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The Triple Crown

Virginia Lakes (9/13/21) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

It’s rare when a location wins the triple crown of California Fall Color: Peak of the Week, Drive of the Week and Hike of the Week.

Mono County wins all three this week with:

  • Peak of the Week – Virginia Lakes
  • Drive of the Week – Dunderberg Rd.
  • Hike of the Week – Little Lakes Valley

Here’s why they were chosen:

Peak of the Week – Virginia Lakes is consistently one of the first areas in California to peak. At an elevation of 9,819′ it gets the coldest nights, soonest. This year, overnight temperatures have been in the mid 30s, though the high elevation at Virginia Lakes has allowed for the earliest color change. Although Patchy color was reported just a couple of days ago, there, photographs show it to be Near Peak and it’s likely to move to Near Peak this weekend. So, Virginia Lakes gets a GO NOW!

Dunderberg Meadows Rd (9/17/21) Brinn Little

Drive of the Week – Dunderberg Road is an all-wheel-drive/four-wheel-drive road near Virginia Lakes. You’ll see beautiful Patchy to Near Peak color along it and since you’re heading to Virginia Lakes, include a ride along Dunderberg Rd.

Upper Rock Creek Rd. (9/19/21) Clayton Peoples

Hike of the Week – The Little Lakes Valley is reached by driving to Rock Creek Lake in Southern Mono County, then hiking to a beautiful valley surrounded by rugged sawtooth mountain peaks and emerging fall color. This hike is well worth a trip to Mono County even when the color isn’t at peak.

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Yosemite is Back

Black oak and cottonwood, Swinging Bridge, Yosemite Valley (11/1/20) Steve Arita

Yosemite National Park reopened to day visitation yesterday and both Steve Arita and Adarsh Dattani were there to record its beauty.

Steve reports the fall colors are beautiful with peak black oak, bigleaf maple and emerging Fremont cottonwood. A few dogwood still carry rosy leaves, though they are the exception.

As is typical of autumn, the Merced River was just a trickle, though rain is expected to fall on Friday. Once it does, it will recharge the waterfalls. Snow is a possibility, which would be beautiful should it drop as low as the valley (4,000′) and frost the gold and orange fall color with white.

Gates of the Valley, Yosemite Valley (11/1/20) Steve Arita

Steve marveled at the alpenglow. When you live in the valley for as many years as I did, you learn to wait for the alpenglow (the refraction of sunset light through the upper atmosphere) to paint El Capitan and Half Dome pink. Sunsets are best enjoyed in Yosemite Valley by facing east, not west, in order to see this effect.

American Black Bear, Yosemite Valley (11/1/20) Adarsh Dattani

American black bear were out foraging in the Valley. They are often active in autumn and more easily seen because shrubbery doesn’t disguise them as much.

Pacific Dogwood, Yosemite National Park (11/1/20) Adarsh Dattani

Dattani found dogwood to be at Peak higher up and just turning red in the Valley (later than usual). Bigleaf maple are now Past Peak. Cottonwood are colored lemon and lime, while the black oak are blushing orange.

Yosemite is a definite GO NOW and could be outrageously beautiful should it snow to valley level on Friday, then clear. As such, a Thursday – Sunday visit is recommended.

Swinging Bridge, Yosemite Valley (11/1/20) Adarsh Dattani

Yosemite National Park is CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Peak of the Week.

  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Statewide Summary

Courthouse Square, Quincy (10/28/20) Philip Reedy

Now that the skies have cleared of haze almost entirely across the Eastern Sierra, wouldn’t you know it? Fall color is mostly past peak.

There is peak color to be seen along US 395, but it no longer compares with the overwhelming beauty photographed two weeks ago. Now to appreciate autumn’s display, in the Eastern Sierra, you need to be inspired by the contrast of bare limbs beside others laden with deep color.

The best remaining color in Inyo County is found at the bottom of Bishop Creek Canyon, in Pine Creek Canyon where lush stands of black cottonwood are found, in the Round Valley where old cottonwood shade decaying shepherd’s shacks and at the Buckley Ponds near Bishop where soaring trees reflect their golden boughs upon still waters.

North along US 395 in Mono County, Twin Lakes is the last great remaining holdout still to peak fully. The legendary June Lake Loop is now capped with a cerulean sky (wildfire smoke has cleared away), though its long boulevards of aspen are a shattered mix of still-green, peaking gold and brown leaves and, of course, barren branches. Hikers trekking to Lundy Lake still enjoy color at the start of the trail, but as they reach the beaver ponds, it dwindles and a chill breeze alerts them that winter is approaching.

Peak has ended over Tioga Pass, Sonora Pass, Ebbetts Pass, Monitor Pass and Carson Pass. Only Echo Summit, Donner Pass and Yuba Pass have yet to peak fully. The Hope Valley is officially past peak and this is likely the last week of peak at Lake Tahoe. 

Even in Plumas County at the northern end of the Sierra, peak fall color is disappearing. The county’s famous sugar maples are now denuded, their orange leaves spin behind passing cars. Downtown Quincy remains a hold out with big color surrounding the Plumas County Courthouse.

Increasing numbers of Past Peak reports does not mean the show has ended. Peak has just dropped in elevation to between 3,500 and 6,000′, depending on location. Also, different species are now peaking.

Gone are the Pacific aspen. Arriving are the black oak, which display black limbs and deep orange leaves from Halloween into November. Bigleaf maple continue to dazzle with their gigantic gamboge leaves. And soon the vineyards, orchards and foothills will be dressed. While, long, undulating Vs of squawking geese indicate it’s time to head to the rice fields to see crane, heron, egrets, ducks and stilts posturing and preening. 

Throughout Plumas County’s Indian Valley a decided air of final harvest remains as gold and orange dominate. Peak fall color has moved to the northern end of the Sierra and southern Cascades, to embrace Lake Almanor, Susanville and arc through the Shasta Cascade toward the Trinity Alps, Marble Mountains and north coast.

We’ve heard little from color spotters in that part of California. They’ve been dealing with wildfires and Covid closures and only now are sending back photos of plants that had no idea the rest of the world had stopped. While we were focused on fighting fires and a virus, they’ve been turning color.

In Southern California, the exotics in the San Bernardino Mountains (notably Big Bear Lake and Lake Almanor) have been peaking for a week. Aspen are now past peak. Near Peak are black oak. Native trees at Oak Glen are between Patchy and Near Peak, with lots of color and activity among the U-pick orchards and farm stands.

Hike of the Week is a walk through downtown Quincy. CLICK HERE for the route.

Bike of the Week is the Lake Almanor Recreation Trail near Chester. An 18.9-mile lightly trafficked, dog-friendly bike/foot path connects Almanor West with Canyon Dam. The trail has a 830′ gain. This is a pine and fir forest with fall color mostly consisting of willows. Though, good color is found around the lake in Chester, along the south east shore and down CA-89 through the Indian Valley.

Indian Valley, CA-89 (10/19/20) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Peak of the Week and Drive of the Week is the Indian Valley (CA-89) between Quincy and Lake Almanor in Plumas County (northern Sierra). Orange black oak are brightening the route. Visit the Plumas County Courthouse in Quincy to look up into towering fully peaking trees at Courthouse Square.

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June Is Busting Out All Over

Conway Summit (10/19/20) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

It’s time to break out into song, ’cause June Lake is busting out, and peak color is being seen all over Mono County.

Mono County Tourism’s Jeff Simpson calls it “the week we’ve been waiting for,” and it’s easy to see why. For the next week to ten days the best color left in the Eastern Sierra is putting on a show. That’s why the June Lake Loop has been named CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Peak of the Week and Driving Tour of the Week.

As is seen in Jeff’s and Alicia Vennos’ photographs, weather and smoke vary greatly day by day, hour by hour. One moment it’s crystal clear, the next it’s congested.

Knowing when it’s best outside, is a matter of referring to tools like PurpleAir.com. This app provides an immediate color-coded view of what’s happening where you are and where you plan to go.

Despite the intermittent haze, the entire front country of the Eastern Sierra is open to fall color viewing. It is only wilderness areas in the backcountry of Inyo National Forest that remain closed.

All locations pictured here can be visited, and as is evident – they’re beautiful right now.

Unfortunately, not everyone visiting the outdoors this year has done so responsibly. Yesterday, I posted that Taylor Creek at Lake Tahoe had to be closed because people were jumping fences and trampling the forest in order to take selfies of bear feeding on spawning salmon.

The many fall color spotters I’ve met are responsible and careful about protecting the places we visit. So, we can help keep the forests open for fall color and wildlife viewing by packing out any litter that’s been left behind and encourage others to do the same.

It’s all about practicing Mountain Manners, as they say in Mono County.

Monitor Pass, CA-89 (10/16/20) Jeff Simpson

Walker / Coleville / Topaz

  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – We’ve had Monitor Pass at Peak to Past Peak for a week. It won’t last much longer.
  • West Walker River, Walker, Coleville and Topaz (5,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now. – The Antelope Valley should peak within the week. Towering cottonwood rain bright golden leaves on US 395 that swirl as vehicles pass.

Sonora Pass / Lobdell Lake Rd.

  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – The top of the pass is past peak, but Leavitt Meadows is still gorgeous.
  • Lobdell Lake Rd (9,274′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – Most of Lobdell Lake Rd. is now past peak, though those groves that were green when the rest of the road was peaking are now lovely. This is the place to go to be at one with nature and feel what it must have been like for Mark Twain to travel similar dirt roads through the aspen.

Bridgeport / Virginia Lakes

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now. – It’ll just get better each day over the coming week as Peak arrives.
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Conway Summit (8,143) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Rolling layers of color, lush trees and a horizon that rises to alpine splendor. A broad vista hardly gets better that at Conway Summit, right now. Be cautious when stopping along US 395 to view the color. Find a wide area along the turnout and be cautious before exiting your vehicle. The trees can lose leaves, but we don’t want to lose you.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Cascading layers of brilliant color are dressing the rolling hillsides of Summer’s Meadow.

Lee Vining

  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! –  As we reported four days ago, Lee Vining Canyon has powered up. Its forest has red, gold, yellow, lime, orange. Drink it all in.
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – If you didn’t hike Lundy Canyon last week, this is the last week to see it it its best. There’s probably a week to ten days of additional peak color there, but don’t delay.

June Lake Loop

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – “
    June Lake Loop is California Fall Color’s Peak of the Week. As the song goes, “June is busting out all over!” It’s just “spectacular” throughout the the June Lake Loop (CA-158). All its classic viewing spots will be perfect for the next week to ten days. GO NOW!

Mammoth Lakes

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – The Mammoth Lakes Basin is past peak, though beautiful color lights up the town of Mammoth Lakes along Snow Creek.

Crowley Lake/ McGee Creek Canyon / Convict Lake

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Everything up McGee Creek is now at peak, including the campground and pack station. A walk along the creek is a delightful fall color experience.
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now. – Every fall color viewing location in Mono County is now peaking. Crowley still has a little green, but now more color than not is showing. It’ll stay good for two solid weeks. So if your travels don’t get you to the Eastern Sierra until November, you’ll still find scattered peak color here.
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Convict Lake has just edged past 75%, so it’s got a solid week to ten days of glorious color ringing it.

Rock Creek Canyon

  • Rock Creek Rd (9,600′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, You Almost Missed It. – The upper section of Rock Creek Rd. is past peak, though from midway down to Tom’s Cabin is where you’ll find the best color.
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd. (7,087′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now.
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Bullseye – Lobdell Lake Road

Lobdell Lake Rd (9/28/20) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

If you’re seeking to target California’s best fall color this week, focus on Lobdell Road in northern Mono County (US 395) as your bullseye. It is both our Peak of the Week and Driving Tour of the Week.

Lobdell Lake Rd. is a dirt road. As such, a sport-utility vehicle (SUV), an AWD passenger car like a Subaru, or pickup truck is recommended. Only if you attempt to drive up to the summit might a high-clearance 4WD be required. Here’s what Buzzards on the Road experienced in 2018.

Video courtesy of Buzzards on the Road (10/10/18)

The route begins on US 395, a short distance southeast of Sonora Junction. Take Burcham Flat Rd. from US 395 north to Lobdell Lake Rd. From there, it winds, dipping down beside the south fork of Cottonwood Creek and through lush groves of aspen as it climbs into the Sweetwater Mountains of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. At times, the aspen line the road in one of the prettiest fall color boulevards in California.

This weekend and coming week it will be at Peak and fabulous. Considering that there are few alternatives as good and that – therefore – it’s likely to be a busy road, please drive courteously, cautiously and take time to enjoy the scenery.

Good places to fuel up and refresh are Bridgeport from the south and Walker from the north (US 395). A favorite stop is the Walker Burger for one of the best roadside hamburgers in California (not gourmet, but satisfying).

Elsewhere in Mono County, Jeff Simpson reports the colors are looking fantastic at upper elevations of Mono County. Unlike last year, the leaves are bright, vibrant and colorful across all elevations and locations. 

For a Hike of the Week, head out on the Green Creek Trail or Molybdenite Creek Trail for colors you won’t be able to see from a car. This completes the first CaliforniaFallColor.com Triple Crown: Peak of the Week, Driving Tour of the Week and Hike of the Week for Mono County!

Sonora Pass just edged into the Near Peak designation and will be best by the end of the weekend or early next week.

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Patchy (10-50% – Still around 50% for most areas and especially at the summit. Some good yellows and peaking trees on the east side but still a good week away from peak color. 
  • West Walker River, Walker, Coleville and Topaz (5,200′) – Just Starting (0-10%) – Still just getting started with a few yellow and lime-green leaves.
Sonora Pass (9/28/20) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

SONORA PASS / LOBDELL LAKE

  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – Just barely made the list, as some groves are just starting to turn along the road south of the summit and as low as Leavitt Meadows Pack Station. Just approaching peak color and would be best over the weekend or early next week. 
  • Lobdell Lake Rd (9,274′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – This drive is both Peak of the Week and Driving Tour of the Week. It should be spectacular this weekend. Some areas are still green while others are past peak but this is the week for the most coverage of peak colors. Go now before slamming your palm against your forehead and muttering, “Why didn’t I listen?” 

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%) – Just getting started, mostly green trees with some yellow leaves along the Twin Lakes Road. Nice color is seen up the Robinson Creek Trail at the end of Twin Lakes Rd. 
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or you’ll have missed it! – Golden yellows, oranges and reds are being seen along the road below Virginia Lakes Resort. Some areas are past peak at the parking lot of Upper Virginia Lakes. 
  • Dunderberg Meadows Road – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Take Dunderberg Meadows Road toward Green Creek for full groves of peak color.
  • Conway Summit (8,143) – Just Starting (0-10%) One good patch of yellow trees way up on the hill but mostly green/lime green everywhere else.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) Just Starting (0-10%) – Just starting in the highest of elevations.

LEE VINING 

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – RESERVATION REQUIRED TO TRAVEL TIOGA RD.
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Patchy (10-50%)

BENTON & 120 EAST 

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

JUNE LAKE LOOP

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Just Starting (0-10%)

MAMMOTH LAKES

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Patchy (10-50%)

CROWLEY LAKE/McGEE CREEK/CONVICT LAKE

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Patchy (10-50%)

ROCK CREEK CANYON

  • Upper Rock Creek Rd (10,300’) – REOPENING OCT. 3 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Middle Rock Creek Rd (8,500′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd. (7,087′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
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Yes Virginia, There is an Autumn

Virginia Lakes Rd (9/22/20) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes has received CaliforniaFallColor.com‘s first “Go Now!” with Near Peak fall color appearing along the upper section of the Virginia Lakes Road, at the Virginia Lakes Resort and ringing the shoreline of Virginia Lake.

Presently, northern Mono County is one of the few places in California to see Near Peak fall color, as the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest is open. Inyo National Forest, Mono County’s Eastern Sierra neighbor to the south, remains closed, and CaliforniaFallColor.com just received notice that Inyo National Forest plans to extend the closure another week.

That means, the only easily accessible location to see peak fall color in the coming week in the Eastern Sierra will be at Virginia Lakes. Driving, hiking, camping and fishing are not allowed in closed national forests; that includes fall color viewing.

The Yosemite back country will have areas of peak, though that requires hiking at elevation, to see it. A little color should also be visible along the Tioga Road, above 9,000′. However, Yosemite National Park is closed at least through Sept. 25, due to heavy smoke.

Updates are posted on CaliforniaFallColor.com as received and at these sites:

Quaking Aspen, Virginia Lakes (9/22/20) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

NOW OPEN for fall color viewing in Mono County are: Virginia Lakes, Conway Summit, Green Creek, Summers Meadows, Twin Lakes Bridgeport, Sonora Pass, Lobdell Lake Road, West Walker River, Monitor Pass and the towns of Walker, Coleville and Topaz. 

Most of these locations are Just Starting, especially along US 395. Patchy conditions are found at Monitor Pass, Sonora Pass and Dunderberg Meadows Rd.

Virginia Lakes is Peak of the Week with most of its trees at lake level and along upper sections of the Virginia Lakes Road full of gold.

Fall Color Driving Tour of the Week begins on the Virginia Lakes Road, then diverts to the Green Creek Loop via Dunderberg Meadows Road. 

Here’s a rundown of fall color conditions, from north to south along US 395 in Mono County.

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Monitor Pass is a late peak among Sierra passes. Right now, it’s closer to 10% than 50%.  
  • West Walker River, Walker, Coleville and Topaz (5,200′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Mostly green with some areas of yellow.

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – INYO NF CLOSED
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – Aspen are gilding the lakeshore, upper Virginia Lakes Rd. and Virginia Lakes Resort. It remains green at lower elevations.
  • Dunderberg Meadows Road – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now! – From the Virginia Lakes Rd. drive on Dunderberg Meadows Rd. toward Green Creek. The Virginia Lakes to Green Creek Loop via Dunderberg Meadows Road is Drive of the Week
  • Conway Summit (8,143) – Just Starting (0-10%) One good patch of yellow trees way up on the hill but mostly green/lime green everywhere else.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) Just Starting (0-10%) – Just starting in the highest of elevations.

LEE VINING 

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – YOSEMITE NP CLOSED
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – INYO NF CLOSED
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – INYO NF CLOSED

BENTON & 120 EAST 

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – INYO NF CLOSED

JUNE LAKE LOOP

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – INYO NF CLOSED

MAMMOTH LAKES

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – INYO NF CLOSED

CROWLEY LAKE/McGEE CREEK/CONVICT LAKE

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – INYO NF CLOSED
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – INYO NF CLOSED
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – INYO NF CLOSED

ROCK CREEK CANYON

  • Rock Creek Road (9,600’) – INYO NF CLOSED

Conditions and closures are as of Sept. 23, 2020.

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Napa’s Vintage

Clear blue skies and vintage autumn color are being seen throughout the Napa Valley, making it Peak of the Week.

Gone are the hazy days delivered by October’s Kincade Fire, as wine country has been transformed back into a beautiful drive, bike ride or stroll.

Charles Hooker of Napa was out for a bike ride today and passed by the boulevard of Gingko trees leading to the Far Niente Winery in Oakville, sending back these camera phone snaps of that gorgeous road.

Thanks for sharing, Charles, it gives me one more reason to go wine tasting and return to the beauty of the Napa Valley.

  • Napa Valley (20′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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East Bay Roundup

Danville (11/25/18) Surjanto Suradji

The San Francisco Bay Area is usually best around Thanksgiving Day. Yet, because the holiday was the earliest it’s been in years, there’s still another week of peak color to be seen in Bay Area cities.

Crepe myrtle, San Leandro (11/25/18) John Poimiroo

On a weekend trip to attend the CU/Cal football game, I found Walnut Creek showing bright splashes of maroon, orange-red, russet and honey-colored trees. Orinda had peaked, though spots of gold appear. Berkeley was mostly brown with touches of saffron and carnelian. The same for Downtown San Leandro, where exotics dominate. Namita Mishra sent a shot of San Ramon, flush with bright color.

Color spotter Surjanto Suradji returned to his hometown of Danville for the holidays. Danville is 30 minutes east of San Francisco and described by Surjanto as located “in a narrow section of the San Ramon Valley between Mt. Diablo and Las Trampas Ridge.”

“Often referred to as the ‘Heart of the San Ramon Valley,’ Danville was first populated by Native Americans who lived near creeks and camped on Mount Diablo in the summer.

Danville and Mt. Diablo (11/25/18) Surjanto Suradji

Danville was later “part of Mission San José’s grazing land and a Mexican land grant called Rancho San Ramon.” As seen in the above picture, Danville’s urban forest is filled with lurid autumn color in the last two weeks of November.  

Valley Oak, Danville (11/25/18) Surjanto Suradji

In the middle of it stands the town’s “most iconic and beloved landmark,  the Old Oak Tree,” Danville.com reports. “The town’s official symbol is 65-feet tall and estimated to be 350-years-old.”

The town’s most cherished event is the annual “Lighting of the Old Oak Tree,” which was held on the Friday evening following Thanksgiving Day (Note: Be there in 2019).

Danville.com continues, “An estimated 7,500 people gather around the tree to see Father Christmas and Snow Angel flip the switch on thousands of twinkling lights, to many ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ from the crowd. There’s entertainment, refreshments, and holiday shopping amidst a decorated downtown. It’s been called a magical evening, and one of the best examples of community life in Danville.

“The tree lighting event dates back to the 1970s, and according to historical records, actually started as a campaign to save the tree from being destroyed.  

“Artist and then Danville merchant Carmen De Vivi, alarmed by piles of debris around the base of the tree during a road-widening project, discovered that the root system had been severely compromised. He approached officials suggesting a community-wide effort to preserve the tree, recommending they draw attention to the cause by lighting the tree with as many lights as possible. The idea was unanimously approved, and soon it was decided to light the tree every holiday season. De Vivi himself played Father Christmas for 15 years.

“De Vivi wasn’t the only one to voice concern over the tree’s health. In the late ’80s, after being told the tree was nearing the end of its life, the town planted a replacement oak just to the west nicknamed ‘Son of Oak.’ A decade later an investigation found the tree’s root structure was rotting and the tree itself was in danger of toppling. In 2001 the town constructed a sturdy steel support structure around the tree.

“Over the years, the valley oak (Quercus lobata) has served as an important communications hub. Banners announcing birthdays or anniversaries have appeared around the trunk, along with flyers for events around town.”

For Danville’s dedication to its old oak and because few other Bay Area autumn displays compare, Danville is declared “Peak of the Week.” 

  • Danville (358′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Orange Friday

El Dorado Hills (11/22/18) John Poimiroo

It began even before the whipped cream had lost its stiffness on yesterday’s pumpkin pies.

Families left Thanksgiving Day tables early last evening, packed blankets and folding chairs into the backs of SUVs and spent the night huddled along sidewalks waiting ’til dawn to be the first to see fall color.

An argument about who had first placed his folding chair on the sidewalk broke out in front of a particularly beautiful red maple.

Fists were swung. Police were called. Someone posted a cell phone picture on Twitter. It was not of the fight, but of the tree.

Soon, the #OrangeFriday photo was trending and a flash mob arrived to sing: 

The falling leaves drift by my window
The falling leaves of red and gold
I see your lips the summer kisses
The sunburned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I’ll hear old winter’s song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

Autumn Leaves lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group 
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Peak of the Week: Chico

Chinese pistache, Pistacia chinensis, Bidwell Park, Chico (11/3/18) Laura Jean

This is the week to visit Chico.

This forested college town in the northwest Sacramento Valley is one of California’s cities of trees.

Red maple, Acer rubrum, Bidwell Park, Chico (11/3/18) Laura Jean[/caption]The best places to be immersed in Chico’s fall color are downtown and along the Esplanade (a boulevard north of Chico State University that is lined with landmark plane trees, oaks and elm), in Downtown Chico whose streets are shaded with big trees and in Bidwell Park, the third largest municipal park in California (3,670 acres).

Within the park, best bets for fall color are: Sycamore Pond, Cedar Grove (home to the second tree experimentation farm in the U.S., where California pioneer John Bidwell planted trees from around the world), the Hooker Oak (now dead, though a massive Valley oak when living that was found to be two oaks that had grown together) and the Chico Creek Nature Center’s native plant garden. 

  • Chico (132′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!