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Orange Friday

It’s Orange Friday, the day following Thanksgiving Day when California overcomes tryptophan-induced lethargy and goes outdoors to enjoy fall color before it’s gone.

On the San Francisco Peninsula, tall gingko biloba are littering city streets with gold.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, American beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) provide holiday ornamentation at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and fallen leaves are now strewn across Berkeley.

Down south, the place for peak color is the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia. Orange-toned crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia) now dominate and more color is revealed each day to mid December.

Along the American River, cyclists, skaters and walkers on the 32-mile American River Parkway are enjoying one of the most colorful autumns in memory.

In the Gold Country, “Maple Lane,” a boulevard of maples leading to the Empire Cottage at Empire Mine SHP is at peak and will remain good through this weekend. So, spend your Orange Friday weekend being filled with the beauty of this lovely and historic place.

Maple Lane, Empire Mine SHP (11/25/20) Steve Arita

Or at old Monterey where gingko biloba, Asian maple and sycamore dress city streets with gold, yellow and chartreuse-colored leaves.

But, don’t plan to go swimming in Davis where backyard pools are covered with leaves.

Backyard pool, Davis (11/26/20) Philip Reedy

Unless you’re a duck. This pintail drake just enjoyed his morning bath at the Colusa NWR.

Morning bath, Pintail duck drake, Colusa NWR (11/25/20) Philip Reedy

Today is just another Orange Friday. It’s a day best spent outdoors enjoying fleeting moments of California Fall Color.


Hot Pink in Sunnyvale

All of the San Francisco Bay Area is brightly painted with pink, scarlet, lemon and orange foliage, with families out riding bikes and celebrating mild autumn days. It’s sweatshirt weather in Sunnyvale and, Lucas Yan reports, the only thing that’s hot there are the electric colors along city streets.

  • Sunnyvale (125′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Epic, Dad!

San Ramon (11/23/20) Ryan Boyd

When Ryan Boyd and his son set out yesterday for a ride, Ryan didn’t know the autumn scenery in San Ramon would be epic. He didn’t need to. His son, as all 8 year olds do, would surely tell him.

  • San Ramon (486′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Berkeley Abstractions

Reflection, Japanese maple, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/20) Sandy Steinman

Sandy Steinman is a student of nature. His blog, Natural History Wanderings is not abstract. It is precise and studied. In it, he observes the natural world, as a man or woman of science would do.

So, when his photo of a maple being reflected in waters at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden arrived, I had a little fun with it. I flipped, saturated and cropped it, as a man or woman of arts would do.

I kinda like the result. It feels painterly, abstract and yet, you and I know that it’s really a photograph of something that’s concrete.

That is often the case in our natural history wanderings. There are abstractions within the concrete world of nature, and it is satisfying to find them.

Asian Section, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/20) Sandy Steinman
  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (732′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Get To A Vantage Point

Walnut Creek (11/21/20) Crys Black

“Nice color remains in Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, Lafayette, and Orinda,” Crys Black writes, “The peak has passed and the wind continues to pull down leaves but get to a vantage point and take a look across this beautiful valley. The towns are starting to set up for the holiday shopping season and the weather is cooperating to help feel a little more festive.”

Crys echos what we’ve seen and heard from across northern California, beautiful color is hanging on for Thanksgiving Day and though, “The leaves are browning and starting to drop … the vistas show beautiful swaths of color.”

So, get to a vantage point to see a landscape dripped with color.

  • Walnut Creek (131′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Berkeley, Blue and Gold?

Smoketree, N Berkeley (11/21/20) Sandy Steinman

Who says Berkeley’s colors are blue and gold? Not Sandy Steinman who found red orange, pink and yellow on a walk through the North Berkeley flatlands.

Japanese and Freeman’s maple, persimmon, flowering pear, gingko biloba, smoketree and Chinese pistache are providing exotic color to Berkeley’s streets.

  • Berkeley (171′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Color Runs Thru Scotts Valley

Scotts Valley (11/21/20) Anson Davalos

Anson Davalos didn’t get far on his morning run through Scotts Valley before realizing he was carrying his phone and needed to record the beauty he was seeing.

As he ran through its neighborhoods his run was interrupted with stops to photograph peaking water birch, sycamore, gingko and pear.

It’s peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains and everywhere else below 1,000′ in elevation. The vibrance of neighborhood trees right now is breathtaking, even at dawn.

  • Scotts Valley (561′) – Peak (785-100%) GO NOW!


When city walls in Paris were deemed useless, unsightly and obstructing commerce, they were taken down and replaced with trees. And so, the French boulevard was created.

Between 1853 and 1870, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann was given the task of renovating Paris. The objective was to turn a medieval city into a modern one. That meant improving sanitation, water supply and traffic circulation.

However, circling the city were its ramparts. Baron Haussmann found the ramparts to be counterproductive as a defense in modern, mobile warfare and they obstructed commerce and city life. So, he removed and replace them with roads lined with trees that roughly circled Paris. He reasoned that without the ramparts it would be easier to move troops to defend Paris, rather than the city walls which restricted movement.

And so, the name for the flat part atop a rampart (the boulevard) was used to describe the broad, tree-lined streets that replaced them.

This past Thursday, Vishal Mishra and Seema Bhat experienced the joys of walking along a boulevard at the Google campus in Mountain View. Then, they went in search of others, perhaps thanking Baron Haussmann during their stroll for taking down the city walls of Paris 150 years ago.

  • Mountain View (105′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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San Lorenzo River

Coast redwood, bigleaf maple, Santa Cruz, Big Trees & Pacific Ry (11/20/20) Sam Reeves

The San Lorenzo River travels down from redwood forests in the San Lorenzo Valley to Santa Cruz. As this gentle stream descends, it passes through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park and near the Roaring Camp Railroads in Felton.

Monterey Peninsula color spotter Sam Reeves and I share a love of similar places. I spent my youth on another peninsula, the San Francisco one – where Sam enjoys exploring – and later, headed marketing at the Roaring Camp Railroads, where he makes an annual trek. Often, I’d leave the caboose containing my office, that sat on a railroad siding beside the state park, and spend my lunch break walking through the Joseph Welch Grove of Big Trees.

Welch was the first person in California to preserve the redwoods from being cut and this grove and those at Roaring Camp stand as testament to his pioneering private contributions to conserving old-growth redwoods. In a sorry twist of fate, Henry Cowell, who profited from clearing the Santa Cruz Mountains of redwood forests and whose family donated the land he’d denuded to the State of California, got the park named after him, while Welch – the true savior of the redwoods – remains little known.

A mix of winter deciduous foliage grows in the forest, including dispersed pockets of orange black oak, yellow bigleaf maple, orange-yellow valley oak, rosy creek dogwood, golden black cottonwood, orange-yellow blue elderberry, crimson poison oak, yellow box elder, orange-russet western sycamore, lemon-colored alder and scarlet bitter cherry berries.

Reeves visits the Welch grove and park each autumn. About today’s trip he said, “it did not disappoint.  The bulk of fall color is located on the trails adjacent to the San Lorenzo River.  Maples, cottonwoods, alders, and sycamores were all at peak colors.”

Peak often lasts through the Thanksgiving weekend. You’ll find “some isolated color in the redwood loop, but not as much as you will see next to the river.  There’s also opportunities to see fall color south of the redwood loop at Garden of Eden, and the Rincon on Highway 9.” Fall Creek remains closed due to fire lines that were made there in August.

At Roaring Camp, the sycamore near the depot are fading. Though colorful maples line both the narrow gauge and standard gauge right of ways into the redwoods. A ride on the narrow-gauge line takes passengers up through the redwood forest, over trestles to the summit of Bear Mountain; one on the standard-gauge line travels down beside to San Lorenzo River to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Spots of bright color are seen along both routes.

  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, Felton (285′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Smoketree, Why Not?

Smoketree, Cotinus coggygria, Mountain View (11/17/20) Ken Robesky

Smoke has been a theme this autumn, what with wildfire smoke closing national forests and discouraging fall color viewing. So, why not a Smoketree?

Ken Robesky sends this image of one in Mountain View. Cotinus coggygria is a small multi-stemmed tree (10-15′) that turns a smoky pink color in summer and yellow-red-purple in autumn.