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Tahoe’s is Supposed to be Blue, not Gamboge

Mountain maple, Carnelian Bay, Lake Tahoe (10/12/19) John Poimiroo

The tourist offices at Lake Tahoe make a big point about promoting their destination as “Blue.” In autumn, they should be promoting “Gamboge.”

That’s because vivid yellow, now being worn by the lake’s aspen and mountain maple, is Tahoe’s autumn tone.

Fall color is peaking around the lake with aspen carrying lurid yellow and lime leaves, rose hips cherry in their cheeky choice of color and mountain maple gold.

Here’s a sampling:

  • Lake Tahoe (6,225′) – Near Peak (50-75%), GO NOW!
  • Martis Creek (5,925′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW!
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Boca Panorama

Logan Alexander used a Moto Z3 camera phone in panorama mode to create this image of Boca Reservoir and score a First Report for this location. Aspen are at peak.

Boca Reservoir is on the Little Truckee River, 27 miles southwest of Reno near I-80.

  • Boca Reservoir (5,614′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Update: Winds of Change

Anticipating that PG&E would shut down power in El Dorado Hills, CaliforniaFallColor.com relocated to Lake Tahoe yesterday (Oct. 9) and will post from Agate Bay until power is restored in the Sierra foothills.

True to its word, PG&E cut the power in El Dorado Hills at 1 a.m. Wednesday morning and we took off that afternoon, after dealing with food spoiling, cat sitting and odd jobs around the house.

The drive to Lake Tahoe provided the opportunity to record fall color glimpses that are occurring along the route. (Note: “glimpses” is the operative word, as large stands of trees are seen infrequently along I-80.)

Here’s what’s to be seen:

  • El Dorado Hills (768’) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW! – Specie related – a mix of native and exotic trees.
  • Cisco Grove, I-80 (5,620’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Aspen, Martis Creek, CA-267 (10/9/19) Clayton Peoples
  • Cisco Grove, I-80 (5,656’) – Patchy (10-50%) Fremont cottonwood.
  • Rainbow Rd., I-80 (5,807’) – Near Peak (50-75%) – Quaking aspen and cottonwood.
  • Kingvale, I-80 (6,060’) – Patchy (10-50%) – Cottonwood.
  • Truckee, I-80 (5,925’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Aspen.
  • Martis Valley, CA-267 (5,925’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW – Aspen.
  • Northstar, CA-267 (6,060’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Aspen.
  • Northstar, CA-267 (6,175’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Aspen.
  • Senator Paul J Lunardi Turnout, CA-267 – Peak (75-100%) – Aspen.
  • Martis Creek Cabin, CA-267 (6,709’) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT! – Color spotter Clayton Peoples reports, “The aspen groves near the parking area and near the cabin are at full peak. Although a few clusters of trees have already lost their leaves–likely the trees that had blight, as reported here some weeks ago–the rest of the trees are full of vibrant yellow and yellow-orange leaves. This might be the best color I’ve seen there in a number of years. Go now before it’s too late! (Note: I visited after the wind event Tuesday night-Wednesday morning, and the leaves are still hanging on!)”
  • Kings Beach, Lake Tahoe (6,225’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Aspen, cottonwood, red maple.
  • Agate Bay, Lake Tahoe (6,225’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Aspen.

For all the fears of strong winds, induced by the PG&E power shutdown, winds have been fairly light and few leaves have fallen, so far. Although what wind has blown has shut down power to 2 million people, it has not shut down the fall show.

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Update: Hope Valley

Here’s a location by location update on the Hope Valley (CA-88) from Philip Reedy, who passed through on his way to the Eastern Sierra.

As Philip was reporting on the run, there was not enough time for him to submit photos, but he’ll do so when he returns.

  1. “Hope Valley and the surrounding area is looking great.  I can’t believe how much has changed in the 5 days since I was last there.  The trees above Caples Lake are looking good now where they were green last Friday.
  2. At Red Lake, Forest Service Road 31013 which heads south from the lake has come alive.  There are still some green trees, but most are yellow and orange right now and the area looks wonderful.  I hiked up the hill to the west for a nice view of the Hope Valley in the distance.  The grove right at Red Lake by the old red barn still has some time to go, but it should be great within a week.
  3. Aspen behind Red Lake Creek cabin and across the highway went crazy over the past few days and are definitely at peak.  The cabins looks beautiful as always and there is much more color this week.  This entire area is a definite Go Now!
  4. From the cabin to the West Carson is looking great as well.  The meadow east of the ranch is mostly turned on now, with more green in the groves above the meadow on the mountainside.  Should be great over the next week.
  5. Down by the bridge over the West Carson, a grove to the NE has suddenly colored up as well.  There are yellow, orange and red trees, as well as some still green and others bare.  The trees to the north where CA 89 heads to Tahoe is still mostly green, and it is usually the last to change in the area.
  6. Just west of Sorenson’s the trees look amazing on both sides of the highway.  Another Go Now!
  7. The drive from Sorenson’s to Woodfords is full of yellow trees, as is the drive from Woodfords to Markleeville. Beautiful yellow and orange aspens.
  8. There is a lot of color as well along the East Carson river from Markleeville south to the cutoff to Monitor Pass. Ditto along 89 east to the junction with 395.  Nothing but color. 
  9. The large grove at Monitor Pass has completely changed and is already losing leaves.  Go Now!
  10. There is a lot of nice color along 395 to Bridgeport.  Looking east toward Dunderberg Meadow and Virginia Lakes looks great.  I would have driven up there, but it looked pretty smoky up there.  I understand that there is a fire in Yosemite which must be the cause.
  11. The groves above June Lakes looked nice, so I plan to hit that on the way back Friday.
  12. The colors at North Lake were not as striking as last year, and a lot of smoke blew in around 3 today.
  13. I headed along the road to South Lake and the colors there are phenomenal.  I shot a lot after the sun was off of the trees and the colors were very rich.  I’ll be back there tomorrow.

“It seems that everything is going crazy now so it is definitely time to go.  I’m burning through SD cards and batteries, so I will have a lot of shots to choose from when I get home.”

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Patrolling My Backyard

Red Lake Cabin, Hope Valley (10/7/19) John Poimiroo

The Hope Valley and American River Canyon are sort of my backyard. So, when John Bartell of ABC10 in Sacramento asked to talk about fall color in the Hope Valley, I met him at the Kirkwood Inn and made a loop of the day, checking out the Hope Valley and visiting some spots in the American River Canyon that I’d had on my “must see” list.

What’s happening in the Eastern Sierra is also happening at Hope Valley. Aspen are peaking by grove. Some are at full peak and gorgeous, while others are Just Starting … heavy with leaves, but green.

It looks like we’re not going to have an “all at once” peak, here. Instead, it’s more likely that stands will peak and drop leaves while others remain patchy. This could continue for another week or two. Or it could end abruptly, depending on weather.

Why this is happening is anyone’s guess. Any of these could explain it: a wet winter, a dry summer, a warm autumn. Or, it could be any of another list of reasons. No one can say for certain.

What is certain is that no one should delay visiting fall color when it’s reported as Near Peak or better. As, delaying too long risks missing it altogether. On my drive, I was called by a woman in Fresno who’d somehow gotten my number. She wanted to know if it would be perfect this weekend. I replied, it’s as good as it’s gonna get, and it’s pretty nice.

As Philip Reedy has shown in his weekly reports from Hope Valley, there is plenty of beautiful color there, right now.

Hope Valley (10/7/19) John Poimiroo

One of the best groves is a few hundred feet east of Blue Lakes Rd. on CA-88. It’s a couple of hundred yards from the road across unfenced meadow on public land. Do not, however, climb the fenced ranch beside it, as that’s private property.

Elsewhere in the Hope Valley, you’ll see a mix of fully peaking aspen beside healthy stands that are almost entirely green.

The aspen at Sorensen’s Resort are now devoid of leaves, but stands across the highway, upstream and downstream are lush, healthy and peaking.

On my return by US 50, black oak vary from Patchy to Near Peak on the south bank of the American River. Willows are golden and bracken fern are nearly Past Peak. An aspen grove on Ice House Road at 5,390′ is patchy, though with impressively tall aspen. Bridal Veil fall on US 50 has Near Peak bigleaf maple framing it.

Here’s a rundown of what I saw on today’s drive. Note how now it’s peaking, now it’s not:

  • Sly Park, US 50 (3,560′) – Patchy (10-50%), Bigleaf maple.
  • Mormon Emigrant Trail (6,000 to 7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Willows, yellow and orange.
  • Silver Lake (7,300′) – Just Starting (0-10%), Aspen
  • Shot Rock (7,600′) – Near Peak (50-75%) – Willows, gold.
  • Kirkwood Lake Grove (7,550 – 38° 41′ 39″ N 120° 7′ 20″ W) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Woods Creek Trailhead (8,200′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Red Lake (7,861′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Red Lake Creek Cabin – – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Aspen.
  • Blue Lakes Rd. Junction (7,550′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Aspen, orange.
  • Sorensen’s Resort (7,000′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Woodfords Canyon (7,000′), CA-89 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Luther Pass, CA-89 (7,740′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Strawberry, US 50 (5,325′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • US 50 (3,500′ to 3,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Black Oak
  • Ice House Road, US 50 (5,390′ – 38° 48′ 29″ N 120° 22′ 45″ W) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Bridal Veil Fall, US 50 (3,363;) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Finally, comparing fall color development in the photo of Red Lake Creek Cabin taken today (top), here’s one taken by Dan Rastler three days ago.

Red Lake Creek Cabin (10/4/19) Dan Rastler
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Over the Hump

Monitor Pass (10/7/19) Ryan Boyd

Color spotter Ryan Boyd went over the hump twice, today, crossing both Monitor (CA-89) and Ebbets (CA-4) Passes.

He found them both Near Peak and because they are known for short displays, our advice is to GO NOW!

Monitor Pass is the quickest route from Carson Pass (CA-88), through Markleeville to the Eastern Sierra, while Ebbets Pass is a lightly traveled route through the Central Sierra leading from the Mother Lode mining towns of Angel’s Camp, Murphys and Arnold.

Ebbets Pass (10/7/19) Ryan Boyd

Ryan had been in Mono County photographing Summers Meadow and Lobdell Lake, which he described as Near Peak, but with unturned green areas.

  • Lobdell Lake (9,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Ebbets Pass (8,730′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Hold Up at Carson Pass

Fallen gold, Hope Valley (10/4/19) Philip Reedy

Those words haven’t been written since the late 1800s.

Back then, highwaymen robbed stage coaches of their silver, gold and payrolls along the Carson Pass (CA-88). Today, what’s being held up is fall color.

Yesterday, color spotter Philip Reedy passed over the pass and into the Hope Valley to find aspen steadfastly holding on to their green and reluctant to give up the gold.

N Meadow, East of Blue Lakes Rd., Hope Valley (10/4/19) Philip Reedy

He wrote, “From Caples Lake to Carson Pass there are many aspens along Highway 88 and almost all of them are still green.  From Carson Pass down to Red Lake it’s the same story.  The dirt road heading south from Red Lake has a lot of aspens and almost all are still green. 

“Heading east down to everyone’s favorite cabin (Red Lake Creek Cabin) there are some yellow trees but still mostly green.  There is a little more color by the cabin from last week, but not much more. 

“Across the highway Red Lake Creek should be bursting with yellow and orange leaves, yet most are still green.  Heading east from the cabin toward Hope Valley there are some yellow trees, but most have not changed yet. 

“Just past the Blue Lakes turnoff the Hope Valley has some nice color, but again, there are a lot of trees still waiting to turn.  A little further on the West Carson River area is almost entirely green still,” he explained.

Phil estimates, from pictures he’s taken over the past five years that fall color is at least a week, perhaps two, behind past years.

He agrees with out assessment that this could mean one of the best Octobers we’ve seen in years, should the color be long-lasting, once it develops, as the trees are healthy and full of leaves.

The best color, for now, is in the north meadow, east of Blue Lakes Rd. Though, wear water-resistant hiking boots to see the best of it, as you’ll need to hike into the woods. When doing so, be alert not to create new paths (use the predominant trail and stay in it, even where it gets wet.

Don’t worry, you won’t be held up. Only the color is.

  • Hope Valley – Patchy (10-50%)
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Snow and Autumn

Two snowfalls have occurred in the Sierra and Cascades, this autumn. The latest arrived Sunday night.

Experienced color spotters understand that a dusting of snow is cause for celebration (it adds to photographs), though a blanket of it is not (it detracts from leaves).

Fortunately, the snow received so far has just dusted the mountains.

Martha Fletcher stopped along Cassel Road, just before CA-89 in eastern Shasta County, on Monday to photograph a Valley Oak that was full of yellow leaves. A gray sky hung over Burney Mountain (7,863′) in the background, where snow had fallen the previous night.

She observes that golden, orange and cherry-colored foliage will follow in coming days and weeks, as Shasta County’s autumn matures. The Burney area is a mid-October peak.

Color spotter Robert Kermen passed lime and light-yellow aspen surrounded by a blanket of snow at Rainbow Lodge as he drove I-80 on Monday. This area peaked last year on Oct. 21 and looks to be on schedule for a mid to late October peak.

  • Cassel (3,320′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Rainbow Lodge (5,800′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Hope Has Arrived

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/27/19) Philip Reedy

It was inevitable. The successive shortening of daylight was sure to eventually cause leaves to change color and that’s now happening in the Hope Valley (CA-88, Carson Pass).

Color spotter Philip Reedy made his weekly trip across Carson Pass yesterday and reports, “While there are still many more green trees than yellow, there are plenty of colorful spots to make a trip up to the area worthwhile.  I would say that we are still in the early stages, perhaps 10% change, but at this rate by next weekend and the following week, around October 4th to the 13th, should be excellent.”

Our assessment of Reedy’s photos qualify the Hope Valley to be at the low end of Patchy. By the time you read this and get there, the valley will solidly be Patchy (10-50%).

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/27/19) Philip Reedy

He recommends stopping at the “iconic Red Lake Creek cabin on the north side of Highway 88,” as trees surrounding it are coloring up while across the highway, the aspen are mostly green.  Ground plants are providing color, particularly near creek drainages.

Just past Blue Lakes Rd., further east, a large grove to the north “is showing some nice color in some areas and should be really good in a week or so.” 

Continuing past a bridge that crosses the West Carson River, “most of the trees on the mountainsides to the north and west are still green.  Finally, down by Sorenson’s Resort there are some groves showing bright yellow, many others still green, and even a few bare trees.”

Last week, we reported aspen blight surrounding Sorensen’s, but nearby groves to the west and many in Woodford’s Canyon are fine.

Reedy is predicting Near Peak to Peak color next weekend and for the following week.

Because of the late start and the lush, mostly healthy foliage, the Hope Valley should be good into mid October.

  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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On The Edge

Floristan, I-80 (9/23/19) Robert Kermen

Fall color is on the edge of appearing in the Sierra, though lagging.

Color spotter Robert Kermen spotted this stand of aspen at 6,381′ along I-80 near Floristan at the eastern edge of the California/Nevada border.

There, stunted aspen choke small ravines that cascade down into the Truckee River.

Robert believes cold air dropping through these ravines has caused these mini groves to “color ahead of their contemporaries near Truckee and Donner Summit.” Overall, the grove is Just Starting, though the trees pictured above are Patchy.

  • Floristan, I-80 (6,381′) – Just Starting (0-10%) at  39 degrees 22.5′ 98N and 120 degrees 2.9′ 90W.