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Above Quincy

Quincy (10/14/19) Michael Beatley

Robert Cameron’s series of “Above” coffee table books fascinate me. Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge, Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty from above is mesmerizing.

So, when these photographs taken by Michael Beatley arrived, the bright colors of autumn trees and colored roofs reminded me of why Robert Cameron’s work is so endlessly fascinating.

First Aerial Photograph, Boston (10/8/1860) James Wallace Black

It was surely sensational to the public when James Wallace Black ascended in a balloon to take the first aerial photograph 159 years ago this month, as reported in MassMoments.

Today, we don’t have to go up in a balloon or aircraft to take aerial photographs. They can be taken by drones, or as Michael Beatley did, by climbing a hill. However they’re taken, aerial photographs still stir the imagination just as they did in 1860, particularly those with fall color.

The Plumas National Forest, surrounding Quincy, has many roads, OHV routes, and hiking trails. Michael reports that the forest is full of peak rosy Pacific dogwood, yellow big leaf and gamboge mountain maple, deep-red mountain ash and orange black oak, amidst pine and fir.

Pick up a map at the USFS ranger station on CA-70 just east of Quincy to explore the forest. Four wheel drive is not needed to drive many of the roads.

  • Plumas National Forest – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Quincy (3,342′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • American Valley (3,342′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Cold Means Hot

Nelson Creek, La Porte Rd, Plumas County (10/13/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

In the topsy-turvy world of fall color, cold means hot color. It also means fallen color.

Plumas County’s Jeff Luke Titcomb (the color spotter who solved the mystery of the Quincy Airport 50/50 tree) noted that he’s seeing some very low morning temps near Quincy and thinks it’s having an effect on color change.

Mountain Maple, Greenville (10/12/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Some trees are simply dropping leaves and not changing as usual. The same phenomenon was noticed by Jared Smith in Bishop Creek Canyon (Eastern Sierra).

It’s now Near Peak to Peaking in Plumas County. Jeff drives the county’s country roads in his classic green cadillac. We could sing about it, but did that last year and if you’ve heard my singing, you wouldn’t want a repeat of that.

He recommends touring from the Greenville Y. Why?

Because if you head toward Crescent Mills, “You will see that the big leaf maples are in full, bright, yellow color, and the dogwoods are all red and pink,” Jeff advises.

Black oak are slowly joining in but regular readers to this site know we call them California’s Halloween tree, because they are best near the end of October.

Jeff notes that despite the chilly overnight temps, Plumas County’s weather – for the moment – couldn’t be finer, even it were Carolina in the morning.

Round Valley Rd., Plumas County (10/12/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Take the road to Round Valley Reservoir (Bidwell Lake – named in honor of pioneer John Bidwell) to find bigleaf maple and lots of dogwood.

Continue on up across the dam, then up towards Long Valley, keeping right, then center and you’ll be taken down to Canyon Dam, for more color along the route.

Canoe fly fishing, Feather River (10/13/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Continuing further north, the Lake Almanor side is in full color, but is about to fall, so Jeff advises, GO NOW!


Redding Red

Red maple, Redding (10/13/19) Laura Jean

Red maple are planted, appropriately, in Redding along Shasta View Drive.

Laura Beeson (Photography by Laura Jean) has submitted images of them in past autumns, but I don’t recall them ever looking this good.

Laura estimates one good blow could have red flying all over Redding, so GO NOW!

  • Shasta View Drive, Redding (564′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Holy Trinity

Bigleaf maple, Eagle Creek Loop, CA-3 (10/13/19) Jeri Rangel

Peak has arrived in the Trinity Alps.

Shasta Cascade color spotter Jeri Rangel drove through such colorful places as Coffee Creek, Eagle Creek, Trinity Center, Norwegian Meadows and the Carville Loop to find Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, cattails, and crabapples full of fall color along California highway 3.

Pictures she took remind me of the song “Country Road,” but that’s about West Virginia, isn’t it?

  • Coffee Creek, CA-3 (3,068′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Volcanic Legacy Spurts

Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (10/13/19) Martha Fletcher

Ocasional spurts of autumn brightness are appearing along the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway (CA-89) in Northeast California.

Shasta Cascade color spotter Martha Fletcher pulled over to record this colorful black oak.

It is carnelian-dressed early for a black oak, which we term the Halloween tree for their bold orange and black colors, but then Halloween decorations have been in the stores since September.

  • Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, CA-89 (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Good Day to go to Court

Plumas County Courthouse, Quincy (10/13/19) Michael Beatley

There’s hardly ever a good day to go to court, unless you’re in Quincy.

Sugar maple, Quincy (10/13/19) Michael Beatley

That’s because the Plumas County Courthouse on Main St. is surrounded by peaking color, right now.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley reports that landmark sycamores and maples in downtown Quincy are almost at full peak.

La Porte Rd., east of Quincy (10/13/19) Michael Beatley

The same is occurring along La Porte Rd, just east of Quincy, where a centenarian sugar maple is a beautiful reason to stop to the side of the road.

In all, it’s a good day to go to court, as long as you’re heading to Quincy.

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

Etna Keeps Erupting

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Etna (10/9/19) Laura Jean

Fall color surrounding the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in Etna continues to erupt in crimson, orange and yellow.

A variety of native and exotic trees are decorating Siskiyou County’s Scott Valley with vibrant color. They include black cottonwood, bigleaf maple, rabbitbrush, red maple and sugar maple.

First reported by Siskiyou County color spotter Laura Jean nearly two weeks ago, the color seen here is now listening to its closing hymn.

  • Etna (2,936′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Blinded to the Light

Mountain maple, Quincy Airport (10/12/19) Robert Kermen

Sometimes, we’re blinded to the light, revved up by the cold, a color spotter in the night.

Paraphrasing Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics, we are often more influenced by popular belief than scientific fact.

In color spotter Robert Kermen’s case, he was blinded to the light, not knowing that it had a greater influence on fall color change than temperature.

He wrote when submitting this report, “I used to think that a leaf’s turning color was triggered by temperature or colder air flow, but when I saw this tree I knew that was only part of it. Just like fruit trees, the side that gets the most sunlight, has the riper fruit. Except that in the case of leaf coloring, the side that gets the most sunlight in the fall turns color first.”

The revelation happened when he saw this unusual tree and confirmed his “aha moment,” when he read Brent Cook’s article, How A Tree Grows.

Cook states, “If you’ve ever seen a tree that has green leaves on one side and red, orange, or yellow leaves on the other, it was probably a result of different amounts of sunlight. In the northern hemisphere, leaves that are on the southwest side of a tree will receive much more sunlight than leaves on the opposite side. Leaves near the top of a tree will also receive more sunlight than leaves at the bottom of the canopy. Consequently, phytochrome (photoreceptors) will trigger abscission (fall color) sooner in leaves getting more sunlight.”

Note that in the above photograph, the shaded side of the tree (left) is still green, whereas the side in the sunlight (right) has turned color. It’s counterintuitive, but a fact of nature. Why that is true, is not entirely clear to me.

Could it be that the sunlit side of the tree senses the change in autumn light waves sooner than that in the shade? We’ll let a dendrologist answer that.

In the meantime, the below photograph answers the question. Jeff Luke Titcomb took it from behind the fence to reveal: it isn’t one tree with two sides, it’s two trees whose canopies have merged.

It is a mystery solved to everyone’s embarrassment. Though, because of Bob’s inquisitiveness, we learned something new about the possibilities that a tree could have two fall color sides, because of light.

Two trees in one, Quincy Airport (10/14/19) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bob was returning to the Northern Sacramento Valley by way of the Beckwourth Pass (5,221′) (named after legendary mountain man James Beckwourth; his is an extraordinary story) and CA-70 along the Feather River. Color is near peak throughout most of the route.

  • Feather River, CA-70 – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Lakes Basin

Sardine Lake, Lakes Basin (10/12/19) Michael Beatley

Often overlooked in the Northern Sierra is the Lakes Basin of Plumas and Sierra Counties.

The Lakes Basin is part of the Sierra Nevada’s and the Pacific Crest Trail runs through it. It has numerous lakes, Gold lake, Salmon Lake, Packer Lake, Upper and Lower Sardine Lake, Young America Lake and Goose Lake among the better known.

Fall color in the Lakes Basin is modest, though its hot reflections upon the lakes’ clear blue waters, along with emerald glimpses of their icy depths, are mesmerizing.

Yesterday, Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley hiked to an old USFS lookout that overlooks Sardine Lake and reports that the area is hovering between Patchy and Near Peak with some of its aspen still fully green, while others are peaking.

  • Lakes Basin (8,857′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Going to Church

St. Canice Catholic Church, Nevada City (10/10/19) Robert Kermen
Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Ft. Jones, Siskiyou County (10/9/19) Laura Jean

Color spotters Robert Kermen and Laura Jean found inspiration and saw the light as they traveled through Nevada City and Ft. Jones this week.

Kermen was driving along CA-20 when he began to notice quite a bit of color mostly from alder, bigleaf maple and dogwood.

He wrote, “The stretch between Grass Valley and I-80 has always fascinated me with its mix of hardwood and deciduous trees.“

Exiting I-80 at Bowman Lake, he visited the headwaters of Bear River and one of his favorite falls to find that bigleaf maple leaves had littered the area.

“At an elevation of approximately 5000 feet, it appeared the big leaf maple were peaking while the dogwood was just starting. While hiking the Sierra Discovery Trail, which follows Bear River, he noticed that most of the big leaf maple were infected with “fungal tar spot disease.”

Upon reaching Grass Valley, he was struck by the beauty of St Canice Catholic Church and maples that surround it.

Exotic color, Ft. Jones (10/9/19) Laura Jean

Laura Jean was similarly inspired, driving CA-3 through Siskiyou County. The towns of Ft. Jones and Etna and environs are at peak and “vivid.”

  • CA-20, Bowman Lake to Nevada City – Near Peak (50-75% GO NOW!
  • CA-3, Scott Valley, Ft. Jones to Etna – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!