Last Cast

Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (11/16/21) Philip Reedy

Color spotter Philip Reedy drove north to the Upper Sacramento River to make his last cast of autumn there, reporting that, “as expected most of the color has gone, but a few patches are hanging on.” He found brightness at the Box Canyon and below Sims Bridge.

Sims Bridge, Upper Sacramento River (11/16/21) Philip Reedy

  • Upper Sacramento River (2,300′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.


It Hasta Be Shasta

Mt. Shasta (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Once fresh snow caps Mt. Shasta, if fall color can still be seen, it hasta be Shasta.
That’s the old advertising catchphrase of Shasta Beverages, which began as a mineral spring water company in 1889 on the slopes of Mt Shasta. People have been traveling to Mt. Shasta for more than a century for health, recreation and inspiration.
Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

Those motivations led the Reedys to explore the Mt Shasta area. Phil noted, as also reported by Michael Beatley, that last Sunday’s heavy rain flattened the Indian Rhubarb, eliminating their multicolored leaves from streamside scenes. “The only survivors I found were in the box canyon on the Upper Sac just below Lake Siskiyou dam.”

Disappointed at the loss of the rhubarb, he was still encouraged by the great color to be found just south of Mt. Shasta. It’s peak surrounding the Town of Mt. Shasta and Reedy exhorts, “So, it’s definitely time to go.”
Mt Shasta, south of McCloud (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

He recommends the following locations:

  • South of McCloud along Squaw Valley Road.
  • Down by Fridays Fly Fishing Ranch, pastures are filled with multi-colored bushes topped by snow-capped Mt Shasta.
  • The Siskiyou Lake Trail near the Mt. Shasta Resort.
  • Castle Lake Road just north of Lake Siskiyou.
Lower McCloud River (10/29/21) Philip Reedy

As for Lake McCloud, it is still too early.  Reedy notes that the rains pumped a lot of mud into the lake making river below the dam resemble chocolate milk, explaining why the river’s usual crowd of fly fishers were conspicuously absent.

Following the Mt. Shasta area, the Reedys headed down CA-89 toward Lake Britton and Burney Falls.  Last year the lake was surrounded by gorgeous oaks, reminding Phil of New England.  However, fog blanketed the lake on Phil’s visit. He could see that oaks there are peaking, but he didn’t wait for the fog to clear.
Lower McCloud Falls (10/28/21) Philip Reedy

Beyond Britton and Burney, they traveled south toward Manzanita Lake. As reported here, Manzanita Lake is now past peak and Lassen Volcanic NP is both closed in preparation for winter and resulting from the devastating Dixie Fire which burned the Summit Lake, Butte Lake, Warner Valley, and Juniper Lake areas of the park.

During the fire, park staff was so busy dealing with the fire that, understandably, they stopped reporting the normal changes occurring in the national park.

Lassen Volcanic is a popular location for cross country skiing and snowshoeing. With more snow and rain predicted this week, frequent park visitors are looking forward to that season of snowshoeing and backcountry skiing and hoping to forget what passed.

Fly fishermen, Box Canyon Trail, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Castella, Upper Sacramento River (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
Lower McCloud Falls (10/28/21) Philip Reedy
  • McCloud Falls (2,400′) – Near Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Castella, Upper Sacramento River (1,900′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Box Canyon Trail, Upper Sacramento River – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Sims Flat Bridge (1,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!


A Child’s Perspective

Liliana Beatley, Thompson Lake, Plumas County (10/29/21) Michael Beatley

A grandparent is blessed when one’s grandchild shows interest in the interests of the grandparent. As one, I know the feeling. It’s an intense feeling of love and bonding.

Liliana’s First Field Trip (10/29/21) Michael Beatley

So, when Michael Beatley’s granddaughter, Liliana, asked if he might teach her how to take photographs, he did what grandparents do best. He passed on what he knew and loved to someone he knew and loved more deeply.

They packed up cameras and headed from Meadow Valley, near Quincy, to Thompson Lake. It was early afternoon and the aspen were reflecting in the lake. “A perfectly beautiful day,” he reminisced. On the drive back toward Meadow Valley on Big Creek Rd, the road was lined with dogwood, black oak and bigleaf maple, all dazzling in their autumn dress.

The sunlight was hotter in the afternoon than a schooled photographer would prefer, but after all this was Liliana’s first day in school … photography school. There’ll be time for more technical lessons later. This was all about fundamentals.

Michael had spent “some pre-shoot time going over the SL3 Canon she would use.” He talked about composition and other basics, but also encouraged her to shoot whatever she thought would make a great photo. After the initial instruction, she was on her own with no direction as to what to shoot.

There were, of course, blurred shots due to her quickness with the shutter, but many were quite well-focused, he boasted. (click to enlarge)

When they got back and I’d encouraged him to send hers along, as well, he said, “All of her shots were her own, and I was surprised at what she shot. I never saw the mushroom, the backlit, faded Indian rhubarb. The Dogwood shots were all her own … for me it was a special day.”

Michael, I’m sure it was for Liliana, as well.

  • Thompson Lake, Plumas County – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Big Creek, Plumas County – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Meadow Valley, Plumas County – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!



Come On Man, It’s Manzanita!

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

If President Biden were asked for his favorite place to see fall color, we’d like to think he’d say, “Come on man, it’s Manzanita!”

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

On that point, we’d have no quibble with the President. Manzanita Lake in Lassen Volcanic National Park is always beautiful.

This past Sunday evening, I pestered perennial Lassen Volcanic color spotter Shanda Ochs to send photos of her beautiful corner of California. I figured it was past ripe for picking. She didn’t disappoint.

Lassen Volcanic NP has been at peak for a little while. Shanda and the park staff had, however, been dealing with Dixie Fire aftermath recovery. As, it burned about two-thirds of the national park’s 106,452 acres and destroyed the historic Mount Harkness Lookout in the Juniper Lake Area. So, scouting fall color wasn’t top of mind.

Black cottonwood, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/24/21) Shanda Ochs

Fortunately, the fire side-stepped many of the park’s most beautiful areas, including Manzanita Lake. There, towering black cottonwood are at peak, as are the willow surrounding the lake. Shanda described the scene as “stunningly beautiful.”

  • Manzanita Lake (5,900′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.

Shasta Cascade is Where It’s At

American Valley, Plumas County (10/27/21) Michael Beatley

California’s best peak color is being found across the Shasta Cascade in the northeast corner of California.

From Plumas County (this past week’s peak, drive and hike of the week), through Shasta, Siskiyou and Trinity counties, peak is everywhere.

In the American Valley surrounding the Plumas County seat of Quincy, peak orange, red and gold tumble down the hillsides and light up the town like molten precious metals.

(click to enlarge photo)

This past week’s rain only intensified the color. To quote Jeri Rangel, a long-time color spotter from Trinity County, “It’s 100% … now would be the time to go. There is a lot of color this year!”

Trinity River, Trinity County (10/23/21) Jeri Rangel

That’s great news for a region that suffered through suffocating smoke and haze from late summer fires. Now, it’s crystal clear up north.


Viola (10/25/21) Peter Robbins

From Redding, CA-44 travels west through Shingletown to Lassen Volcanic National Park. The entire route is at or Near Peak and “just lovely right now,” reports Peter Robbins who found ponds ringed with color in Viola.

Shingletown, CA-44 (10/23/21) Peter Robbins

Along the way, volcanic explosions of dazzling color are seen. One of our favorites is Manzanita Lake just inside the National Park with its mirror-like reflection of Lassen Peak.

Right now and for another week beyond, the Shasta Cascade is where it’s at.

  • Quincy (3,342’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park (7,300’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Shingletown (3,491’) – Peak (75 – 100%) GO NOW!
  • Redding (564’) – Near Peak (50 – 75%), Go Now.
  • Coffee Creek (3,068’) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!

Tastes Like Chicken

Chicken of the Woods (10/23/21) Gabriel Leete

Joe Staton of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University once studied what plants and animals would taste like chicken (They must have a lot of time on their hands at Harvard).

He concluded that alligator, frog, quail, rabbit, rattlesnake, swordfish, kangaroo, Iguana, snapping turtle, goose, pigeon, swordfish, giant salamander and the 2-toed Amphiuma all taste like chicken. We’re unsure if he ate one of each to make that declaration, though we’re confident he never took a bite out of the last of his choices … Tyranosaurus Rex.

It’s pretty hard to prove your hypothesis when you have to eat an extinct dinosaur. It would be much easier to join Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete and search of Laetiporus sulphureus. We are confident that they are much slower and easier to find.

Laetiporus are mushrooms, commonly known as chicken of the woods. With this past week’s storm, Gabriel says they’re sprouting prolifically across Northern California.

Another similar edible polypore, the Grifola frondosa or Hen of the Woods is also known for its distinct chicken flavor and texture.

Gabriel says that although the rain has encouraged the growth of all kinds of mushrooms, edible varieties are often scared by being harvested.

Also called sulphur shelfs, the mushrooms have a moist, rubbery sulphur-yellow to orange body with protruding lips at maturity.

As with any mushroom, caution is advised before consuming it. Make sure a mushroom expert has identified it as edible. Common advice is that if the mushroom cannot be identified positively, it should not be eaten, even when you think it just might taste like chicken.

  • Laetiporus sulphureus hunting, Shasta Cascade – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
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Weeping For Joy

Aspen, Meadow Valley, Plumas County (10/21/21) Michael Beatley

With drizzling rain and fog now finally drenching fire-scared Plumas County, Michael Beatley drove Bucks lake Rd along Spanish Creek in Meadow Valley, finding the aspen, oak and cottonwood at peak, with the aspen “weeping for joy.”

Black oak, bigleaf maple, Meadow Valley (10/21/21) Michael Beatley

He continued to Quincy and beyond to the Thompson Valley on the edge of town, finding Greenhorn Creek and the valley at peak with oak and cottonwood and maple. Plumas County earned this week’s Peak of the Week.

Spent Leaves, Plumas County (10/21/21) Michael Beatley
  • Meadow Valley (3,600′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!
  • Thompson Valley (5,462′) – Peak (75 – 100%), GO NOW!

Indian Valley – Post Dixie

Hopes for a Great Summer, turned to ash in Greenville (10/18/21) Michael Beatley

It is heartbreaking to see Michael Beatley’s photographs of Plumas County’s Indian Valley, following the devastating Dixie Fire. Though, there are glimpses of bright fall color and a better tomorrow.

Yellow bigleaf maple, golden cottonwood and an occasional, exotic, orange-red sugar maple stand out boldly against the darkened backdrop of destruction.

Michael drove a route he was used to driving during his many years as a Plumas County Deputy Sheriff. He traveled the Indian Valley, passing through Taylorsville, the Genesee Valley and Greenville.

Greenville got the worst of it. This, once-scenic, Gold Rush-era town was leveled. Folding chairs stand askew amidst the ash of Saint Anthony’s Church. Homes, businesses and the Sheriff’s Office substation where Beatley once worked are destroyed, a single American flag remains on duty.

“There is hope amongst the ashes. Resilience. Determination to rebuild. Hope for the future.” Michael wrote. “It is a beautiful valley. The fire can not destroy the hearts of those who live here, some for generations.”

Taylorsville (10/18/21) Michael Beatley

He observed that though Dixie destroyed 940,000 acres, “Beauty still abounds. Wildlife has fled to the valley floor.”

Fire Retardant, Genesee Valley (10/18/21) Michael Beatley

As Michael passed beyond Taylorsville through the Genesee Valley, he said, “The fire came very close. The trees, fences along the road were covered with pink fire retardant. Some of the million of gallons used to fight the monster Dixie fire. Under Mt. Jura  the valley is small but beautiful.”

  • Indian Valley (1,421′) – No Report – It’s just too heartbreaking.
  • Genesee Valley – No Report
  • Greenville (3,586′) – No Report
  • Taylorsville (4,295′) – No Report

Praise Quincy

Community United Methodist Church, Quincy (10/16/21) Michael Beatley

As the Dixie fire ravaged Plumas County, destroying Greenville and much of its northern forest, many were praying that Quincy would be spared.

When it comes to California hometowns, Quincy stands apart. Isolated as it is in the northern Sierra, Quincy is authentic and lovely, particularly in autumn. Their prayers were answered.

Quincy (10/16/21) Michael Beatley

As Michael Beatley’s photographs attest, Quincy was spared. The Dixie fire scorched the land north of town, but missed dipping into the American Valley.

Beatley captured the state of autumn downtown, where many landmark trees surround the Plumas County Courthouse and shade city streets and parks. On an OHV trail above Feather River College, he looked down upon a scene that is very close to peaking.

Snow is predicted above 5,000′, though Quincy is at just 3,342′. So it should be fine. Beatley says he plans to tour the region, visiting the Indian Valley whose edges were singed by the wildfire. A reassuring report of his from Spanish Creek showed that its famous Indian Rhubarb (darmera) survived and are nearing peak.

  • Quincy (3,342′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) GO NOW!

A Blessing

Spanish Creek, Plumas County (10/14/21) Michael Beatley

Although the Dixie fire rampaged across northern Plumas County, incinerating much of the forest and leveling Greenville, the fire stopped short of Spanish Creek.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley reports that he hiked the Cascade trail yesterday from the Old Keddie Highway to Barlow Rd off CA-70.

There, “the fire kissed the trailhead at Keddie, but the remainder of the trail and hillsides were unscathed. A blessing. The Indian Rhubarb is nearing peak and beautiful as always.”

  • Spanish Creek (5,187′) – Near Peak (50 – 75%) Go Now.