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Tastes of Chico

Gingko biloba, Esplanade, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

“Smoke from the Camp Fire has lifted somewhat,” allowing Robert Kermen to get out of his northern Sacramento Valley home to do some errands in Chico.

Gingko biloba, Chico (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

He found gingko biloba in full peak along Chico’s Esplanade and was moved by an American flag, seeing it as a symbol of how Butte County is rebounding from the Camp Fire, where many friends and relatives lost their homes and businesses.

While in town, he stopped to pick persimmons which he plans to turn into  persimmon cookies and persimmon jello for the holidays.

Robert recommends using the Hachiya persimmon, not the Asian or Japanese persimmon (Diospyros kaki) which can be eaten like an apple and are great on a salad topped with vinegar and oil.

Hachiya persimmons must ripen completely before they can be eaten otherwise they are astringent. 

American robin, Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

That doesn’t stop wildlife from getting to them before they’re picked, as the American robin in his picture is doing.

Persimmons are favorite fare for opossums, rodents, white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox, black bear and skunks.

  • Chico (197′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Persimmon (11/19/18) Robert Kermen

Feather River Reflections

Red Bridge, Feather River (11/15/18) Michael Beatley

Faded glory paralels La Porte Rd from Quincy to the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley found it near Red Bridge, an historic and still active gold mining claim, where clear skies, warm days, low humidity and cold nights have sustained the beauty of river grasses, well past the point that they should have lost their luster.

Though they are truly Past Peak, their reflected beauty is unquestioned. 

  • Feather River – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
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Fun with Fungi

Sulphur Tufts, Hypholoma fasciculare, Trinidad (11/3/18) Gabriel Leete

Late October/early November are usually mushroom months, but with little rain so far in autumn, we’ve not yet seen much fungi photography.

To the rescue comes Shasta Cascade color spotter Gabriel Leete who drove to find a store of spore-born fungi in Shasta Cascade and North Coast forests.

Gabriel became fascinated with mushrooms when he was 19 (he’s now 46). So, he really knows the fungi he photographs. Leete wrote that he became interested in them when trying to find a certain fungi, then realized it had “deadly look alikes.”

So, he focused on learning how to identify mushrooms which led to exploring what edible fungi he might “take home for dinner.”

A word of caution: many California mushrooms are poisonous. Only if you are expert like Gabriel, should you attempt to dine on them. Not taking such a precaution could have you pushing up daisies.

Leete’s fascination with fungi made him serious not just about identifying fungi, but growing them, and eventually, mushroom microscopy. 

To tune his ability to identify one mushroom from another, he’s joined groups of expert mushroom hunters. They are so knowledgeable, that he’s learned a lot from them.

Mushrooms are both good for the environment and, if edible, good for you (full of nutrients and medicinal qualities).

MushroomShack.com reports that “mushrooms play an important role in the environment, breaking down logs, leaves, stems, and other organic matter in the forest to recycle essential nutrients. Many are vital to the growth and survival of trees. They form a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) relationship, with the trees giving mushrooms glucose and mushrooms providing trees with essential minerals.

“Not all mushrooms grow on wood, though. Some grow from the ground, feeding on humus and organic materials in the soil.”

Pacific banana slug, Ariolimax californicus, devouring a Russula atroviolacea, Trinidad (11/3/18) Gabriel Leete

Friends, following is more fun-filled, factual fungi filler:

  • (Above) Sulphur Tufts are mildly poisonous and prolific, found throughout California. When fresh, the clustered caps are bright yellow to greenish-yellow, as are the gills and stem, though cap colors vary widely.
  • Russula atroviolacea, a type of fungi known for its bright color (Russula means red) is seen being devoured by a Pacific banana slug, Ariolimax californicus. Banana slugs are the mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz (The university’s chancellor had chosen the Sea Lions, but the student body persisted in supporting the lowly mollusk as the school’s mascot. It has since been judged, on numerous occasions, as the nation’s best college mascot). Though banana slugs were a food source for North Coast Yurok Indians, their slime deadens tastebuds. Celebrated on a UCSC t-shirt, Sammy the Slug is identified by its motto, “No Known Predators.” Wikipedia advises, “Even when fed corn meal to purge them or soaked in vinegar to remove slime, the slugs’ flavor is not always well regarded.” Gabriel says their acrid flavor “gets worse the more you taste.” I guess the t-shirt got it right. 
  • (Below) Bracket Fungus, Ganoderma applanatum, also called shelf fungus is called “the artist’s fungus” due to its white to gray pore surface and brown bruising. It retains the brown bruising for years when picked and brought indoors.
  • Amanita muscria, var. guessowii buttons grow to be spectacular mushrooms, but are unigue and beautiful as buttons, as well. The Amanita muscaria are typically red with white dots on the cap and have been placed on many stamps, postcards, in books and cartoons. They vary from scarlet to yellow and are lethally poisonous. Look, don’t touch.
  • Postia ptychogaster, commonly known as the powder puff bracket, is a species of fungus in the family Fomitopsidaceae. The fungus resembles a powdery cushion that fruits on stumps and logs of rotting conifer wood.
  • The King Bolete, Boletus edulis is a world traveler, called the Cep in France and Steinpilz in Germany. This is a well-known, large mushroom favored for use in cooking pots by mushroom hunters. This example was small, young with a greasy/tacky, bald brown cap and a meaty swollen stem with fine reticulation (netting). The pore surface is usually white, with tightly spaced or “stuffed” pores, becoming more and more visible as it ages.
  • Stropharia ambigua are fairly large and at first bright yellow, fading with age. They become semi-slimy and adorned with drooping white veils. They are both beautiful and prolific … so much so that they’ve been called weeds due to how many grow along the coast.
  • Peppery Bolete, Chalciporus piperatus, are not something to eat, “losing their peppery flavor when cooked, and with so many other edible mushrooms growing in the same habitat, why bother?” Gabriel advises. 


Nelson Family Vineyards, US 101, Ukiah, Mendocino County (11/9/18) Walt Gabler

A year ago, we were writing about Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and how they had recovered from then-recent wildfires.

The above image is of Near Peak color in Mendocino County vineyards near Ukiah. Proof that things do get better with time.

Today, our thoughts are with the people of Paradise whose Northern Sierra foothill town, ten miles east of Chico, has been ravaged by wildfire.

At least for now, luck seems to have run out for a town that a popular local legend says was named in the late 1870s after the “Pair o’ Dice Saloon.”

However, if California gold rush history tells us anything, panning out isn’t a permanent condition. Good luck will roll again in Paradise, even if hard times are now afflicting many good people hurt by this disaster.

And so, we’re #ParadiseStrong. 

Post Note: Walt reports that “The last few days have been unusually cold with the temps the high 50s.  The forecast for this week was supposed to be for sunny weather and temps to be in the high 70s.  These low temps and heavy smoke (just like last summer with the local fires) has had an effect on the seasonal color of the vines.  The heavy smoke is keeping the sunlight out and daytime temperatures cold.  Some vines are still turning, but today (10/11) I noticed that many have suddenly dried up and have turned brown or dried green.  I don’t know how long this will last.”

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Past Peak at Potem Falls

Potem Falls, Burney (11/4/18) Laura Jean

For a guy who’s traveled every byway in California and lived within the sound of Yosemite Falls, I’m constantly amazed to see a waterfall I didn’t know existed or get a report from a route I haven’t driven.

Laura Jean accomplished both with her report from Potem Falls (Montgomery Creek) and Stand By Me Bridge (off CA-89) in the Burney area of the Shasta Cascade, scoring double First Reports.

Blackberries, Potem Falls Trail (11/4/18) Laura Jean

The color is definitely Past Peak near Burney, though bright spots of orange and yellow can be seen across its rolling landscape.

The hike to Potem Falls, is what one reviewer describes as “short but sweet.” Just .4 miles and lightly trafficked, it gains only 98 feet and has the bonus of a beautiful, 69-foot waterfall at the end of the trail. In summer, it’s a popular swimming hole. 

  • Potem Falls, Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Stand By Me Bridge, Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Burney – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
Stand By Me Bridge, Burney (11/4/18) Laura Jean

It Hasta Be Shasta

Black oak and Mt. Shasta (11/3/18) Namita Mishra

For sheer drama posed beside fall color in early November, it has to be Shasta.

Color spotter Namita Mishra was there this past weekend and sent back photographs of black oak, Quercus kelloggii,  laden with orange leaves near the end of peak.

This week is likely the last to see peak color around the City of Mt. Shasta. Check below for previous reports on peak color being seen from Mt. Shasta south to Redding. 

  • Mt. Shasta – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Black oak and white alder, Mt. Shasta (11/3/18) Namita Mishra


The Longest Peak

When all other native trees are past peak, Black oak, Quercus kelloggii, hang in there.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples traveled to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park on Saturday and was impressed by the fall color, which “was absolutely stunning. Although some of the black oak leaves have dried/browned a bit, others are still a vivid orange/yellow.

“Moreover,” he continued, “because autumn has been mild with few storms and little wind, trees are retaining their leaves quite well.”

He found that even “close to the falls, vegetation has begun to turn color, creating a colorful frame/backdrop for the falls. The same can be said for the creek, which is lined with a great variety of vegetation, all of which is sporting gorgeous fall color.”

That’s impressive, as Burney Falls is at elev. 2,783′ and yet elevations down to 100′ are nearing peak.

If you’re near Redding, Clayton encourages getting to Burney Falls now before storms arrive. As, the trip “is well worth it!” 

  • Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (2,783′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Peak of the Week: Chico

Chinese pistache, Pistacia chinensis, Bidwell Park, Chico (11/3/18) Laura Jean

This is the week to visit Chico.

This forested college town in the northwest Sacramento Valley is one of California’s cities of trees.

Red maple, Acer rubrum, Bidwell Park, Chico (11/3/18) Laura Jean[/caption]The best places to be immersed in Chico’s fall color are downtown and along the Esplanade (a boulevard north of Chico State University that is lined with landmark plane trees, oaks and elm), in Downtown Chico whose streets are shaded with big trees and in Bidwell Park, the third largest municipal park in California (3,670 acres).

Within the park, best bets for fall color are: Sycamore Pond, Cedar Grove (home to the second tree experimentation farm in the U.S., where California pioneer John Bidwell planted trees from around the world), the Hooker Oak (now dead, though a massive Valley oak when living that was found to be two oaks that had grown together) and the Chico Creek Nature Center’s native plant garden. 

  • Chico (132′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Fowl Idea

Here’s a fowl idea. Between waiting for fall color to descend through the foothill canyons to lower elevations, fill the time enjoying the fall migration of water fowl and their predators to California’s Central Valley.

Robert Kermen spent yesterday among sandhill cranes, great blue heron, egrets and a watchful redtail hawk near Nelson.

He writes, “With the flooding of the harvested rice checks, rodents are forced above ground where blue herons, red tail hawks, kestrels and other predators gobble them up.”

“Also seen are magnificent sandhill cranes, that even this late in the season can be seen going through courtship displays.”

If you stay until dusk, you’ll see them flying in at sunset to roost overnight in shallow ponds or on islands protected from predators by natural moats. 

  • Central Valley Wildlife Refuges (birdwatching) (50′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
Flooded Rice Field, Nelson (11/3/18) Robert Kermen

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All The Leaves Are Down

All the leaves are down
And the sky’s not gray
I’ve been for a walk
On an autumn day
I’d be seeing Patchy
If I was in L.A.

California dreamin’
On such a late fall day …

 — apologies to The Mamas and the Papas

Michael Beatley walked past a church on his hike to Boyle Ravine in Quincy yesterday morning, if he passed Community United Methodist along the way.

Boyle Ravine (First Report) provides outdoor learning for students at nearby Quincy Elementary School (What a great idea. Every school oughta have outdoor learning nearby). It’s at the end of Coburn St. and has been newly added to the California Fall Color map.

There, you’ll find the faded glory of bigleaf maple, Pacific dogwood, black oak, alder, fern, violas, cedar, pine and fir trees along the forest trail.Looks like we’ll have to do some California dreamin’ about visiting it next autumn. 

  • Boyle Ravine, Quincy (3,342′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.