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24 Little Hours

Mountain biking at Big Bear Lake, San Bernardino NF (10/17/20) James Wei

Well, if what Dinah Washington once sang was true …

“What a difference a day makes
Twenty-four little hours
Brought the sun and the flowers
Where there used to be rain …

Stanley Adams / Maria Grever

Then, what a difference a week makes, at least in Big Bear Lake. James Wei reports he was there a week ago when it was Patchy to Near Peak and now golden hues are everywhere.

He wonders whether the dry year had something to do with the fact that the color isn’t as vibrant as he remembers and though his bike ride through the mountains was fantastic, there’s a sense the color won’t last.

  • Big Bear Lake – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Big Bear Peaks Through

Big Bear Lake (10/14/20) Steve Shinn

It almost seems like the clock tower in Big Bear Lake is peeking through the cottonwood. It’s the other way around. The cottonwood are the ones peaking.

Southern California color spotter Steve Shinn rates Big Bear as at Peak and estimates that the exotics have a week to go, while those cottonwood will last a while.

Now that San Bernardino National Forest is open and skies have cleared, the color at Big Bear is vibrant. Steve notes that a mix of native and exotic trees in Big Bear Lake provide for a colorful palette.

  • Big Bear Lake (6,752′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Ashen Aspen

Aspen Grove Trail, Sand to Snow Nat’l Monument (10/5/18) Alena Nicholas

When San Bernardino National Forest reopened last week, I had hopes that the scene Alena Nicholas captured two years ago in an award-winning report, Aspen Grove Trail Recovers, would look even better.

Instead, the moribund scenes captured by Lisa Wilkerson-Willis with her camera phone tell of aspen not bursting with new life, but struggling beneath a coating of ash.

Aspen Grove Trail, San Bernardino NF (10/11/20) Lisa Wilkerson-Willis

Lisa visited the grove soon after it reopened, but found little to no color. It was so disappointing, she didn’t think it “worth it to use my camera.”

The grove has so little color or promise that it will develop, that I’m classifying it as Past Peak, even though many of the few leaves there have yet turned color.

Despite the dismal setting, Lisa found optimism in the “baby aspen” pushing up “all around the grove, some as tall as 11 feet, measuring two to three inches in diameter.”

Now if we could just get a break … a year with rain, an autumn without smoke … perhaps we could see it at its best.

Elsewhere in the San Bernardino Mountains, James Wei says Big Bear is dragging its roots, as well. He rates most of the foliage to be short of 50%, which makes it barely Near Peak.

  • Aspen Grove Trail, Sand to Snow National Monument, San Gorgonio Wilderness, San Bernardino National Forest (7,370′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Big Bear Lake (6,752′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10 – 75%) Go Now!
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You Gotta Love It.

Spectrum News 1 joined up with color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart to report about fall color in the Oak Glen area of Southern California.

Nick’s comment? “Fall color in California? You gotta like it.”

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A Cornucopia of Color

Liquidambar, Oak Glen (11/18/19) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen is displaying a cornucopia of color.

Though the San Bernardino Mountains apple-growing area is at an elevation of 4,734′, fall color still looks good and should stay at peak until Thanksgiving Day, SoCal color spotter Alena Nicholas estimates.

She was there on Monday taking pictures and being interviewed by Spectrum News for Californiafallcolor.com.

Oak Glen (11/18/19) Alena Nicholas

Alena reports that Oak Glen’s ponds, woods and orchards are still full of bright color. Deer have settled into the orchards as they wait for the inevitable apple to fall from an upper branch.

Oak Glen was California’s first apple harvest destination. Its farms and shops are famous for their homebaked apple pastries, nature trails, handmade gifts, harvest atmosphere, honest family fun and fresh-pressed cider.

And yes, there’s still time to order a ready-to-bake apple pie before Thanksgiving Day.

  • Oak Glen (4,734′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Retreat to Idyllwild

Black oak, Ernie Maxwell Trail (11/4/19) Mark Hanning-Lee

Idyllwild has long been a favorite Southern California retreat.

The San Jacinto mountain town is surrounded by scenic terrain that invites hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and awe.

Mark Hanning-Lee hiked the Ernie Maxwell Trail and explored the area last week, showing black oak, manzanita and Frémont cottonwood at peak. By now, the areas he photographed with an iPhone X are at the end of peak with lower elevations (Lake Hemet) and northwest-facing areas now peaking.

Mark parked at the Humber Peak trailhead and walked south along the Ernie Maxwell trail. He recommends an afternoon hike, as it is lit from mid afternoon to sunset.

In town, a spindly Frémont cottonwood by the Town Crier office was still full of golden leaves. He then continued north 10 miles on State Route 243 to find Near Peak color along Stone Creek and Lake Fulmor.

  • Idyllwild (5,413′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Hemet (4,340′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Classic Camping

Classic Shasta Trailer, Lake Hemet, (11/8/19) Chance Gordon

An Indian Summer is extending the camping and fall color seasons in the San Jacinto Mountains where, at Lake Hemet, the days have been warm, the nights cool, and classic trailers even cooler.

Jeff Brown reports from Lake Hemet Campgrounds that wildlife viewing (bald eagles), fishing (rainbow trout) and fall color spotting (cottonwood, black oak) are at their peak in mid November.

  • Lake Hemet – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Lake Arrowhead – Not? Hot!

Rabbitbrush and black oak, Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead is defying expectations. By now, it was supposed to be not. Instead, it’s still hot.

Lake Arrowhead (11/5/19) Alena Nicholas

Black oak are still carrying deep orange color in the San Bernardino Mountains surrounding Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory, as seen in these snaps sent in by Alena Nicholas.

  • Lake Arrowhead (5,174′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • Lake Gregory (4,554′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Goin’ to Jackson

Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest (11/5/19) Lance Pifer

Johnny Cash and June Carter would surely be “talkin’ ’bout Jackson,” ’cause the fire there’s not gone out. Black oak at Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest are aflame with color.

Lance Pifer visited Jackson Lake this past weekend, to find the Wrightwood/Valyermo areas displaying bright yellow and deep orange leaves.

Lance went for a run through the color along a Jackson Lake trail and enjoyed the color near Mountain High ski area near Wrightwood along CA-2. 

Indian summer weather is providing a short-sleeved extension to warm days and late autumn color in and around the lake, Wrightwood and Valyermo. And, it’s not just the weather that’s hotter’n a pepper sprout. So is the fall color. Lance figures it varies from 50 to 80% turned. Considering the late date, we’re classifying it as Peak and recommend to GO NOW!

As, snow will soon blanket the San Gabriel Mountains, and then, big-talkin’ man, you’re gonna snowball Jackson, kinda like the song says.

  • Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains (6,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Silverwood Turns Gold

Silverwood Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains is a great recreational destination, popular for water sports and for fishing rainbow trout, largemouth bass, striped bass, Channel catfish and bluegill.

Because the Silverwood Lake is lightly forested, it is not often reported for fall having much fall color. However, Silverwood’s cottonwood, oak and willows are now Near Peak to Peak.

The leading reason to head to Silverwood lake is its recreation, though for the moment, fall color will greet you warmly as it did color spotter Chien-Chang Kyle Chen, today.

  • Silverwood Lake, San Bernardino Mountains (3,356′) Chien-Chang Kyle Chen – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!