Redwoods Ablaze With Color

Eel River (10/17/14) mlhradio, Flickr Creative Commons

Eel River (unknown date) mlhradio, Flickr Creative Commons

The Save The Redwoods League reported on its Facebook page this past Friday that “the redwood forest is ablaze with color.”

So, we called color spotter Grant Roden at Elk Meadow Cabins.  Grant is a naturalist/guide located at Orick near Redwood National and State Parks.  He said the color has peaked at Elk Meadow, though he’s heard that spots along The Redwood Highway (U.S. 101) are peaking, as this photo from the Save The Redwoods League website shows.

Because the elevations in the North Coast are consistent, the color descends much as it does in New England, by latitude along the coast starting at Del Norte County, then descending to Humboldt and eventually Mendocino County. North Coast vineyards, of course, go off on their own schedule by grape variety, and many are peaking, now.

Elk Rut, Elk Meadow Cabins (File Photo) Rick E Martin

Elk Rut, Elk Meadow Cabins (File Photo) Rick E Martin

Grant said the elk rut, this past September, was one of the most spectacular in recent memory.  He said he could hardly get out the Elk Meadow Cabins front office door for the battles occurring between bull elk on the lawn surrounding the lodge. The rut is one of the most colorful, fascinating and exciting wildlife events to occur annually in California.  It’s certainly worth planning a trip to see, next September.

Also of note is that the return of moist weather to the North Coast has become an unexpected attraction, with drought-parched Californians reveling in the rain.

The Redwood Highway (Peak – 75 – 100%) – We’re asking North Coast spotters to confirm this report by sending photos.

Redwood National and State Parks (Past Peak) – YOU MISSED IT!

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Redwood Nat’l & State Parks – Final Weekend of Peak

Red alder, Redwood National Park (11/7/13) Grant Roden

Red alder, Redwood National Park (11/7/13) Grant Roden

GO NOW! 75 – 100%  – Redwood National & State Parks – Color spotter Grant Roden says that if you don’t get to Redwood National & State Parks in Humboldt County this weekend, you’ll miss the last of its fall display.  And, with rain predicted next week, it’ will surely be gone by next weekend.  A few bigleaf maple and red alders are still carrying color, but losing leaves each day, as seen above.  Though, he notes that once the leaves have fallen, the forest views open up, making it easier to see the coastal redwoods and wildlife within the forest.  He recommends Miners Ridge and James Irvine Loop at Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park as having the best remaining display of fall color.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Oregon Oaks – The Oregon Oak is most spectacular when, according to Oaks of California (Pavlik, Muick, Johnson and Popper, Cachuma Press), “days become shorter and cold northern air masses return to the Pacific Coast.” The book continues, “rust-colored canopies of Oregon oak appear dappled against evergreen hillsides of the inner North Coast and Klamath Ranges.”

The Oregon Oak is one of five deciduous species of oak trees in California.  It, along with the low-growing, spreading Engelmann Oak (found near Santa Barbara in a few remnant groves of ancient trees that grew prolifically across the southwest, millennia ago) is viewed only if you make the effort to travel out of the way to see it.

The three most common deciduous oaks in California are the massive Valley Oak which populates the central valley,  magnificent Black Oak in the mountains (Yosemite) and prolific Blue Oak which populate the foothills and lower elevations.

California’s evergreen species are the Coast Live Oak, Interior Live Oak, Canyon Oak and Island Oak (found only at Channel Islands National Park).


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Vintage Year for Wine Country

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Calistoga, Napa Valley (File Photo) John Poimiroo

Reports from wine growing regions in northern and central California describe beautiful color in the vineyards with different varieties showing maroon, crimson, orange, yellow and lime grape leaves.  All but a few late harvest grapes remain on the vines.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, Monterey, Santa Clara and Contra Costa County Vineyards – Peak will evolve through vineyards as specific varieties of grapes turn color.  The show will likely continue for another two to three weeks.


Freeway Foliage

While driving along US 101, the Redwood Highway, the green forest beside the road will often light up suddenly in yellow or crimson.  Color spotter Sandy Steinman reports he took the route this past weekend, from Arcata to the Bay Area and experienced just that.  He writes, “The trees in northern California have turned quite a bit in the last several days. The Maples and other deciduous trees around the Avenue of the Giants to Willits are mostly showing their fall yellows. I would guess they are now about 80 percent turned.  There is also still lots of red from poison oak growing on the redwoods.  There are also planted trees in towns and private property showing other fall colors as well. Just remember this area is mostly conifers and patches of fall color are usually not large or widespread.”

As Sandy drove south of  Willits, he found “the best fall color was the vineyards. Some are in full color  showing a lot of yellow and red while others are still mostly green.”  That’s the thing about the vineyards.  One will be deep red, another unturned and the next a mix of yellow, orange, red and lime.

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – U.S. 101, The Redwood Highway – Spots of yellow bigleaf maple and crimson poison oak decorate the otherwise evergreen redwood forest from Willits north to Arcata.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Mendocino and Sonoma County Vineyards – A mix of fully peaked vines of various bright colors (deep red, orange, yellow, lime) can be near one that hasn’t even considered turning color.  That’s October in the vineyards.  Still, we issue a Go Now alert for wine country as spots will be good throughout the remainder of October and early November.


Fall Glows and Elks Rut at Redwood Nat’l Park


Elk Meadow, Redwood National Park, Orick, Calif. (10/2/09) Rick E Martin

There may be a federal shutdown, but no one told the Roosevelt Elk at Redwood National Park to stop rutting or the fall colors to stop changing.  Color spotter Grant Roden reports from the Elk Meadow Cabins that the “‘federal shut down’ really has had minimal impact at Redwood National and State Parks for visitors that want to see the old growth redwood and habitat. Some of the best areas to visit are in the state parks, where visitor centers and public services are still available, as normally provided.”

30 – 50% – Redwood National and State Parks – These parks are known for their yellow and golden displays of Big Leaf Maple and Alder set in contrast to the redwood forest.  Look for spots of crimson poison oak in open brushy areas and along the edges of meadows (it is found infrequently beneath the redwood canopy, as it needs light to survive), but be careful not to touch it!  Grant writes, “The red and yellow hues are stunning in contrast to the towering evergreen redwood giants.”

Fall Wildlife Viewing Grant reports that several wildlife shows are now in progress in Humboldt County.

  • Elk Rut – The annual rut of the Roosevelt Elk is at peak, presently, with large bull elk bugling and battling to take charge of harems of elk cows.  This is ranks up there with coastal whale, central valley waterfowl and bat migrations as being one of California’s most dramatic wildlife spectacles.
  • Shore Birds – A fall migration of shore birds is to be seen at beaches all along the North Coast.  Beaches at Freshwater Lagoon, Stone Lagoon and Big Lagoon, near US 101, are good locations to see the migratory birds.
  • Chinook Salmon Run – the fall run of Chinook salmon is at peak on the Klamath River.
  • Whale Watching – Grey and Blue whales are now migrating along the North Coast.  Several charter boat companies offer trips from Eureka and Trinidad