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Marin Coho Run Begins

Coho salmon, Lagunitas Creek (11/24/20) Marin Municipal Water District

The winter run of critically endangered Coho salmon is running late, the Turtle Island Restoration Network reports.

The largest run of coho salmon and steelhead trout to be seen occurs in Marin County along Lagunitas Creek, San Geronimo Creek, Olema Creek and several other tributaries. It continues through February with peak viewing now through January. Steelhead trout spawn later, ususally between January and March.

Some 300 to 700 of the salmon are expected to spawn this year, which is considered to be above average.

This winter’s run begins at Tomales Bay where the salmon enter freshwater streams. This year, however, the run is late as little rain has fallen. To see the salmon, visit the Leo T Cronin Salmon Viewing Area, operated by the Marin Municipal Water District in the town of Lagunitas.

Salmon can be seen spawning in the creek directly below the parking lot and at several locations upstream along fire road. For more information on seeing the coho salmon run, CLICK HERE.

  • Coho Salmon Run, Marin County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Late Harvest

Liquidambar, Hwy 116, Sonoma County (12/5/20) David Laurence Sharp

How sweet it is. The late harvest of fall color along the North Coast, that is.

David Laurence Sharp notes that just like a sweet Sauterne that is the last to be harvested, a boulevard of liquidambar (half way between Sebastopol and Graton along Hwy 116 in Sonoma County) takes “a long time … to change color completely. So, I wait and wait and wait. This year some of the trees had already lost some of their leaves.”

Napa Valley (11/28/20) Vishal Mishra

Vishal Mishra and Seema Bhatt spent the final days of November in the Napa Valley enjoying scenes of the autumn’s end, there.

Michelle and Ron Pontoni shadowed it along the streets of Arcata.

  • Sonoma County (108′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
  • Napa Valley (253′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
  • Arcata (23′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Valley of the Moon

Valley oak, Valley of the Moon, Kenwood (11/29/20) David Laurence Sharp

Jack London loved the Sonoma Valley. He called it the Valley of the Moon. It’s where London planned his dream home, Wolf House, which burned to the ground days before the great outdoor adventure novelist was to occupy it in 1913.

The ruins remain on Sonoma Mountain, above Glen Ellen where Jack London State Historic Park memorializes the California author’s fabled life.

Below, arcing through the crescent-shaped Valley of the Moon, vineyards are now mostly past peak, reports wine country photographer David Laurence Sharp, “though the trees are looking great.”

Blending fascinating history and glorious nature, Jack London State Historic Park offers more than 29 miles of back-country trails that roam through mixed forests, redwood groves, oak woodlands, and grassy meadows.

The four-mile Ancient Redwood Trail loops from the parking lot to a 14-foot wide old growth redwood affectionately known as “the Grandmother tree.”  Two scenic and relatively short historic trails lead to the Wolf House ruins and a tour of London’s Beauty Ranch.

Jack London was one of the most prolific and popular authors of his time, the first to earn a million dollars at his trade.   Many of his books are considered classics, including “Call of the Wild,” “White Fang,” “The Sea Wolf,” and “Martin Eden.” Jack’s Shop offers more than 50 of Jack London’s titles as well as writings about his life, and books by and about his wife, Charmian London.  

While the Park’s indoor facilities – the Museum and Cottage – are currently closed, Jack’s Shop, the park’s gift store, is open outdoors adjacent to the Cottage on weekends from noon to 4 p.m. Park admission fees apply.

Jack London State Historic Park will remain open for holiday shopping and outdoor recreation through the holiday season, Jack London Partners has announced. JLP is the first non-profit organization to manage a state park on behalf of the people of California. For more about visiting the park, CLICK HERE.

  • Sonoma Valley (423′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It!
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Fall, Not Spring Color

Trione-Annadel State Park near Santa Rosa in Sonoma County is better known for its spring wildflowers, not its fall color.

John Natelli found the opposite on Thanksgiving Day with black oak, toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and coyote brush (Baccharis pilularis) providing peak fall color. In doing so, he scored a First Report.

  • Trione-Annadel State Park, Santa Rosa (400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Vintage Napa

Yountville (11/22/20) Vishal Mishra

Wine country is peaking, with colors bright and inviting spanning the Napa Valley.

South Bay color spotters Vishal Mishra and Seema Bhat explored the area, visiting Yountville, Calistoga and St. Helena, then shared the vintage locations they found. All are at peak.

Rutherford, St. Helena (11/22/20) Vishal Mishra
  • Napa Valley (253′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Asti (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

At one time in the 20th century, Asti in northern Sonoma County was more famous for its wine than many of California’s now legendary wine making regions.

Asti was the base of Italian Swiss Colony wines, established in 1881 as an agricultural colony focused on growing grapes and making wine to serve the large community of Italian immigrants in San Francisco (think North Beach and the names DiMaggio, Alioto, Ghirardelli, Ferlinghetti, Coppola, Giannini and Pelosi). By 1905, its wines had won international awards and acclaim and was producing huge amounts of wine from its 500,000 gallon cistern.

Under Louis Petri, the brand Italian Swiss Colony (ISC) was mass marketed across the U.S. following prohibition, but starting in the 1980s acquisitions and changing wine tastes led consumers toward preferring boutique wines compared to mass-produced ones, reducing the value of the brand. Eventually, Chateau Souverain, one of those boutique wines, moved its production to ISC’s Asti Winery.

Today, America’s sixth-largest wine production facility at Asti and the Souverain brand are owned by E & J Gallo Winery. The acquisition provides a lesson in how fortunes shift in the wine industry. In the 1960s, ISC was bigger than Gallo.

So, when North Coast color spotter Walt Gabler took these pictures, scoring a First Report, he struggled to identify the winery calling it the Asti Winery which it is. The image he captured is classic California wine country: rolling hills scored with rows of healthy vines leading up to oak-speckled, golden mountains. It’s all at peak this week in Asti.

Coppola Vineyards, Sonoma County (11/22/20) Walt Gabler

Walt reports that vines throughout Sonoma County are at peak and trees along the Russian River are also at full peak, “Better than I have seen in previous years.” Though, disappointingly, vineyards in Mendocino County were hit by a freeze and their leaves are brown husks hanging dismally from vines.

  • Asti (404′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Down in the Valley

Old Zinfandel, Pagani Vineyard, Sonoma Valley (11/18/20) David Laurence Sharp

Fall colors are looking up, down in the Sonoma Valley. David Sharp found bold color in venerable vineyards.

  • Sonoma Valley (85′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Shufflin Through The Leaves

Leaf blowers are so powerful and efficient that leaves don’t stay piled up for long. Before there’s time to dive into a pile, they’ve been collected. So, when you happen upon a walkway strewn with dry leaves, as Ron and Michelle Pontoni did this week in Arcarta, have fun shufflin’ through them.

As for the color, though Arcata was declared past peak some time ago, Michelle’s photos show exotic Japanese maple and Gingko biloba hanging on at Humboldt State University (campus gates are closed due to the virus) and cedar waxwings and robins feasting on bunches of holly berries.

  • Arcata (23′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, You almost missed it.

48 Hours

Historic barn, Westside Rd., Dry Creek Valley (11/15/20) David Laurence Sharp

In the span of 48 hours, “rain and wind on Friday took its toll on the vineyards of west Sonoma County,” reports wine country photographer David Laurence Sharp, “By Sunday, the vines had pretty much gone past peak,” there.

So, David drove to north Sonoma County where fall color was a “mixed bag” peaking in some vineyards and Near Peak in others.

His advice? Get to Sonoma or Napa as soon as you can.

Because of the ongoing storm, we recommend visiting between Thursday and Saturday. Thereafter, there may not be much vineyard color left.

Vineyard, Pastori Winery, Geyserville (11/15/20) David Laurence Sharp
  • South Sonoma County Vineyards – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You almost missed it.
  • North Sonoma County Vinyeards – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!

Dew Drop Inn

Rain drops, Autumn grasses, Ukiah (11/14/20) Walt Gabler

Walt Gabler traveled back from his backwoods Humboldt County cabin, passing by the Benbow Inn on US 101, capturing multi-colored leaves carpeting the landscape, as autumn color was bowing out.

By the time he got back to Ukiah, rain had arrived, the vines had turned from green to brown and dew had weighed down fall grasses.

  • Benbow Inn, Eel River (440′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW You Almost Missed It.
  • Ukiah (663′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW You Almost Missed It.