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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!
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What Matters Most

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

So what if:

  • It’s your daughter’s wedding.
  • You have 50-yard-line tickets to the big game.
  • Your big retirement dinner happens Saturday and everyone will be there.
  • After flirting for months, you finally got asked out by the hot barista at the coffee shop.
  • The Nobel Prize committee just called and would like to meet you on Sunday.
  • It’s your tenth wedding anniversary and you have tickets to Paris.
  • Your doctor called and you’re finally scheduled for open-heart surgery.

Don’t get tunnel vision (unless it’s what you see, above).

All that matters is that fall color surrounding Mammoth Lakes in Mono County is peaking and that’s EPIC! 

Cancel all plans and GO NOW! Here’s why:

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Gull Lake, June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Gull Lake, June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Beaver Ponds, Lundy Canyon (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

Beaver Ponds, Lundy Canyon (10/18/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

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Peak of the Week: Mono County

Conway Summit, US 395 (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Convict Lake (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

California Fall Color has refrained from declaring a peak of the week this autumn, though if there is a week to do it, this is it.

Along US 395 in Mono County (Eastern Sierra), fall color will be peaking for the next week and a half at: Crowley Lake, McGee Creek, Convict Lake, the June Lake Loop, Lundy Canyon, Conway Summit, Summers Meadow, Twin Lakes Bridgeport and Monitor Pass.

Green areas remain in some of these areas, but the vast majority of locations are showing brilliant yellow and orange.

Lundy Canyon (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Crowley Lake (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Near Peak areas include Lee Vining Canyon, the West Walker River and the big cottonwood trees in the towns of Walker, Coleville and Topaz. Beautiful color can be seen now and in a week, it’ll be spectacular.

Now, the bad news. YOU MISSED IT in Mono County at: Sagehen Summit, Lobdell lake Road and the upper sections of Tioga Pass, Sonora Pass and Virginia Lakes and Rock Creek Rd. There’s a little at lower elevations and in scattered groves, but generally it has fallen. 

June Lake Loop (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Here’s the blow by blow:

Walker/Coleville/Topaz

  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Peaking colors along the top sections of the pass will only hang around for another few days. This section will be past peak next week.
  • Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Walker Canyon (5,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Patchy in sections with full peaking trees in others. Still another 7 days for the full display.
  • Towns of Walker & Coleville – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – A few cottonwoods are peaking but very patchy still in most sections. This will be the last place to peak in Mono County.
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT! – Color lingers in shivering bunches at Leavitt Meadow.

Green Creek Rd., Mono County (10/12/18) Kirsten Liske

Bridgeport/Virginia Lakes

  • Twin Lakes (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! -Still a little patchy in sections but worth the drive. Take the dirt road around lower twin lakes great angles of the Sawtooth Mountains.
  • Virginia Lakes (9,819’)- Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Conway Summit (8,143′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Sections with brilliant color and others with some green still hanging around. This will be spectacular for the next 10 days.
  • Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – We love Summers Meadow. It has one of the great long stretches of brilliant color in the state at peak. Presently, the color has worked down, though has a wonderful mix of red, orange, yellow and lime

Green Creek Rd., Mono County (10/12/18) Kirsten Liske

Lee Vining

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Lee Vining Canyon (6,781′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Still green in some sections, while others have 80% yellow leaves with some trees past peak. Take Log Cabin Mine road for colors that will be good for the next two weeks.
  • Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Lundy Canyon Trail should be perfect right now but might be past peak as we get closer to the weekend. Lundy Lake and Lundy Campground will be fantastic this weekend.

Benton & 120 East

  • Sagehen Summit (8,139’) -Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!

June Lake Loop

  • June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – This is the week to visit the June Lake Loop. It won’t get better than it is now. There are so many great spots along Grant, Silver, Gull and June Lakes. Make this destination a priority for the weekend.

Mammoth Lakes

  • Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!

McGee Creek (10/14/18) Benjamin Vu

Crowley Lake/McGee Creek/Convict Lake

  • McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Still fantastic color up the canyon with great color now located along the campground and US 395 level.
  • Around Crowley community (6,781′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Great color around the town and the surrounding hills. Take the old US 395 road to Toms Place for the best views.
  • Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Great color along Convict Lake Campground and the shores around the lake. Still green in some sections but make sure to take the quick and flat hike around the lake for the best viewing opportunities!

Rock Creek Canyon

  • Rock Creek Road (8,500’+) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!  – It’s Past Peak up the canyon, though near Tom’s Place and in lower sections of the canyon spots of nice color are still found.

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Lundy Canyon (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Convict Lake (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek Rd. (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

Rock Creek Rd. (10/12/18) Jeff Simpson/Mono County Tourism

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Parade of Roses and Autumn

Tournament of Roses, Pasadena (1/1/18) Frank McDonough

Tournament of Roses, Pasadena (1/1/18) Frank McDonough

Each New Year’s Day, the world marvels at the amazing floral floats made for the Tournament of Roses in Pasadena.

What often isn’t seen in the worldwide coverage of the parade is the lingering fall color to be seen along the streets of Pasadena.

Los Angeles County color spotter Frank McDonough captured some of it and shares it with us.

Pasadena – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

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Happy New Year!

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Gingko biloba, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Frank McDonough’s photograph of tiles at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden reminds us of the festive color to explode on New Year Eve and makes us look forward to 2018 and the end of 2017.

This past year was filled with tragedy for many. Wildfires, hurricanes, floods and heartache delivered by the worst side of humanity made it so.

Even on the fall color front, the show was disappointing, but not so the photographs taken by those tracking fall color across California.

Frank’s images of everlasting gingko biloba at the LA County Arboretum provide hope for a new year of everlasting color, joy and good things.

Happy New Year.

LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

Bamboo, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gingko, LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

LA County Arboretum (12/26/17) Frank McDonough

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the north near Durham, Ferruginous hawks are in search of squirrels out gathering nuts among the orchards and the last spots of fall color (berries still clinging to Dogwood branches) are seen in these images captured by Robert Kermen.

Ferruginous Hawk, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen

Gray Squirrel, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen

Dogwood, Durham (12/29/17) Robert Kermen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Central Valley – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Oakland color spotter Darrell Sano, who holds the distinction of being the first and last to post on this site in 2017, sent these closing shots of peak color seen in at Mountain View Cemetery in the Oakland Hills.

Darrell writes that, “The balmy weather we’ve been experiencing around the bay area led to many people enjoying the afternoon scenery–walking, jogging, groups of people having conversations, dogs happily being walked, and of course families paying respects to loved ones. It’s an extremely serene and introspective place. Walking the hills always makes me think about time, and the passage of it. No better appropriate place to be in the last weekend of the year. And the colors persist into 2018!”

Oakland – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (12/29/17) Darrell Sano

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Give Thanks, The Bay Area is Peaking

Fall color and Palm Trees, Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

In the early 1960s, Burlingame and San Mateo High Schools held “The Little Big Game” – their long-standing rivalry – on Thanksgiving Day.

I know, because I attended those games each Thanksgiving Day (Yes, I am that old).

Walking to the games (held at BHS) was a memory-searing experience. Cars, decorated with crepe paper ribbons of red, white, orange and black – the competing schools’ colors – rolled past, their passengers shouting cheers through open windows.

The distant sounds of bands, each trying to outdo the other with a louder fight song, was carried through the crisp autumn air across Burlingame parks and streets.

Those streets and parks are still forested with the same ancient trees. Their thick branches, during Thanksgiving Week, are laden with heavy loads of auburn, crimson, orange, ginger, yellow, gold, emerald and tawny-colored leaves.

Their crowns are supported by massive trunks rising from feet so gnarled that they unearth and twist sidewalks into tilting slabs of concrete.

Following the game, I’d return along those uprooted paths, my chilled hands stuffed deeply into my jacket’s felt-lined pockets, to a warm home in Hillsborough and Thanksgiving dinner.

Those days influenced a lifelong affection for autumn. I still associate vibrant Peak color and a football game played on a dewy field with Thanksgiving Day.

Today, a reporter from the Santa Rosa Press Democrat called to ask if the fall color is unusually vibrant everywhere or just in Santa Rosa (north of the Bay Area). I couldn’t say with certainty, as this has been an autumn when nothing seems to follow what’s happened historically.

Early this autumn, stands of aspen were still green near 10,000′ in elevation, while others at 8,000′ were peaking. Some groves had levels of color change, from Just Starting to Past Peak, all at once.

From across the state, anxious calls and emails arrived, asking why 2017 was so different. I had begun to question  everything I’d come to expect about fall color.

Then, proof arrived that this is not the end of times. Photographs from Bay Area color spotters Sandy Steinman and Darrell Sano renewed my faith in the traditions of autumn by reminding me of the lustrous hues I saw in my salad days.

The San Francisco Bay Area is again peaking on time for Thanksgiving Day. Give thanks.

San Francisco Bay Area – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – The best color can be seen in the urban forests of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, Petaluma, Novato, San Rafael, San Francisco, Danville, Walnut Creek, Corte Madera, Lafayette, Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro, Burlingame, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Atherton, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Campbell and San Jose. Peak of the Week.

California Grape, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Chinese pistache, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Persimmon, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

California Grape, Berkeley (11/19/17) Sandy Steinman

Fall color and palm trees, Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Telegraph Ave., Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Near Telegraph Ave., Berkeley (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

Japanese maple, Mountain View Cemetery, Oakland (11/18/17) Darrell Sano

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Grass Valley Glows

Black oak, Grass Valley (11/8/17) Robert Kermen

Bigleaf maple, Grass Valley (11/8/17) Robert Kermen

Red maple, Grass Valley (11/8/17) Robert Kermen

Black oak, bigleaf maple, red maple and gingko biloba were at peak today in Grass Valley, color spotter Robert Kermen reports, a sure sign that the Gold Country is a Peak of the Week destination for this weekend.

Grass Valley (2,411′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Gingko biloba, Grass Valley (11/8/17) Robert Kermen