It’s a Dog’s Life

Buddy and his chauffeur, Red Lake Rd. (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

While I was scouting for color along Red Lake Rd. (CA-88) this morning, Buddy and his chauffeur motored by. They were doing the same.

I learned that Buddy, a shaggy haired mutt, has over 50,000 TikTok fans. He added one more this morning. Any dog that gets chauffeured to see fall color deserves to be given a bone.

Buddy passes by on Red Lake Rd. (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

Highway 88 (Kit Carson Pass) is a mix of Patchy, Near Peak and Peak color. I’ll just describe the route between Caples Lake and Woodford’s Canyon as beautiful, and it’s likely to stay that way for a couple more weeks.

Vermillion Grove, Caples Lake (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

Vermillion grove at Caples Lake was a surprise. Usually it peaks and is gone within a few day, but it’s been at peak for over a week. I give it only a few more days at most, as yellow stands below it, along Caples Lake, are grabbing attention from it.

Red Barn, CA-88 (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

Aspen surrounding the red barn, just east of the road to Woods Lake are peaking, as are those at the Woods Lake Corral along the road.

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

As seen above, the hillside beyond Red Lake Creek Cabin varies from Just Starting to peak, which means there’ll be good color there (conditions permitting) for another two weeks.

However, the aspen along Red Lake Creek on the opposite (south) side of Highway 88 are fully peaked and heavy with gloriously golden and orange leaves.

The same can be said of the groves in the heart of Hope Valley, between Blue Lakes Rd and CA-89. A few spots show mixed color, though most are Near Peak.

From the intersection of CA-88 and 89 east past the Wylder Resort and Campground, Woodfords Canyon is flush with orange and gold color, with occasional drips of red.

Markleeville’s California cottonwood are Near Peak and hugging the county seat of tiny Alpine County with their golden boughs.

I continued my scouting trip, stopping along the East Carson River to find it lined with fly fishermen and colorful willow, alder and cottonwood, all Near Peak.

On the climb to Monitor Pass (CA-89), I passed a burned area on the far slope overlooking Heenan Lake Wildlife Area. Throughout the blackened landscape, bright yellow and orange aspen pushed up amidst the skeletons of scorched pine and fir.

Monitor Pass, CA-89 (10/11/20) John Poimiroo

Atop Monitor Pass, aspen vary from Near to Past Peak. To the east, beyond the pass, they’ve peaked. Atop the pass itself, scrub aspen are peaking, and on the climb east toward the pass, they’re nearing peak.

As opposed to the “Oh, Wow!” of Carson Pass, Monitor Pass inspires more of a “Hmmm. I wonder why,” response.

  • Silver Lake, CA-88 (7,300′) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)
  • Caples Lake, CA-88 (7,800′) – Near Peak to Peak (75-100′) GO NOW!
  • Woods Lake Rd., CA-88 (8,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now!
  • Forestdale Creek Rd, CA-88 (7,543′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now!
  • Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (7,550′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now!
  • Red Lake Creek, CA-88 (7,550′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Blue Lakes Rd Pasture, CA-88 (7,550′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Hope Valley, CA-88 (7,300′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now!
  • Wylder Hope Valley Resort [Sorensen’s] (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Groves Surrounding Wylder Hope Valley Resort, CA-88/89 (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Woodfords Canyon (7,000′), CA-88/89 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Markleeville (5,531′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • East Walker River (5,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Heenan Lake Wildlife Area (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!
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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%)

Out Coloring The Kayaks

Kayaks and Fall Color, Tahoe City, Lake Tahoe (10/23/19) Dan Mata

When fall color out colors the kayaks in Tahoe City, it’s a sure sign the kayaks should be put away for winter.

Dan Mata found signs of winter’s approach throughout his visit to the lake of the sky.

Horse meadow, Fallen Leaf Lake, South Lake Tahoe (10/23/19) Dan Mata

Even the horses near Fallen Leaf Lake seemed to be waiting for a ride out of the Tahoe basin to their winter pasture.

  • Lake Tahoe (6,225′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.

Sierra Discovery Trail

Bigleaf maple, Bear River Falls, Sierra Discovery Trail, Tahoe Nat’l Forest (10/19/19) Ravi Ranganathan

A number of trails travel through fall color in the Tahoe National Forest, between Yuba Gap and Nevada City along CA-20.

One of the nicest is the Sierra Discovery Trail. It travels an easy .9-mile loop that is full of fall color. Also, an interesting trail is the Independence Trail, which winds along boardwalks through a forest of bigleaf maple and black oak.

Ravi Ranganathan hiked both trails this past weekend and recommends hiking the Sierra Discovery Trail clockwise, as you will pass Bear River Falls soon after crossing the Bear River Bridge.

Emigrant Gap, CA-20 (10/19/19) Ravi Ranganathan
  • Sierra Discovery Trail (5,190′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Donner Pass Summits Out

Snow Sheds, Donner Pass (10/19/19) Robert Kermen

Donner Pass has summited out for peak fall color.

Robert Kermen traveled the route from east to west on Friday. I did the same from west to east, Saturday morning.

Robert found peak color from the Coldstream Valley to Donner Lake. Aspen beside railroad snow sheds are brightly yellow, as well as cottonwood near China Cove on Donner Lake.

Black cottonwood, Cisco Grove, S Yuba River, I-80 (10/19/19) Robert Kermen

Beyond that, you drive in and out of pockets of color in areas where the South Yuba River is near the highway, such as Cisco Grove. Peaking groves are mostly of black cottonwood, as the aspen are Peak to Past Peak in most areas. Below 5,000′ bright glimpses of yellow bigleaf maple peek through the evergreens.

Take a break from highway driving and you’ll find beautiful scenes, such as the one Robert photographed of black cottonwood at Cisco Grove.

Kermen was dazzled by the color along CA-20 from I-80 to Nevada City. Presently, the most vibrant peak is being seen below 4,000′ and is descending rapidly, as noted by our previous report about Nevada City (2,477′).

The most prominent color he found was along the “dogwood belt,” near Lake Spaulding where hundreds of dogwood are peaking. This part of Hwy 20 is spectacular now and in May when the dogwood are bright green with new leaves and decorated with their white bracts (flowers).

  • Donner Pass (7,057′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Spaulding (5,014′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Lake Tahoe

Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe (10/18/19) Clayton Peoples

It’s peak at scenic Lake Tahoe with colorful aspen, black oak and bigleaf maple lighting the forest and bear fishing for spawning lake salmon.

Clayton Peoples followed CA-89 along the west shore to CA-88, finding spots of bright color speckled throughout the forest along the west shore. Looking down upon Emerald Bay the color could be seen peeking between pine, cedar and fir.

American black bear fishing for salmon, Taylor Creek, Lake Tahoe (10/18/19) Clayton Peoples

An American black bear fished for Kokanee salmon at Taylor Creek. Autumn is one of the sure ways of seeing one of California’s 30,000 to 40,000 bears, as they often visit the creeks that spill into Lake Tahoe as they fish during the autumn salmon and steelhead runs.

The most beautiful stands of Tahoe color are seen Tallac and Taylor Creek along the southwest end of the lake.

  • Lake Tahoe (6,225′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Eternal Hope

Hope Valley (10/18/19) Philip Reedy

It never gets tedious writing headlines for a post from the Hope Valley, as visiting it is always more interesting.

Davis color spotter Philip Reedy was there on Friday, and true to his promise to track the progression of fall color in that beautiful corner of Alpine County.

Phil’s report arrived Friday night, but by the time it arrived, I’d edited and posted seven reports and would be driving to Plumas County early the following morning, so couldn’t attend to it until today. Apologies for the late delivery of his analysis.

Phil noted that “While some areas have lost leaves there are plenty that still look amazing.  I would encourage anyone who enjoys that area to go IMMEDIATELY. As, in another week there won’t be a lot left to see.”

So, if you were looking for something to do on a beautiful fall day. Head to the Hope Valley, NOW. 

East of Silver Lake, Sunrise, CA-88 (10/18/19) Philip Reedy

You’ll find “nice color between Silver Lake and Kirkwood and even better color from Caples Lake to Carson Pass.”

“Woods Lake Road looks great right now.  Heading down from Carson Pass along Red Lake there is great color, especially right at the east end of the lake where the red barn sits next to a meadow facing a large number of peaking aspens.  Forest Service road 31013 that heads south from there has beautiful color right now.”

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/18/19) Philip Reedy

“Heading east toward the Red Lake Creek cabin the trees look very nice along the highway.  The cabin is looking excellent now as the groves on the mountainside above the cabin have peaked this week.  I noticed the same thing from the cabin all the way through Hope Valley. Groves on the higher mountain slopes that were green a week ago are now yellow and orange, while the trees below still have most of their color.” 

Hope Valley (10/18/19) Philip Reedy

Unfortunately, across the road from the cabin along the creek, the trees that were at peak last week are mostly bare.  Some of the trees near the ranch just east of Blue Lakes Road have lost leaves but large numbers are in full glory.  A hike north through those trees is just beautiful.

Trees to the north along CA 89 toward Tahoe are a mix of yellow and green.  These always seem to be the last trees to change.

Clayton Peoples also visited on Oct. 18, and said wind damage had stripped a lot of trees.

  • Hope Valley(7,300′) – Peak to Past Peak GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT – Hurry, as winds are predicted in days to come.
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Hike of the Week: Mt Tallac

California Fall Color Hike of the Week is the Mt. Tallac at Lake Tahoe.

The trail starts at lake level (6,225′) and varies from easy to strenuous, depending on how high up you’d like to climb. There’s a 3,500′ gain if you summit out.

BearfootTheory.com recommends, “If you aren’t sure you can make it all the way to the summit you can hike 1.7 miles (one-way) to Floating Island Lake or also 2.3 miles (one-way) to Cathedral Lake. The stretch of trail from the trailhead to Cathedral Lake is great for beginners. After Cathedral Lake the trail gets more strenuous & steep.”

Michelle Pontoni sent photos of the lower section of the trail which is lined with peak aspen, bigleaf maple and willows.

Mt.Tallac is one of the taller and most prominent peaks in the Tahoe basin. It’s so lofty that fit adventurers will climb its snowfields for Independence Day ski runs.

  • Mt. Tallac Trail, South Lake Tahoe (6,225′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Last Ray of Hope

Hope Valley (10/15/19) Clayton Peoples

Clayton Peoples sees a last ray of hope for the Hope Valley, describing it as “still holding on.”

He was there on Tuesday that most of the groves were still colorful and full of leaves, though like the rest of us is unsure how much longer it will last.

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/15/19) Clayton Peoples

Here’s his take:

Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) Go Now! – Although a few trees have lost their leaves, the majority of aspen groves are still holding on, with a blend of yellow and orange. Color can be found both near the road (e.g. near the famous cabin) and on the hillsides. Thankfully, smoke and haze from the Caples Fire cleared out overnight, allowing for relatively unobstructed views of the leaves and nearby mountains. This is a definite GO NOW!, before weather strips the trees.


Searching South Shore

A weekend hike or ride can carry you to undiscovered fall color. Michelle Pontoni discovered this while exploring South Lake Tahoe, this past week.

She’d cycled along a bike trail to Pope Beach off CA-89 finding golden willows, cattails and bigleaf maple within wetlands and drainages.

At Van Sickle Bi-State Park (a state park that overlaps the state line) golden and orange foliage was pushing up from within a former burn scar.

  • South Lake Tahoe (6,225′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!