A bouquet of rabbitbrush near peaking aspen (9/25/20) Gabriel Leete

In the aftermath of the Hog Fire, which straddled State Route 44 northeast of Lassen Volcanic National Park, there is both life and death.

Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete traveled the route on his way to a baby shower for his daughter and noted that though the smoke was nearly absent in the morning, the fire smell was still strong and areas appeared to be smoldering.

Leete noted the contrast of an ashen forest not far from groves of brightly colored, peaking aspen.

  • Lassen National Forest – Patchy (10-50%)

Plumas Preview

Some years back, Plumas County had a great ambassador, Suzi Brakken, who made sure her county wasn’t forgotten when it came to fall color.

Suzi would struggle, however, with the fact that CaliforniaFallColor.com would be reporting peak color on radio and TV in late September when Plumas’ Peak was still weeks away.

Today, Mark Atkinson demonstrated that if you are observant, brilliant spots of color can be found even well ahead of the main show.

Mark admits it’s “Just Starting” in Plumas County, but then this northern Sierra destination is full of surprises, including this preview of Plumas color.

  • Plumas County (3,342′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days

Spanish Creek, Meadow Valley, Plumas County (9/13/20) Michael Beatley

When Nat King Cole sang about “Those lazy-crazy-hazy-days of summer” in 1963, he never had in mind what California has been experiencing this summer.

“Fall is trying to peek through the smoke in the Quincy/Meadow Valley area with the cottonwoods, as usual, showing off first,” Michael Beatley reported today.

Beatley continued, “The smoke index in Meadow Valley is at 682, very hazardous and off the chart. The visibility is often less than 1/2 mile.”

Of course, air quality is just a wisp of the problem that Plumas County is facing. “The Plumas National Forest is closed to camping, vehicles and hiking, and the Bucks Lake area has been evacuated and Meadow Valley is on warning status,” Beatley wrote.

“Those evacuated from East Quincy have now returned home, however La Porte Rd. is closed and the town of La Porte and Little Grass Valley Reservoir have been evacuated, too,” he added.

“Hwy 70, along the Feather River from Butte County to Quincy is also closed as the Bear has met up with the footprint of the Camp fire 2 years ago.

“Winds are expected to start again today, but this time from the southwest, which will drive the fire directly towards Meadow Valley and Quincy,” Beatley predicted.

Spanish Creek, Meadow Valley, Plumas County (9/13/20) Michael Beatley

Michael is packed and ready to flee. His camera will be riding with him, though he first braved the poisonous air this morning, to snap these images of Meadow Valley and Spanish Creek in the haze.

  • Meadow Valley, Spanish Creek – Just Starting (0-10%)

Dunsmuir Denouement

Dunsmuir (11/15/19) Philip Reedy

It’s done in Dunsmuir, though Philip Reedy still managed to find some color at 1,800′ along the Upper Sacramento River.

A few Indian rhubarb and black oak are holding yellow and orange leaves, though most have fallen.

  • Dunsmuir (2,290′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
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Beaver Moon Lights Lassen

Beaver Moon, Lassen Volcanic NP (11/11/19) Shanda Ochs

On the night before this year’s Beaver Moon (the November full moon), Shanda Ochs photographed it silhouetting trees at Lassen Volcanic National Park.

Jepson Willow, Cliff Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (11/11/19) Shanda Ochs

Shanda reports this extended autumn has produced a number of surprises in the national park, including the beaver moon and an abundance of fall color at Cliff Lake (7,300′).

Normally, Manzanita Lake (5,900′) is the last area in Lassen Volcanic to carry fall color. Shanda opines that the late show may be due to that Cliff Lake sits in a basin, at the foot of Reading Peak, that is relatively protected from wind.

All the foliage there was at peak color and is likely to last due to the mild conditions (no wind, warm days and cool nights).

Jepson Willow, is likely to be the variety seen in her photographs, as it is the highest elevation willow native to Lassen Volcanic. Also common is Lemmons willow.

Presently, the national park’s grasses are displaying beautiful warm color.

  • Cliff Lake (7,300′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.

The November full moon has been called a Beaver Moon by native people for centuries. It indicates the time of year when beaver have retreated to their lodges, having stored food for winter.

Trappers quickly recognized the Beaver Moon as an ideal time to harvest beaver, as they would be lethargic in their lodges and wearing heavy winter pelts.

Native people identified full moons by harvest, catch, hunt, climate or cultural ceremony. Anglo-Saxons named some to mark religious periods (Paschal, Yule). A few overlap months, though the first citation is the most-used description (e.g., Wolf moon in Jan, though it’s also used in December). Source: timeanddate.com
  • January – Wolf moon (alt: Moon After Yule, Ice moon, Snow moon)
  • February – Snow moon (Hunger moon, Chaste moon)
  • March – Worm moon (Crow moon, Crust moon, Sap moon, Chaste moon, Lenten moon)
  • April – Pink moon (Sprouting grass moon, Fish moon, Hare moon, Egg moon, Paschal moon)
  • May – Flower moon (Corn planting moon, Milk moon)
  • June – Strawberry moon (Hot moon, Mead moon, Rose moon)
  • July – Buck moon (Thunder moon, Wort moon, Hay moon)
  • August – Sturgeon moon (Green corn moon, Barley moon, Fruit moon, Grain moon)
  • September/October – Harvest moon (full moon closest to autumnal equinox)
  • September – Corn moon (Full corn moon, Barley moon)
  • October – Hunter’s moon (Dying grass moon, Blood or Sanguine moon – not to be confused with the Blood moon marking a total lunar eclipse)
  • November – Beaver moon (Frosty moon, Oak moon, Mourning moon)
  • December – Cold moon (Oak moon, Moon Before Yule, Wolf moon)

It’s Nuts Along The Midway

Walnut orchard, Midway Rd. (11/10/19) Robert Kermen

Walnut orchards are carrying Near Peak to Peak color along Midway Rd. between Durham and Chico.

Chinese pistache, Midway Rd. (11/10/19) Robert Kermen

For those who can get there, the coming week and a half will be beautiful in the Chico area. Best bets: Midway Rd., Chico Seed Orchard, Downtown Chico, the Esplanade (Chico’s famous boulevard), Chico State University campus and Bidwell Park drainages.

  • Chico (197′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!

Chico’s Chinese Color

Chico Seed Orchard (11/3/19) Robert Kermen

Growing throughout Chico in the Northern Sacramento Valley are hundreds of Chinese Pistache trees, pistachia chenensis, and their nut variety, pistachia vera.

That has happened due to the efforts of the Mendocino National Forest’s Genetic Resource Center, commonly known as the Chico Seed Orchard, where new plants from all over the world are observed as to how they will fare in this climate.

The result of all that experimentation has been to introduce farm products such as kiwis, almonds, cherries and pistachios to California agriculture.

It also has made Chico one of the most colorful urban forests in California.

Chinese pistache, Chico (11/3/19) Robert Kermen

The Chinese pistache is one of the most appreciated landscape trees because of its fluorescent fall color, its summer shade, hardiness and deep rooting, which means they don’t raise sidewalks like many other ornamental trees.

Chinese pistache are now at all stages of color throughout Chico, reports Chico area color spotter Robert Kermen. Though, he adds that this year is different – a common theme experienced not just in California, but nationwide – with deciduous plants showing fall color early, late and inconsistently.

In some areas, this has resulted in longer displays (e.g., Bishop Creek). In other areas, much abbreviated ones (e.g., June Lake Loop). That Chico’s Chinese Color now varies from Just Starting to Peak, indicates this could be a long-lasting show for Chico.

Currently, Chico’s urban forest, overall, is transitioning from Patchy to Near Peak with vibrant color appearing throughout the city’s downtown and along The Esplanade, a boulevard that is canopied with landmark trees (Chinese pistache, red maple, dogwood, Western Sycamore, various oaks and London plane trees).

A visit to Chico in autumn is a delight, particularly with stops to tour the Sierra Nevada Brewery, to dine in its excellent restaurant or any of Chico’s other first-rate restaurants, to drop into one of Chico’s exceptional art galleries or visit Orient and Flume Art Glass or to tour the Bidwell Mansion, home of one of California’s most respected pioneers.

Following a visit to Chico, head north seven miles on CA-99 to visit the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina where an 800-year-old Cistercian gothic monastic chapter house (a true architectural masterpiece) has been rebuilt to serve as the abbey’s church. Wine tasting is offered on weekends at the abbey winery.

  • Chico (197′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Finding Gold in Rich Bar

Unmarked graves, Rich Bar (11/2/19) Michael Beatley

It’s name speaks of its wealth … Rich Bar.

In the 1850s, Rich Bar in the Feather River Canyon attracted thousands of argonauts. Many never left. Gravemarkers, memorials and headstones tell a grim story of their fates.

Mining accident … drowned … illness … hanged for theft … murdered … stabbed … hanged for murder … accidental shooting … killed in duel … shot … gunshot suicide.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley spent a day exploring his county’s historic places and came back with a few visual nuggets, though no real gold.

He reports that the oak and dogwood are still golden. Union Pacific tracks pass near Rich Bar along the Feather River, for those who enjoy combining rail and fall color photography.

  • Rich Bar, Plumas County (2,402′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.

Decent Color Declines

Kentucky Mine, Sierra City (11/2/19) Philip Reedy

“Decent color is getting hard to find,” wrote Philip Reedy of a scouting trip he took through Plumas County. “Most of the color is gone.”

He was surprised, however, by the color surrounding Sardine Lake at 6,000′, from the black oak near Bassetts Station (CA-49) and enveloping the historic buildings at Kentucky Mine in Sierra City (now closed for the season).

And, to show his ride also promotes what he does, Phil – who photographs fly fishing – sent this image of his license plate.

  • Plumas County – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.

El Rio de las Plumas

Rail and automobile bridges crisscross in the Feather River Canyon (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

John Marsh and Jose Noriega were exploring Northern California in 1836, traveling up the Sacramento River in dugout canoes, when they came to a tributary to the Sacramento that was covered in feathers. They named the newly discovered tributary, El Rio de las Plumas, River of the Feathers.

Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

The Feather River is one of California’s great waterways. Most impressively, it drops 4,350′ in its first 74 miles.

That makes it not only one of America’s most scenic rivers but also one of the most productive at generating hydroelectric power.

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., gets a good part of its energy from Feather River hydroelectric plants in a “stairway of power” that climbs from Lake Oroville to Mountain Meadows Reservoir, above Lake Almanor.

Along CA-70, a beautiful mix of fall color can be seen growing beside the river and the creeks that run into it. Willow, black oak, bigleaf maple, dogwood, grasses and Indian rhubarb are now at peak and reflecting their chartreuse, yellow, gold, orange and red colors in the river’s clear waters.

Dogwood, Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb drove down the canyon from Greenville to Beldon Town Resort.

We’ll let you in on a secret. Jeff didn’t make the trip just to scope out fall color. He treated himself to a cheeseburger at Beldon Town. Though, he did find peak fall color at Indian Creek, Feather Falls, Twain, Beldon Town and Howell’s Bridge, not to mention a scary jack o’lantern in the Beldon Town store.

Beldon Town Resort Store, Feather River (10/29/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb
  • Feather River (CA-70) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!