 1.2 mile hike on an unmarked trail but offers rewarding views of the surrounding Sierras as well as the falls themselves. There are actually two falls, the main Sardine Falls which drops about 50′ and a smaller waterfall downstream about 25′ high. Both falls are on McKay Creek which has plenty of runoff from the snow melt throughout the summer season. This destination gets quite a bit of foot traffic in the warm summer months but if you plan your trip on a weekday or late in the season you just might have the falls to yourself.”

I’ve not hiked to Sardine Falls, but the writeups indicate there’s no good spot to photograph the falls. However, this cascade on Leavitt Creek is remarkably photogenic.

California Fall Color creds go to Doug Van Kirk for correctly identifying the cascade as being on Leavitt Creek. We’d initially misidentified the creek as Sardine Creek. So, a can of sardines is ready for him to pick up as his prize.

  • Leavitt Creek Cascade (8,750′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Satellite Comparison

During the time Inyo National Forest was closed, Lyle Gordon was looking at Sentinel Satellite imagery. A golden patch of color caught his eye near Tres Plumas Meadow at 10,000′ in the White Mountains (roughly 37.561, -118.156), near the Cottonwood Basin.

So, he looked at the same location two weeks earlier and, Voilà!, the same foliage was green.

Lyle, or should we say the Sentinel Satellite, scores a First Report for Tres Plumas Meadow and for the White Mountains, plus satellite imagery is a first for CaliforniaFallColor.com.

He guessed the foliage was most likely Quaking aspen or willow. He also found smaller groves at McAfee Creek to the north (37.6049, -118.1940) and to the south along Crooked Creek  (37.4954, -118.1433).

Lyle reports, “There are some visible groves in the Sierra but they are narrow (along creeks) and harder to see. Further afield in the Monitor Range near Table Mountain there is another large grove around 10,000′ that shows nice color from space.”

Lyle’s email was one that got lost with the email glitch in late September, but which resurfaced a couple of days ago.

In keeping with the newly created U.S. Space Force, CaliforniaFallColor.com commissions Lyle Gordon as the first “Space Cadet” of the California Fall Color Space Force. 

This title will likewise be granted to any other person who uses satellite imagery to find fall color in California. Sorry, no Flash Gordon decoder ring comes with the title.

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Paige Meadows

Paige Meadows, Tahoe City (10/4/20) Austin Grove

Austin Grove posts a first report for Paige Meadows in Tahoe City whose aspen are Patchy. Dogtrekker.com lists Paige Meadows as a dog-friendly trail.

  • Paige Meadows, Tahoe City – Patchy (10-50%)
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Robinson Creek

Robinson Creek Trail (9/25/20) Lance Pifer

With Inyo National Forest closed, new attention is being given to other Eastern Sierra forests and wilderness areas.

That allowed Lance Pifer to score a First Report for the Robinson Creek Trail in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest (northern Mono County), which he hiked this past weekend.

The Robinson Creek Trailhead starts at Arnett’s Mono Village at the terminus of Twin Lakes Rd near Bridgeport. It then gains 1,000 feet over its 7.8-mile, roundtrip length. National Geographic describes the trail as one of the most popular in the Bridgeport area, with beautiful subalpine views.

The USDA Forest Service notes that the Hoover Wilderness through which the trail passes, has “relatively little timber throughout much of its steep terrain that ranges from around 7,000 feet to more than 12,000 feet. Its few forested areas are composed of scattered groves of hemlock, pine, aspen, and cottonwood.” 

The paucity of timber did not deter Pifer from sending back photographs of a lovely trail through Patchy aspen and glimpses of gold along the Robinson Creek Trail. At Blue lake outlet, a lush grove of Just Starting quakers hinted at the beauty still to come, the kind now being seen at Virginia Creek where it is peaking.

  • Robinson Creek Trail (7,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Virginia Creek Trail (9,819′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Liquidambar Brighten, Finally

So far this autumn, Liquidambar (Sweetgum) have been disappointingly flat. Photographs received, and those I’ve seen, have lacked the vibrant, firey colors normal for this colorful ornamental tree.

Color spotter Mohammed Hossain scores a First Report from Walnut-Rowland Heights and comes to the rescue, providing these mobile phone snaps he took on a walk in his neighborhood, West of Pomona.

Mohammed says recent storms with lots of rain and crisp, cool, clear following days have refreshed the trees, causing the colors to brighten. Perhaps that’s what’s been missing in an autumn that’s been unusually dry.

He continues that the San Gabriel Mountains are now dusted with snow, providing that Chamber of Commerce image that Rose Parade viewers have come to associate with Southern California in winter. Though, this is still autumn; winter does not begin until December 21.

It’s easy to imagine how Mohammed’s walk/jog, as he described, filled his “heart and soul” with the beauty of a late autumn day that was dressed with rainbows arcing above the dazzling colors.

  • Walnut-Rowland (571′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Out of this World

Vasquez Rocks (12/5/19) Allison Hastings

Nicknamed “Kirk’s Rock” for the many times it appeared in early episodes of the television series Star Trek, Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park in Agua Dulce (between Santa Clarita and Palmdale) is virtually out of this world when it comes to dramatic beauty and late fall color.

Allison Hastings scores a First Report for sending back photos of the hike she took with her dog there, today.

Most of the color comes from native Fremont cottonwood and western sycamore. Also in the area are bigleaf maple, black and blue elderberry, white alder, Southern California black walnut, chokecherry, California ash and various willows.

  • Vasquez Rocks, Agua Dulce – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Fullerton Honey

Honey Locust, Fullerton Arboretum (11/15/19) Mark Hanning-Lee

Mark Hanning-Lee scores a first report for visiting the Fullerton Arboretum at Cal State Fullerton where he found ripe orange persimmons and Honey Locust dripping with golden color.

Mark was disappointed at the abundance of evergreens in the arboretum, though a scan through its Interactive Map, shows that there are a few deciduous varieties (e.g., Asian maple, Black alder). You just have to know what they are and when they’re peaking.

Wonderful pomegranate, Fullerton Arboretum (11/15/19) Mark Hanning-Lee

He found muted color on Wonderful Pomegranate and on two Green Ash and estimates the arboretum’s experimental apple orchard may peak later this month.

Remember, this is Orange County where peak occurs late in autumn.

  • Fullerton Arboretum (164′) – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Orange Orange

It’s rare, extremely so, to receive a report from Orange County.

In the eleven years that CaliforniaFallColor.com has existed, Orange County has been mentioned in only three of over 1,000 fall color reports.

So, when Mark Hanning-Lee sent these snaps of Goodding’s black willow at Peters Canyon Regional Park in Orange, I did a double take.

Orange in Orange? Yes, seeing is believing. OK, it isn’t Sabrina Lake, North Lake, June Lake Loop, Plumas County, Nevada City, Napa or Yosemite Valley at peak, but it’s just as special. Perhaps more so, because of its rarity.

The OC had opened its parking lots to free parking for veterans, yesterday, and Mark took advantage of the invite to score a First Report.

Peters Canyon Regional Park encompasses 340 acres of coastal sage scrub, riparian, freshwater marsh and grassland habitats. Goodding’s black willow, Western sycamore and Fremont cottonwood line Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir and Peters Canyon Creek, which meanders through the canyon.

Among its native deciduous plants, the City of Orange can count Southern California Black Walnut, Fremont cottonwood, Western sycamore, bigleaf maple, creek dogwood, black elderberry, Goodding’s black and other varieties of willow.

Hanning-Lee’s find is unlikely to cause a rush of color spotters to Orange County, though I would welcome more reports from there. As, an Orange Orange just seems right, doesn’t it?

  • Peters Canyon Regional Park, Orange (600′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Dripping Down The Rivers

Cottonwood, Knights Ferry (11/3/19) Jim Adams

Fall color is dripping down the rivers through the central valley.

Color spotter Jim Adams provides a First Report from Knight’s Ferry where he attended the annual pumpkin roll to find riverside cottonwood and willows and walnut orchards at peak.

Willow, Knights Ferry, Stanislaus River (11/3/19) Jim Adams

He reports that down the Stanislaus River in Oakdale, cottonwood and valley oak have yet to peak.

  • Knights Ferry, Stanislaus River (213′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!