Upper Trinity River

Peak color is advancing along the Upper Trinity River, where Cornell red and mellow yellow reflect upon its waters.

  • Upper Trinity River (2,510′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now.
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Hitting Hamburg

CA-96 (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

Hamburg is no more. It’s abandoned now, but was home to 5,000 souls in 1880.

That’s when Sarah Totten took over the General Store from her brother-in-law, Dan Caldwell, who had opened the store in 1859. Sarah continued to run the store until 1930. The Great Depression and the ability to motor to a bigger selection of stores in Yreka, an hour east, probably did in the store.

Today, all that’s left of Hamburg are a cemetery and decaying shacks that appear to date from Hamburg’s heyday.

Bigleaf maple, Hamburg (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

Phil and Jane Reedy stopped there on a scouting trip that included Lake Britton (see previous post). They concluded that it wasn’t a lack of fall color that made people move away. There’s lots of it near Hamburg which is located about 32 mi. east of I-5 on CA-96, along the Klamath River.

The following morning the Reedys did some exploring where Hamburg once thrived.  Mary noticed a sign to the cemetery, which led to the Caldwell family plot.

Appliance Graveyard, Hamburg (11/4/20) Philip Reedy

Across the road from the cemetery is the “appliance graveyard” Reedy photographed last fall.

Phil reported that the colors along Hwy 96 and the river from I-5 to Hamburg are just as he saw the previous day at Lake Britton with oaks showing auburn, carnelian, rust, terra cotta, lemon, gold, papaya, coral, pumpkin, butterscotch and tangerine.

Bigleaf maple, CA-96 (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

The oaks are mixed with cadmium yellow bigleaf maple and Phil had to stop “about every 100 yards to take a picture and must compliment my wife for her patience.” Been there, done that.

Mt. Shasta, Siskiyou County (11/5/20) Philip Reedy
Weed Golf Club (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

By lunchtime, they’d worked their way back to Yreka for a picnic lunch at Greenhorn Park. From there, they headed to a friend’s ranch, just south of Yreka, to take photographs of Mount Shasta, then worked their way back to Weed, stopping at the Weed Golf Club for its views of Mt Shasta, bemoaning only that the volcano hadn’t yet been dusted with snow.

Simms Bridge, Upper Sacramento River, Mt. Shasta (11/5/20) Philip Reedy

On their return to Davis, they stopped at the Simms bridge to discover that you can either photograph the bridge enveloped with color but backlit, or turn around and photograph Mt. Shasta rising above the Upper Sacramento River.

  • Siskiyou County (2,589′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW
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Lake Britton – Wow!

Lake Britton (11/4/20) Philip Reedy

On his drive up CA-89 toward McCloud, Philip Reedy caught a glimpse of Lake Britton to his left, and all he could say was, “WOW!”

He wrote, “The lake was surrounded by yellow, orange, and red, as were the mountainsides to the west.  I only wish I had been there in the early morning when the light would have been much better.”

Reedy’s wife remarked it looked like pictures she had seen with hills blanketed in color. Next November, he plans to visit in the morning on a day with, “fluffy white clouds in the sky.  I can already see the image in my mind.”

The color at Lake Britton appears to come almost entirely from black oak, Quercus kelloggii. That these trees exhibited a range of yellow, gold, orange, cinnabar and barn red is remarkable, as black oak – while known for their rich deep orange leaves – rarely show bright yellow or gold.

Lake Britton is a reservoir, surrounded by PG&E land, north of McArthur-Burney Falls State Park. A PG&E-run campground is on the lake’s north shore.


Slowly but Surely

Slowly but surely, bigleaf maple, cottonwood and black oak along Highway 3, which bends its way through Trinity County from CA-299 north to I-5, are brightening the route and promising a week of peak to come.

  • CA-3, Trinity County – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now.

Conant The Barbarian

Conant, Upper Sacramento River (11/2/20) Philip Reedy

Savage beauty is seen from Conant (I-5 Exit 721) beside the Upper Sacramento River, north to the town of Mt. Shasta. It pillages the hillsides and drips into the Upper Sacramento.

Philip Reedy was there yesterday and reports the mountainsides behind Castella and Dunsmuir, as well as the towns themselves, are “gold with oaks” and declares this section of the Upper Sacramento River a definite GO NOW!

Phil estimates peak color has but a few days, perhaps a week, then it’s anyone’s guess how long it might survive. So, hurry.

What’s exceptional in these photographs are the orange and red tones seen in the bigleaf maple at Conant.

Mossbrae Falls, Dunsmuir (11/2/20) Philip Reedy

You won’t find Conant on most maps. It’s a town that no longer exists. Named after William Conant, the town disappeared some time ago. Nevertheless, take the exit and begin at Conant to hike the tracks north, beside the river, for a quarter-mile to find a great view of the Crags. 

(Editor’s Note: Always be on the lookout for trains when on these tracks, as this is a very active line and trains approach quickly and with little sound).

Presently, many fly fishers are working the stream near Conant. Local river conservator Scott Embrey served as a model for magazine covers Reedy was shooting, but soon after Phil gave Scott “a rare break from posing,” he caught a trout.

Mossbrae, near Dunsmuir, has improved a lot since last week and is at peak as well. Bright yellow bigleaf maple grow along the tracks and at the falls.

Castella, Upper Sacramento River (11/2/20) Philip Reedy
  • Conant (1,890′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Castella (1,900′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Mossbrae Falls (2,529′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Dunsmuir (2,290′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Time to Go to Church

Community United Methodist Church, Quincy (11/1/20) Jeff Luke Titcomb

If ever there were a time to go to church, it is now. GO NOW!

Community United Methodist Church in Quincy is at peak with a halo of deep red, orange and gold foliage surrounding it.

  • Community United Methodist Church, Quincy – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Holy Trinity!

Black oak, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

No sooner had I posted a disappointing report about Trinity County than I opened the next email to find Leor Pantilat’s vibrant study of peak color in the Trinity Alps. I herewith retract everything I wrote in the previous post.

Turns out, we were looking in the wrong place. Leor was in the right place at the right time. Peak fall color does exist in Trinity County and it’s gorgeous. GO NOW!

Black oak, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

Leor sends back images – in this First Report – of some of the most colorful examples of yellow, orange and red black oak we’ve seen. At first glance, their orange-yellow fall color and the size of the plant resembles Brewer oak (Q. garryana var. breweri), which is rarely posted on CaliforniaFallColor.com and is widely distributed throughout the Klamath and southern Cascade ranges, including the Trinity Alps, but Leor identified them as “scrub black oak.” On closer inspection, their lobes are more spiky than rounded, a clue that these shrubbery-sized oaks are, indeed, black oak.

There are all kinds of color spotters. Those whose biggest effort is to step out of a vehicle and set up a tripod to … well, Leor.

Over the years, Leor and his wife, Erica Namba, have blazed trails finding peaking fall color in the most remote corners of the Eastern Sierra, Central Coast, High Sierra, Marble Mountains and now, the Trinity Alps. This hike climbed into the Trinity Alps Wilderness on trails not previously shown here.

Ferns, Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

On this trek, he photographed more variety than we’ve seen in many other regions, varieties of golden and vermillion ferns, brilliant crimson knotweed, rosy dogwood, yellow bigleaf maple and the oh, so beautifully rusty-orange toned black oak.

Leor reported that the dogwood are on their “way out,” while Indian rhubarb are “coming in.” Leor relates, “most of my photos were taken above 5,000′ which explains the discrepancy of the reports from Hwy 3 which is below 3,000′.  That said, I thought the color in the Lewiston area (cottonwood and willow) was coming along so it will probably peak there in the next week or two.

“Perhaps some areas in Trinity County won’t be as vibrant this year since it was a dry winter and big leaf maple prefer wet years for an ideal color show.  That’s in contrast to the Sierra where it seems like the aspen and cottonwood do better in dry years (less leaf fungus in dry years?),” Leor observed.

California fall color is not just hanging from branches in the Trinity Alps, it decorates the edges of mountain trails and is reflected in sky-blue lakes. On this sojourn, Leor found it all.

Click to enlarge and scroll through the beauty he found.

Trinity Alps (11/1/20) Leor Pantilat

The Trinity Alps wilderness is declared CaliforniaFallColor.com’s Hike of the Week. CLICK HERE for a variety of moderate to difficult-rated routes.

  • Trinity Alps (5,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Where For Art Thou, Trinity?

Upper Trinity River (11/1/20) Jeri Rangel

Smoke, haze and Covid closures have stifled reports from Trinity County. Normally, by now we would have received dazzling photos from Coffee Creek, Trinity Center, Lewiston, Etna and along Highway 3.

But, this year it’s been quiet.

So, I called Ruth Hartman at Coffee Creek Ranch. She replied “it’s still too early.” Indeed, photos she sent were of developing color whereas peak has been reported in past years, two weeks earlier.

Then I asked Jeri Rangel to send back some snaps on her next run through the Trinity Alps, along CA-3. Here they are, and Ruth is right. It’s too early.

There is color to be seen along the Upper Trinity River, Highway 3 and at Coffee Creek, but not yet notable. When that changes, we’ll report it.

  • Coffee Creek, Trinity County (3,068′) – Patchy (10-50%)

North to Lassen Volcanic

Lassen Peak, Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/30/20) Clayton Peoples

Since Friday was a state holiday in Nevada (Nevada Day), Clayton Peoples drove north on US 395 from Reno, then up CA-36 through Susanville to Lassen Volcanic National Park and on to Burney Falls.

Some of the prettiest color we’ve seen has come from Susanville. Along the Susan River Canyon, west of town, black oak drape their Near Peak orange-to-rusty-brown, laden boughs.

Susan River Canyon (10/30/20) Clayton Peoples

The canyon is visible from CA-36 as it descends toward Susanville, though the best views are from within the canyon. 

A hillside above Susanville’s Victorian Elks Lodge (reputedly the most photographed structure in Lassen County) is covered with bold orange color. Susanville will peak this week.

The lodge has a fascinating history. The land on which it stands was purchased in 1884 for $450 by a dentist who studied to be an architect. All its rooms (except the kitchen and dining area) are octagonal. When the dentist (who often was paid in trade) could not pay his bills, the home was awarded to a debtor who then rented the home for $15 a month.

For those paying California mortgages, are you crying yet?

In 1921, members of the local Antlers Club formed an Elks Lodge and purchased the home for $13,000. OK, now I hear the sobbing.

In 1924, after renovations that opened the ground floor into one large hall, “500 of the antlered herd” gathered from across Northern California and Nevada to celebrate the installation of Susanville’s new B.P.O.E. Lodge #1487 with great fanfare, including: a band, a six-block-long parade, streamers, flags, costumed celebrants (from bathing suits to full dress), the unexpected appearance of 100 Elks from Westwood, the exalted ruler of every Elks Lodge in Northern California and a “grand exalted ruler” from Oroville.

Who knew anything was grand and exalted in Oroville?

Following his visit to the Susan River Canyon and its famous lodge, Clayton continued west through Lassen Volcanic National Park along CA-89 and CA-44. to Burney Falls.

Clayton characterized Burney Falls as Patchy to Near Peak. “The park, in general, has lots of Black Oaks in full color. Near the creek/falls, however, they still have some more to go before reaching peak. Of special note, the Black Oaks that “frame” the falls from the upper vista are still mostly green.” He estimated it would be another week before they’re yellow/orange.

He found Manzanita Lake still ringed with beautiful patches of yellow that accent reflections of Chaos Crags and Lassen Peak, though about 40% of the deciduous foliage has lost its color; the rest is dropping fast; and Clayton estimates peak will wane over the coming week.

Laura Christman found pretty much the same while kayaking at Butte Lake within the national park, yesterday … Peak to Past Peak with some nice splashes of yellow against the backdrop of dark cinder mountains, blue sky and dark-green conifers.

  • Susan River Canyon (4,186′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) GO NOW!
  • Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park (5,900′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • Butte Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park (6,053′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, You Almost Missed It.
  • MacArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (3,281) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) Go Now.

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Indian Creek, Indian Valley, CA-89 (10/31/20) Michael Beatley

There’s an aspect of composition that is often overlooked by photographers. Perhaps the photograph needs further reflection.

Still autumn days are often perfect for reflection, in more ways than one. Michael Beatley found these moody scenes along Indian Creek near CA-89, eight miles west of Quincy.

CA-89, Indian Valley, Plumas County (10/31/20) Michael Beatley

As declared here last week when it was named “Peak of the Week,” the Indian Valley has, Michael reports, “exploded with peak color. Peak viewing time for reflections is 2:30 to 4:30pm. Oaks, alder, grasses, Indian Rhubarb are showing off their colors.  The weather is perfect, with clear blue skies.”

Along a ridgeline above Indian Valley lies the profile of a reclining Maidu chiefton, facing the sky. At left (above) is his chin, then to the right, his nose, brow and headdress.

We wonder what he’s reflecting upon as his valley peaks.

  • Indian Valley, Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!