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

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

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

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

Cold nights and warm days, with little wind, rain or snow has provided ideal conditions for the development of terrific color at Tahoe.

I arrived last evening and even at dusk, as we descended the Mt. Rose Highway to the lake, high meadows and forests throughout the North Lake are vibrant with color. The North Lake is exploding with vibrant color in meadows and forests where I’ve not seen it as good, before. These snaps taken on an iPhone 8+ don’t do it justice.

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 and 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.”

With little weather to speed the fall, it’s lasted longer.

As Crys climbed out of the Hope Valley and over Luther Pass, she found what is usually a late and disappointing show to be “extremely rewarding. Highway 89 continued to deliver right into Lake Tahoe. 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.”

I was similarly impressed as I descended into Reno while heading south along US 395 from Susanville. I’d never seen Reno dressed in richer reds, oranges, golds and yellow.

Wow. Just terrific.

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

Monitor Pass (10/21/18) Crys Black



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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


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Puttin’ on the Dog

Dog Valley (10/8/18) Clayton Peoples

Dog Valley is puttin’ on the dog.

Dog Valley (10/8/18) Clayton Peoples

Dog Valley (10/8/18) Clayton Peoples













Color spotter Clayton Peoples was in search of an old crystal mine in the eastern Sierra foothills (near Reno) where people can pick up crystals – as many as they can carry in a five gallon bucket (in a week) – and happened to pack along his camera.

Just asking, but how many times have any of us gone out, thinking we wouldn’t need to bring along a camera, only to find glorious color!? I sure have.
Clayton didn’t make that mistake. He recalled there were aspen along Dog Valley Rd and when he got there, they were, “sporting various shades of yellow. With numerous pines (it is in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest), the forest has “a nice contrast between the yellow aspen and the dark green pines.” Ka-ching!
“Granted,” he advises, “this area is not as vibrant as many fall color hotspots elsewhere in the Sierra Nevada, but it does offer pleasant scenery and numerous stands of aspen,” and, he had his camera with him. Another First Report for Clayton Peoples.
A word of caution: Dog Valley Rd is a dirt road. So, a high-clearance four-wheel drive vehicle is recommended. For directions, CLICK HERE
  • Dog Valley (6,700′) – Patchy (10-50)

The Bear Valley State

Bear Creek, Bear Valley (10/7/18) Robert Kermen

Bear Valley (10/7/18) Robert Kermen

Donner Lake (10/7/18) Robert Kermen

There’s a reason California has a bear on its flag. The state was full of bears in the mid 1800s and it still is.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife states that between 30,000 and 40,000 American black bears and one California grizzly bear can be seen in California.

The grizzly bear is on the state flag.

Considering there are so many bears living in California, it’s understandable why more than one place is  named “Bear Valley.”

There’s a Bear Valley in Alpine County (the ski area), another in Mariposa County (not far from Yosemite), one in Colusa County (near Cache Creek) and the last in Nevada County, on CA-20 near Bowman Rd..

Robert Kerman passed through this last Bear Valley (the Nevada County one) on Sunday, and reported, “Big leaf maple are dominating the color in this area now. Right nearby is the excellent Pioneer Trail hiking area. I saw many hikers coming and going from the parking lot near Bear River.” More about the area can be found HERE.

Donner Memorial, Donner Lake (10/7/18) Robert Kermen

On his way to Bear Valley, Kermen passed Donner Lake and found it not showing much color. Interesting, as just beyond Truckee along Middle Martis Creek, the color is just about gone. I’ve never seen much fall color at Donner Lake. I figure, the few trees that peak there are about all Donner Lake is gonna get.

Funny. Robert didn’t mention seeing any bears, either. 

  • Bear Valley, Nevada County (5,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Donner Lake (5,936′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Carson Pass and Hope Valley

Red Lake Vista, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Today’s Sunday drive took us across Carson Pass and into the Hope Valley to scout fall color.

Meadow, Kirkwood Inn (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Caples Lake, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Log barn, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Hope Valley (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Sorensen’s Resort, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Willows, Woods Lake (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

As Joan and I neared the Kirkwood Lake turnoff, we were disappointed to see that winds had stripped the west slope of Carson Pass. Only the deep red and orange of meadow shrubs east of the Kirkwood Inn were still beautiful.

So, we approached Caples Lake hesitantly, finding the deeply textured vermillion aspen that Phillip Reedy had captured on 9/28 to be faded and Past Peak.

We then pulled off to explore Woods Lake, passing a few bright spots of yellow along the road to the picnic area. Woods is a picturesque subalpine lake, devoid of aspen, though chartreuse willows line its far shore. By noon, temperatures had only risen to the high 30s. So, we were glad to have brought along warm jackets, knit hats and fleece gloves, and promised ourselves to return in warmer months to kayak the lake.

Only when we reached Red Lake Vista near Carson Pass (8,652′) could full peak color be seen hundreds of feet below near the lake and extending south across the forest.

Continuing east into the heart of Hope Valley, aspen were front-lit and unexciting, but when you turned west, the backlit trees radiated vibrant yellow, while those to the north were orange, yellow and lime.

A stop at Sorensen’s found the resort bustling as usual for an autumn weekend. The waiting line for lunch was over an hour long. Visit midweek and you can get a table pretty quickly.

On both sides of the highway approaching and across from Sorensen’s, stands of aspen were irridescent yellow, as good as I’ve seen them there.

Now returning westbound through Hope Valley, the groves virtually caught fire, backlit with ten thousand points of intense yellow and orange.

Cars would stop at turnouts and unload occupants who would either hike out to the groves or stand by their cars taking cell phone pictures and selfies.

After taking a final shot at Red Lake Creek Cabin, I ran into an old friend who noticed that I seemed “to be on a mission” compared to others who were lingering to enjoy the color. He mentioned he’d missed peak in prior years, but was determined this autumn to spend the day with his wife celebrating her birthday and enjoying the Hope Valley at Peak.

He was not alone. CA-88 was bustling with leaf peepers. Annoyed motorists leaned on their horns to express frustration when they were forced to slow to avoid cars that were pulling in or out of crowded turnouts along the highway.

It made me think, was I becoming like the impatient motorists? I wasn’t honking, but I certainly wasn’t appreciating the moment.

Or was I? 

  • Kirkwood (7,690′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Caples Lake (7,800′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Woods Lake (8,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Vista (8,400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake (7,861′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Creek Cabin – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sorensen’s Resort (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

High on Hope

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

It’s easy to be high on Hope Valley.

It has lakes, streams, a Sierra pass (Carson – CA-88) and aspen in abundance.

So, when Clayton Peoples sent these shots of photographs, captured on Thursday, I knew what to do with my Sunday … head there.

As I write this, breezes are rustling the leaves in the Sierra foothills and whistling over the gables and eaves of my house.

So, it will be an interesting comparison of what happens with four days of peak and a little bit of wind in this beautiful corner of the Sierra. 

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

Red Lake Creek Cabin (10/5/18) Bonnie Nordby

Red Lake Creek Cabin (10/5/18) Bonnie Nordby

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Middle Martis Creek at Peak

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

Aspen surrounding the decaying cabin beside Middle Martis Creek (CA-267) are at peak and will remain good, weather permitting, through this coming weekend.

On Monday, as occurs every day when the aspen are peaking, a steady stream of leaf peepers lingered at the cabin on their way to or after crossing Brockway Summit.

A well-maintained turnout provides parking for a half dozen cars, and there always seems to be one parked there. On weekends, multiple photographers try to work around one another, so a midweek, morning visit is probably best to capture the scene without having to wait for others to move out of frame.

These shots were taken in the late afternoon. By then, clouds had softened the light. I was looking for backlit leaves, but the shaded light kept the leaves from brightening, other than when sunlight would break through gaps between the clouds. I passed the meadow on my return the following morning and the frontlit scene appeared better.

Some of the aspen are dropping leaves, though under 10% of the leaves are still turning from green and lime to yellow and orange. Warm days (70s) and cool nights (30s) have intensified the orange and red tones of the groves. 

Middle Martis Creek (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

M. Martis Creek (10/1/18) John Poimiroo

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Road Trip: The Big Loop

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Fall color junkies will go to any length to satisfy their craving for color, even if it means driving for three days straight.

Phillip Reedy proved that this past weekend when he took a road trip that we’ll call “The Big Loop.”

He began by crossing Carson Pass (CA-88), then Monitor Pass (CA-89), before heading down US 395 as far south as Bishop Creek Canyon (with numerous stops along the route).

Phil reports, “Carson Pass to Red Lake Creek is bursting with colors right now, but it ranges from all green to nearly past peak. The meadow by Red lake is just starting to turn, but heading down 88 from there to Red Lake Creek and the cabin the colors are brilliant yellow and oranges. In another week those trees will likely be losing their leaves.”

He continued, “At the Carson bridge 1/2 mile west of the 88/89 intersection the grove right above the river is looking great with green, yellow and deep reds. But just across the valley to the north, the trees are nearly all green. From the 88/89/ intersection to Sorensen’s Resort there are great colors but some groves near Sorensen’ are losing leaves fast. In another week this area will be getting bare.

West Carson River (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

West Carson River (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Reedy continues that Monitor Pass has some nice yellow areas but still-green trees seem reluctant to change and estimates that in a week “this area will be looking nice.”

Mono County has been getting rave reviews so far this autumn, with Dunderberg Meadow southwest of Bridgeport “in full glory right now. Beautiful yellow, oranges and reds. Don’t wait for this one.”

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Reedy was impressed by Bishop Creek Canyon, particularly South Lake, Lake Sabrina, and North Lakes as all looking great, as were the creeks near the lakes. North Lake is amazing right now. There are still some greens, but I would definitely go in the next week. Just downslope Aspendell is completely green so it will be a week or two before the colors look good there.”

Lake Sabrina (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

North Lake (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

Surveyor’s Meadow 10/1/18) Mike Caffrey

S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/1/18) Mike Caffrey

Mike Caffey also traveled a similar route this weekend, commenting that South Lake, Weir Pond and Parcher’s are nearly Past Peak. While there’s still color to be seen, it’ll be gone, soon. He was similarly pessimistic about how long peak would remain at North Lake and Lake Sabrina, though through the weekend it was “spectacular.”

I write this every autumn, but it never ceases to flabbergast me as to why people ask what they’ll see at North Lake in two weeks, when I’m reporting GO NOW! So, I answer, “bare branches.”

Remember, peak color lasts about two weeks. So, when you first see GO NOW! on a Near Peak destination, pack your bags. If you see it on a Peak destination, the car should be running and you should be heading out the door. If you don’t, YOU MISSED IT.

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

Note that just because it’s Past Peak at one elevation, you haven’t missed it everywhere. If you’re truly in search of beauty, go to a lower elevation. For example, plan now to visit June Lake from Oct. 11 – 18. It should be gorgeous, then.  I can make no promises, however, how good June Lake will be on Oct. 20. 

  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – It’ll be great for maybe another week.
  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Dunderberg Meadows (8,609′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – This is a wow destination right now.
  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Just Starting to Patchy (0 – 50%) – Plan now to visit in mid October.
  • South Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,768′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or YOU MISSED IT! – There will still be great color down the canyon, but it’s almost past peak at the highest elevations.
  • Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,150′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Are your bags packed?
  • North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Is your motor running?

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy