Open Your “Golden” Gate

Fog, San Francisco (12/11/18) Darrell Sano

Fog is enshrouding San Francisco’s fall color in a atmospheric glow. On a visit to The City, Darrell Sano found it magically mist-ical. 

  • San Francisco – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
San Francisco (12/11/18) Darrell Sano

California Gold

California Gold (Gingko biloba) and Berkeley Blue, Hearst Mining Circle, UC Berkeley (12/11/18) Jeff King

Gingko biloba, Hearst Mining Circle, UC Berkeley (12/11/18) Jeff King

“California Gold,” is one of UC Berkeley’s school colors. It’s also a color seen peaking at Hearst Mining Circle, across from Evans Hall.

UC Berkeley color spotter Jeff King discovered California Gold among venerable gingko biloba when crossing campus, today.

Looking up, he saw the other of Berkeley’s school colors, a sky filled with peak “Berkeley Blue.” 

  • Gingko biloba, UC Berkeley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Fall in the Fog

Briones Regional Park (12/9/18) Darrell Sano

For most of the year, fog hugs the California coast. It’s a morning phenomenon, burning off by midday.

However, from November to March, the combination of warm moist ground blanketed by cold, still air creates Tule fog a thick ground fog that settles into the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and pushes west toward the coast where it seeps into valleys before being blocked by coastal hills.

Briones Regional Park (12/9/18) Darrell Sano

Tule fog is thickest in December and early January. Think Sherlock Holmes’ London-thick. At times even street lamps or headlights cannot cut through it for more than a few feet.

Horrid stacks of vehicles come to screeching, cataclysmic collisions when it is at its worst. The CHP advises:

  • Check weather reports before driving on highways during Tule Fog months;
  • If you know it will be foggy, consider delaying your trip until it clears;
  • If you’re on the road and run into fog: drive with headlights on low beam (high beams create a wall of white light that keeps you from seeing ahead);
  • Watch for CHP pace cars to guide you;
  • Avoid crossing traffic lanes;
  • The denser the fog the slower you should go (if you can’t see more than three lane stripes, move to the right and slow down);
  • Drive with the driver’s window open to hear traffic ahead;
  • Stay in a lane, don’t straddle a line (if you can’t see the lane stripes, it’s too unsafe to drive – get off the highway);
  • Move around stalled or stopped vehicles, don’t sit behind them;
  • Do not stop on highways except in emergencies; and
  • If you must stop or your car is disabled, don’t stay there. Move to the far right shoulder of the road and get off the roadway, turn off all lights and get everyone out of your car and far from it (common fatal accidents in fog are caused by speeding drivers attracted to follow whatever tail lights/car they see ahead, even if it is stopped).

Bay Area color spotter Darrell Sano decided to take one of his favorite hikes today. What he didn’t expect was that he’d be in the thick of it.

Briones Regional Park (12/9/18) Darrell Sano

The sun struggled to burn through the cloudy atmosphere. As he drove through the Caldecott Tunnel toward Martinez, “a band of fog diagonally covered the homes above the highway. Once through the tunnel, the fog was even thicker.” he wrote … the opposite of the Bay Area’s usual fog pattern.

At Briones Regional Park, the air was damp with fog, with no chance at all to view the vistas that once topped surrounding hills, though his aerosolic envelopment made the hike all the more special.

Darrell found the last remnants of fall color carpeting the woodland floor, mostly ochre, without saturation, Past Peak, though still beautiful.

Though obscured by fog, faint color, subdued but still evident, could be seen. 

Briones Regional Park (12/9/18) Darrell Sano

Apparitions emerged, a distant hiker, cows cloaked by mist, heard mooing but rarely seen.

As he walked through the diffused air, he thought about his last hike in August along the same trail and how different it was, realizing that our search for fall color is often filled with unexpected surprises. 

  • Briones Regional Park, Martinez – Past Peak, You Missed It.

Recycled Christmas Trees

Green Christmas Tree, San Francisco (2018) Friends of the Urban Forest

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is providing San Franciscans with a way to bring seasonal cheer into their homes, while supporting the planting of trees throughout The City.

In partnership with the San Francisco Department of the Environment and Hayes Valley Art Works, Friends of the Urban Forest offers living, potted Christmas trees in November and December, each year.

A tax-deductible donation ($75 early bird and $95 after December 1), provides rental of a three-to-six-foot-tall, non-traditional living tree to bring home for decoration and enjoyment. 

After the holidays, trees returned to FUF are planted in San Francisco as part of the organization’s Neighborhood Tree Planting program.

Popular choices include PrimroseFruitless Olive, and Fern Pine. Unfortunately, deciduous trees aren’t used in the program, as they’ve dropped their leaves, though anything that gets more trees planted in our cities is good for the air and the spirit … including the Christmas spirit. 

To learn more about FUF’s Green Christmas Tree program, CLICK HERE


Seasonal Confetti

California sycamore and redwoods, Roaring Camp RR, Felton (12/2/18) John Poimiroo

Sycamore had scattered their confetti at Roaring Camp in Felton today, as dads and little boys watched a steam engine take on water.

Few leaves remained clinging to branches near the railroad, though beyond the meadow a few stalwarts stood sentry, holding chestnut-brown bunches of them until the slightest breeze would free their leaves to tumble through the air.

It is definitely Past Peak in the Santa Cruz Mountains, though an autumn air prevails. 

  • Felton – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.

More Livermore Sycamore

California sycamore, Sycamore Grove Park, Livermore (11/24/18) Marc Crumpler

Who said, “More is Less”?

That certainly isn’t true when more Livermore sycamores appear in a fall color submission.

Marc Crumpler shares these colorful and distorted Western sycamore (Platanus racemosa) peaking at Sycamore Grove Park in Livermore.

California sycamore are a wonderfully sculptural tree. D.C. Peattie (Eva Begley writes in Plants of Northern California) described them in Natural History of Western Trees as spreading along the ground with branches pointing upward, “like a horse scratching his back on the ground and kicking up his legs,”

Unlike American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and London Plane that tend to carry chartreuse-colored leaves that mottle to buff, California sycamore are bright orange, sometimes red or yellow. Marc’s photographs show strong examples of California sycamore at peak. 

  • Livermore Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Livermore Valley

Western Sycamore, Mines Rd, Livermore (11/27/18) Anirudh Natekar

Pleasanton is aptly named.

Located in the Livermore Valley, northeast of the Santa Clara Valley (Silicon Valley), Pleasanton is the wealthiest mid-sized city in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and was ranked by USA Today in 2014 as #4 among America’s 50 best cities in which to live.

As pleasant as the town is, I wish they’d kept its original name, El Alisal, The Sycamores. As, in late November Pleasanton is a place to find beautiful fall color, including among its sycamores.

Anirudh Natekar explored Pleasanton and Livermore yesterday, scoring a First Report and sending these views of the beauty to be seen there. Hurry as it’s just about gone. 

Tesla Rd, Livermore (11/27/18) Anirudh Natekar
  • Livermore (495′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Pleasanton (351′) – 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!
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Forest Bathing at Berkeley

Beautyberries, Callicarpa americana, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/24/18) Sandy Steinman

On Wednesday (Nov. 28), Hana Lee Goldin, a certified forest bathing guide, will offer a series of “guided invitations to assist you in finding your own authentic way of interacting with the land at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.” For more info or to register, CLICK HERE.

That’s a very Berkeley way of saying that she’ll be introducing visitors to forest bathing.

Called “shinrin yoku” in Japan where it was defined, forest bathing helps reduce stress and improve cognition and emotional well being. It involves slowing down and opening up one’s senses to the beauty around us. 

East bay naturalist Sandy Steinman did a bit of forest bathing of his own, Saturday, as a light rain wet the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Here are his images. 


164 Million, minus one

Winterberry, Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/18) Darrell Sano

Some 164 million Americans headed shopping yesterday. 164 million minus Darrell Sano.

He “decided to forgo Black Friday and instead venture out into the wind and rain to the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden.”

Winged Spindle Tree, UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (11/23/18) Darrell Sano

Normally, these gardens would be busy with people on the day following Thanksgiving Day. Darrell figured, correctly, that with steady rain forecasted, he would have the garden “nearly to myself!”

There, he found, “The rain was steady, adding a sheen to the leaves, pathways, and color. The sound of rain was complementary to my solo enjoyment, slowly meandering pathways while ignoring my water-logged shoes.”

While the garden was past peak, he still found it “beautiful and worth a visit. Pockets of color can be found in the Asian garden, with bright red Japanese Maple, Yoshino Cherry, large yellow leaves of Sinocalycanthus covering deep-green ferns, and carpets of red Ampelopsis.”

Some areas of the garden (Northeast) were Past Peak, “where much of the color now resides on the ground.”

Rainy days provide lovely color with “the diffused, soft light and rain” providing “wonderful opportunities for composition layers of branches and leaves, with droplets of water hanging in space in front of a backdrop of texture and patterns.”

Darrell noted that even plants that “were long past peak, such as sunflowers, stood beautifully in the rain, providing a more monochromatic texture worthy to photograph.”

His #OrangeFriday was “wonderful” and “memorable indeed!” No doubt Darrell’s recollections of his wet walk and the images he captured on it will remain personal treasures. Likely, the most memorable out of 164 million experiences that occurred yesterday. 

  • UC Berkeley Botanical Garden (171′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.