Definition: Bear Dump

Bear River, CA-20 (10/26/18) Robert Kermen

dump \ transitive verb \’dəmp : to let fall in or as if in a heap or mass // bigleaf maple trees dumped their leaves in the Bear River. — Source: Merriam-Webster

Bear River, CA-20 (10/26/18) Robert Kermen

From the headline, you might have thought this article would be about bear scat, but that would  require a different definition.

Instead, color spotter Robert Kermen reports that bigleaf maple were dumping yellow and buff-colored leaves along the Sierra Discovery Trail beside the Bear River (Bowman Rd.) this past Friday.

That indicates it’s time to search for ponds, beaver dams and streams between 3,000 and 5,000′ to photograph spent leaves floating upon their dark waters. 

Here are some suggestions:

  • Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Bear River (4,400′), CA-20 at Bowman Rd. Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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First Report: Tuolumne Grove

Pacific dogwood, Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia, Yosemite National Park (10/23/18) Thomas Haraikawa

Pacific dogwood, Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia (10/24/18) Thomas Haraikawa

The Western Sierra follows its Eastern Sierra neighbors in peaking, because its most-profuse deciduous foliage grows at lower elevations.

Presently, Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, Frémont cottonwood and black oak are presenting a palette of pink, crimson, yellow, gold and orange colors in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Valley’s famous sugar maple peaked in mid October, though dogwood, maple, cottonwood and oak continue to carry bright color.

Favorite areas to shoot fall color in Yosemite’s fall color are: the Yosemite Chapel (mid Oct.), Fern Spring (mid to late Oct.), Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan Meadow, Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, Photographer’s Bridge and the Valley’s other eight historic stone bridges (late Oct. to mid Nov.).

Thomas Haraikawa scores a First Report for his visit to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia. This grove is often overlooked by Yosemite photographers who are attracted to the valley, but as Thomas’ photographs show, it has iridescent and irresistible fall color.

Located near the intersection of the Big Oak Flat and Tioga Road (CA-120), the Tuolumne Grove is now a riot of hot pink, red, orange, yellow and lime colors.

Bigleaf maple and black oak, Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (10/24/18) Thomas Haraikawa

Late October to mid November is when the Valley’s black oaks are best. Yosemite Valley likely has the most impressive stands of black oak in California, due to their juxtaposition to such impressive granite monoliths as Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, El Capitan) and Yosemite’s many towering waterfalls which get replenished by autumn rains.

We call black oak the Halloween tree, both because it peaks near Halloween and because its black trunks and branches contrast so boldly with the tree’s fully peaked orange leaves.

Yosemite’s fall color is truly a treat to the eye. 

  • Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia, Yosemite National Park (6,200′)- Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Less To Cheer About

June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

McGee Creek (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Color spotters may have less to cheer about Sunday afternoon, should strong winds (20 – 30 mph) blow across the High Sierra and Cascades, as now predicted.

Locations shown in this article were photographed within the past week. Today (Fri., Oct. 26), tomorrow (Sat., Oct 27) and Sunday morning (Oct. 28) may be the last days to raise your arms in celebration at these locations, if it is windy on Sunday afternoon.

So, if you wanted to see peak color this autumn at Mono County, Lake Tahoe or Plumas County, change your plans and GO NOW! 

McGee Creek (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Convict Lake (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

In anticipation of changing peak areas, we’ve shifted the weather forecast on this site from Mammoth Lakes to Quincy. When judging weather (temp., precip., wind), please keep this in mind.

Should high winds arrive Sunday afternoon, peaked leaves will be stripped quickly from the trees and the peak color you see in these photos will be gone.

That does not mean, however, that California’s autumn show will end.

Trees still carrying green, lime or freshly yellow leaves will not lose many from the wind. And, areas not yet at Peak will continue to develop fall color. They include the: Western Sierra (Yosemite NP, Sequoia NP, Kings Canyon NP, Calaveras Big Trees SP) , Southern California mountains, Trinity County, North Coast, Gold Country, all wine country regions, Central Valley orchards and California’s urban forests.

Nevertheless, if you want to see June Lake, Lake Tahoe, or Plumas County this autumn, get there before Sunday afternoon. Any later and we may be reporting, YOU MISSED IT! 

Conway Summit (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

(10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Conway Summit (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Beaver Ponds, Lundy Canyon (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Aspen, June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Cyclists, June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/24/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism























Twin Lakes, Mono County (10/21/18) Rodney Chai

Conway Summit (10/21/18) Rodney Chai

McGee Creek Canyon (10/21/18) Rodney Chai

McGee Creek Campground (10/21/18) Rodney Chai

Lundy Canyon (10/20/18) Crys Black

Upper Summers Meadow (10/20/18) Crys Black

Upper Summers Meadow (10/20/18) Crys Black

Twin Lakes, Mono County (10/20/18) Crys Black

Luther Pass, CA-89 (10/20/18) John King

Luther Pass, CA-89 (10/20/18) John King

Luther Pass, CA-89 (10/20/18) John King

Black oak, Greenville (10/21/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Greenville (10/21/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Hideaway Motel, Greenville (10/21/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Hideaway Motel, Greenville (10/21/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb













Dreary I-80

Truckee River, Painted Rock (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

Truckee River, Farad (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

Donner Lake (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

S. Yuba River, Big Bend, I-80 (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

Dogwood belt, CA-20 (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

St. Canice Church, Nevada City (10/21/18) Robert Kermen

To someone crossing the Sierra Nevada for the first time, Interstate-80 is a thrilling experience.

After all, it’s a route of legends: Notorious Donner Pass. The Pony Express. The trans-continental railroad. The Lincoln Highway.

However, for those who drive it frequently, it’s a dreary source of anxious sameness.

You are always attentive to its steep, winding descent and the trying nature of eighteen-wheelers and impatient motorists competing for space on the all-too-narrow and constantly-being-repaired interstate.

So, there’s little time or incentive to be distracted.

Robert Kermen drives it regularly to Nevada and breaks up the tension of doing so by searching for scenic detours, escaping from the tension of driving I-80 and seeing the route anew along the Truckee River, at Donner Lake, Big Bend and on CA-20 through Nevada City and Grass Valley.

What he has found is anything but dreary.

Leaving Nevada, he is always “impressed with the bright, intense, and saturated colors of the cottonwoods that provide a stark contrast to the neutral colors of the high desert.”

Pulling off at Farad, he lingers to watch fly fishermen working riffles on the Truckee before it drops into Nevada and golden cottonwoods reflected in the bluer-than-blue river between painted Rock and Wadsworth in Nevada.

At Big Bend, along the South Yuba River, he finds hikers and bikers mixing with long-haul truck drivers and motorists beneath a canopy of golden yellow.

Just after exiting onto CA-20, there is what Kermen calls the “Dogwood belt” with both sides of the highway lined with peaking pink Pacific dogwood, positively prepossessing.

Grass Valley provides a “bright and colorful” welcome back to the Sierra foothills, “especially near the St. Canice church.”

I-80, dreary? 

  • Truckee River – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Donner Lake – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Kingvale, I-80 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Rainbow Lodge, I-80 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Cisco Grove, I-80 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Bear Valley, CA-20 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Grass Valley, CA-20 – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Stay or Drive

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Conway Summit, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Merced River, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

There are two types of color spotters: one Stays at a location and works it, the other Drives to many locations, seeing fall color across a broad area.

There’s something to be said for both approaches.

The Stay approach allows time for hiking, relaxing, taking in the color and being at a select spot longer providing for better opportunities to see and photograph it at its best.

The Drive approach provides the experience of enjoying driving along boulevards of fall color, of seeing many places, of appreciating the variety of color to be seen and exploring the forests and towns where fall color is best.

This past weekend, color spotter Clayton Peoples drove a large Sierra loop to the Eastern Sierra and back to the Western Sierra, demonstrating the advantages of the Drive approach.

He reports, “Conway Summit is still just patchy. There’s lots of green among the aspen groves, but there are some stands that are turning. A good zoom lens is best at the moment, which allows one to focus in on groves that are turning and/or mixed.

“Lundy Canyon is at peak. The groves around Lundy Lake are in full color, as are the groves along the dirt road to the trailhead and beside the Lundy Canyon Trail. It is mostly brilliant yellow with a bit of light orange mixed in. Definitely worth a trip!

“The June Lake Loop has reached peak color. Aspen along the Loop and surrounding its pristine lakes have all turned and range from vivid golden yellow to orange. Good color will likely last here another week or so … I recommend that folks “GO NOW” before the best is in the past.

“Yosemite National Park is patchy. The few aspen groves at higher elevations are at full peak, but trees at lower elevations are just beginning to turn. That said, some of the black oak along the Merced River are already sporting bright yellow leaves, and brush ranges from green to yellow to red, so progress toward “near peak” status is not far away,” Clayton reported. 

  • Conway Summit, Mono County – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! (While Clayton rated Conway as Patchy, that’s the nature of the groves, which turn sequentially. The area evolves through successive Patchy, Near Peak and Peak ratings.)
  • Lundy Canyon, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lake Loop, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Again, our assessment varies from Clayton’s, as Yosemite has rolling peaks. Because of this, it is easily mis-classified. After the small amount of fall color has peaked along the Tioga Road, Pacific dogwood begin to turn rose to pink and red, then bigleaf maple turn yellow, then cottonwood gold and finally black oak turn orange. Though one specie may be patchy, another may be past peak or peaking. Knowing this helps determine when to visit Yosemite. Yosemite’s famous pioneer sugar maple (planted a century ago near the Yosemite Chapel) peaked in the past two weeks. Now, bigleaf maple are peaking and cottonwood and black oak are approaching peak.


Tahoe is Terrific

Star Harbor, Tahoe City (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Rose hips, Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Rose hips, Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

Carnelian Bay, North Lake Tahoe (10/22/18) John Poimiroo

What an amazing autumn in the High Sierra. Just terrific.

Cold nights and warm days, with little wind, rain or snow has generated ideal conditions for the development of terrific color at Tahoe. Additionally, because early winter storms have been few and mild, the color at Lake Tahoe, which typically is a late peak, has survived and is spectacular.

I arrived last evening. Though it was dusk as we descended the Mt. Rose Highway to the lake, high meadows and forests along the highway and below along the shore of North Lake Tahoe were exploding with color in places I’ve not seen in a lifetime of living, working and playing there.

Color spotter Crys Black returned from the East Side on Sunday, reporting matter-of-factly about the Peak color she’d witnessed in Walker Canyon and the Antelope Valley. “Coleville was in full color as was 88 along Slinkard Valley.

“Monitor Pass is still beautiful but it won’t last much longer so get there fast. The Eagle Gulch area at 88 and 89 is bare now but keep going up 89 towards Hope Valley there was still a lot of color to be had, especially around Markleeville.

“Turning west towards, Hope Valley, where I had expected it to have faded from last weekend, I found that it held on through this weekend, colorful, if past peak,” she wrote.

As Crys climbed out of the Hope Valley and over Luther Pass, she was surprised to find what is usually a late and disappointing show to be extremely rewarding.

“Highway 89 continued to deliver right into Lake Tahoe,” she wrote, “Driving 89 along the western rim of Lake Tahoe saw brilliant color everywhere up to Tahoe City and then continue around the loop on 28 where it got even better from Kings Beach through Incline Village – just dazzling.

“Taking Nevada Route 431 (Mt. Rose Highway) towards Reno kept the show going all the way into Reno, which, while not in CA, also had brilliant color that I hadn’t thought possible for Reno,” Crys described.

I was similarly impressed. On Sunday, as I descended into Reno while heading south along US 395 from Susanville, Reno was lit in neon reds, oranges, golds and yellow. Not unusual at night when casino marquees are illuminated, but unexpected in late October.

Today, we explored Carnelian Bay and drove the North Shore. The aspen and cottonwood were best when backlit by sunlight along North Shore Blvd (CA-28). Every meadow is aglow with golden willows, grasses, Fremont cottonwood and yellow quaking aspen. Rose hips shine like rubies within the sunlit scene. 

Just terrific.

  • Lake Tahoe – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Reno, NV – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Monitor Pass (10/21/18) Crys Black



Roadside Oddities: Uphill Flume

Uphill Flume, Bigleaf maple, Nevada County (10/18/18) Robert Kermen

Sugar maple, Harmony Ridge (10/18/18) Robert Kermen

California has more than its share of roadside oddities. There’s Ostrichland in Solvang, Salvation Mountain in Niland, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino and several drive-through trees in the redwoods.

Motorists have been lured by roadside billboards designed to entice bored kids and empty parental pocketbooks, since road trips began.  “Can we stop there, dad? Can we!?”

Among the most compelling are those that turn the laws of nature on their head … Trees of Mystery, Mystery Spot and Confusion Hill are my favorites.

So, when Robert Kermen reported he’d just stopped to photograph the “uphill” flume, I had to see it. “Can you send me a picture Bob? Can you!?”

The water in it doesn’t flow uphill; it just looks like it does. And, there are no advertising signs or admission fee. Just stop along Hwy 20 between I-80 and Harmony Ridge when you see it and marvel at why the water appears to flow uphill.

PG&E Flume, Bigleaf maple, alder and aspen (10/18/18) Robert Kermen

Cattle chute, Bear Valley, CA 20 (10/18/18) Robert Kermen

Nearby are Peak golden bigleaf maple, and they’re no optical illusion. Further west on CA-20 is another flume – this one owned by PG&E – and the water in it is running downhill, as expected.

At Bear Valley and Bowman Road, maple, alder and aspen are all peaking and growing in the right direction … upwards. 

  • Uphill Flume, CA-20 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Bear Valley, CA-20 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! 
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Unbearably Beautiful

American black bear, Ursus americanus, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

The High Sierra is “unbearably beautiful right now,” color spotter Clayton Peoples reported.

He was in the Hope Valley over the weekend, photographing along CA-88 and CA-89.

“While taking in fall colors, I was lucky enough to spot what is probably the largest black bear I have ever seen. It was feasting along a creek that passes under Highway 89,” he wrote.

What Clayton did to get this shot was to be as unobtrusive as possible, not approaching the animal and letting it act naturally.

Should you encounter wildlife and wish to photograph it, stop and don’t move. If you run to get closer, the animal will run away. But, if you stop, wait and watch, the animal may not notice you or will become used to you and not perceive you as a threat.

As long as the animal is not bothered by your presence, he will go about his business, which makes for great fall photography.

A long lens (200mm or greater) and sturdy tripod are useful for close up, sharp images. My favorite working lens is a 28 – 300 mm, f3.5-5.6. It provides enough length and range to capture either closeups or environmental shots of mammals.

Animals are creatures of routine. They tend to return to the same locations (watering spots, food sources) at similar times of day, and forage during he first couple and last two hours of daylight.

Aspen, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

American black bears are not generally a threat to people, unless they are protecting young or sense that you have food. They usually can be intimidated from approaching by raising arms above one’s head, shouting or making loud sounds (banging a pot), but if they do not, walk away.

In addition to the bear, Clayton found more “bare” branches among the Hope Valley’s aspen, though said the trees surrounding Red Lake Creek Cabin are “still stunning, and the highway (and nearby hillsides) are still sporting a patchwork of gorgeous color. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it is still very pretty right now.” 

  • Hope Valley(7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!




Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen


Lake Tahoe Approaches Peak

West Shore, Lake Tahoe (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

Pacific sunset maple, Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

Peak fall color is enveloping Lake Tahoe.

Near Peak color is appearing along North Lake Boulevard (CA-28) in Tahoe City, Carnelian Bay, Tahoe Vista and Kings Beach and along the west shore.

Quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides), Pacific sunset (Acer truncatum x A. platanoides) and red maple (Acer rubrum) are speckling the shoreline with spots of yellow, orange, red and gold.

Lake Tahoe does not have expansive groves, as seen in the Hope Valley or Eastern Sierra. Though, flashes of gold appear in its meadows, forests and along drainages.

Over Brockway Summit (CA-267), groves along Middle Martis Creek remain peaking to the Martis Valley.

Groves surrounding the much-photographed  decaying cabin at Middle Martis Creek (CA-267) are now at the end of their Peak, though there’s still beauty among trees in the meadow surrounding it, which have lost most of their leaves.

Patti Jazanoski found the cabin to be “very fun to shoot around, if you’re in the mood to be creative,”

In Truckee, banks along the Truckee River are forested with peaking willows and Near Peak yellow and lime aspen. Exotic red maple bring intense color to historic downtown Truckee.

And, at the South Shore, Tallac Creek and Taylor Creek (CA-89) are full of Near Peak color. 

  • Lake Tahoe (6,255′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Tahoe Vista, Lake Tahoe (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

Truckee River, Truckee (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

Truckee (10/11/18) Patti Jaznowski

M. Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

M. Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

M. Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

M. Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski

M. Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/11/18) Patti Jazanoski


Mt Rose Deserves Respect

Frozen aspen leaves, Mt. Rose (10/9/18) Patti Jazanoski

Mt. Rose (10/9/18) Patti Jananoski

Mt. Rose (10/9/18) Patti Jananoski

Mt. Rose is the Rodney Dangerfield of peaks at Lake Tahoe. It gets no respect.

As an extinct volcano, Mt. Rose (10,775′) is the most topographically prominent Nevada peak at Lake Tahoe, yet Freel Peak on the California side is taller (10,881′).

More photographed are the smaller Mt. Tallac (9,735′) and Pyramid Peak (9,985′) and more loved is Mt. Pluto (8,615′). Who doesn’t love Pluto?

Poor Mt Rose. Even its ski area, Mount Rose Ski Tahoe, is not actually on Mt. Rose. It’s on Slide Mountain.

So, when Patti Jazanoski sent photos of Near Peak aspen on Mt. Rose, even though it is in Nevada, I just had to give Mt. Rose a little love … and respect. 

Mt. Rose (10,775′ – 6,225′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Mt. Rose, seen above end of pier from Carnelian Bay (10/9/18) Patti Jananoski