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Things Are Looking Up

Bigleaf maple, Plumas County Courthouse, Quincy (10/25/20) Philip Reedy

I struggled with what to headline this post. When I saw where these shots were taken, “Going to Court” came to mind. Then, Philip Reedy said he’d taken them while lying on his back at the Plumas County Courthouse and suggested the play on words, “Things are looking up.”

They certainly are in Quincy where a rolling peak surrounds the courthouse. Some trees haven’t yet turned, while others are at full peak. That’s a function of Courthouse Square being landscaped with a variety of species that peak at different times.

Editor’s note: apologies if photos are taking a while to load. We’re working on optimizing all images on the site, so that they don’t take as long to load. There’s always something (sigh).

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Look Outside

Black oak, Hideaway Motel, Greenville (10/27/20) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Sometimes all it takes to see great fall color is to look outside. Jeff Luke Titcomb found it outside the Hideaway Motel in Greenville, his home base.

He writes that along CA-89 from Greenville to Lake Almanor “the black oak are changing all along the roadways. Some are red leaves, orange and golden yellow, but all the oaks are changing quickly.”

As for yellow bigleaf maple and pink dogwood across Indian Creek, they’re done.

Black oak, Indian Valley, Plumas County (10/25/20) Vishal Mishra
  • Greenville (3,586′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Overlooked Chester

Chester (10/26/20) Vishal Mishra

Chester, at the northernmost end of the Sierra Nevada, rarely gets submitted to CaliforniaFallColor.com. Perhaps it’s overlooked because it’s seen as too utilitarian a place.

After all, Chester means business. It has long been a logging town with utilitarian markets and stores that serve loggers and their families.

Running straight as an arrow through town is State Route 36, built broad for logging trucks. Rogers Field, the local airport, has a 5,000′ runway which is why it was chosen by the USDA Forest Service as an Air Attack Base for aerial firefighting aircraft. Yet, Chester is a welcoming destination.

Each Independence Day, Chester hosts one of the best traditional Fourth of July parades in California along Hwy 36, with decorated logging trucks, fire trucks, homespun floats, custom cars, marching bands, pancake feeds, clown cars, beauty queens and lots of innocent fun.

Chester (10/26/20) Vishal Mishra

Look hungry and friendly enough as you walk past Chester’s mid-1900s loggers’ cottages, along side streets, and the locals who host front-yard, Fourth of July buffets for their neighbors will invite you beyond their picket fences to sample something they’re especially proud to have made. It’s that kind of place, genuine, down to earth and approachable.

Despite being near a national park, beautiful Plumas County and Lake Almanor – a great fishing and water sports lake – Chester has struggled to attract tourism, odd considering that it’s near Lassen Volcanic National Park, a stone’s throw from the Bizz Johnson recreation trail and surrounded by countless miles of trails for off-roading, hiking, biking and riding and streams for fly fishing.

Chester is just under four hours from San Francisco, slightly more than to Tahoe City but far less when I-80 is busy. So, why has it taken so long for Chester and Lake Almanor to be discovered?

Some years back, nearby Dyer Mountain was proposed as California’s newest ski resort. The ski runs through privately logged forest would have had the fifth-longest vertical drop in California and, at its base, a mountain community designed for remote work. But then, the dot-com boom collapsed, along with the resort’s funding and backing.

So, when Vishal Mishra’s photographs of Chester arrived, recollections of Chester and Lake Almanor flooded back. Such as: ordering pies before they’d sold out at Carol’s Cafe along the lake’s west shore, watching eagles swoop down with outstretched talons to snag fish in the lake, sipping a milkshake at an old-fashioned soda fountain in the Lassen Gift Shop, playing golf on one of three courses and hiking the Lake Almanor Recreational Trail through a forest of peaking aspen.

Perhaps it’s time utilitarian Chester stopped being overlooked.

  • Chester (4,534′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Steppin’ Out in Quincy

Keds, boots and mountain maple, Quincy (10/25/20) Vishal Mishra

This week’s Hike of the Week doesn’t involve a long walk; it’s an urban hike. Vishal Mishra did it this past weekend, when he and his lady put their Keds to the pavement in Quincy.

Plumas County Courthouse, Quincy (10/25/20) Vishal Mishra

Take CA-89 to Quincy, county seat of Plumas County. Park behind the Plumas County Courthouse on Jackson St. and begin your walk by circling the courthouse (Court St., Main St, Bradley St.), enjoying the trees as you go.

When you get back to Jackson, turn west (right). There’s an inn and homes along Jackson with great color. Turn left at Lee. At the intersection of Lee and High is Judge Theilor’s sugar maple. Continue uphill to Monte Vista, then walk east (left) to Coburn. Continue down to Jackson, then right to Fillmore.

Community United Methodist Church is at the intersection of Jackson and Filmore. From the middle of Fillmore or along the north side of Jackson, nice photographs of the church can be taken with fall color surrounding it.

Main St., Quincy (10/25/20) Vishal Mishra

Continuing north on Fillmore, you reach Main St. Quincy’s downtown has one of the prettiest Main Streets in California with charming stores, restaurants, pubs and lots of fall color.

That completes the walk, though if you’d like additional places to explore in the area, drive east on CA-89 to La Porte Rd to photograph a landmark sugar maple at a bend near the Thompson Ranch. Or, drive west from Quincy on 89, then north on CA-70 to the Old Highway Rd. which leads to a trail to lush fall color along Spanish Creek.

  • Quincy (3,342′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Sweet Sugar Along La Porte Rd

Thompson Ranch, La Porte Rd, Plumas County (10/19/20) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Among California’s photo locations, Thompson Ranch along the La Porte Rd. in Plumas County is a recipe for perfection.

An orangey-golden sugar maple provides sweet color, while the ranch’s barn and split rail fence provides savory character.

Color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb visited this week to capture its sugar maple at peak on his Samsung N920A.

  • Sugar maple, Thompson Ranch, La Porte Rd, Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Bigleaf Maple Country

Bigleaf maple (10/23/20) Philip Reedy

Fall color is peaking a week later than usual in bigleaf maple country.

That’s north of Lake Tahoe in the Northern Sierra, Southern Cascades, Marble Mountains and Trinity Alps.

Scott Embrey, Fishing the Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (10/23/20) Philip Reedy

Color spotter Philip Reedy met up with Scott Embrey in Mt. Shasta yesterday to dip their lines and check out the fall color of a small area of bigleaf maple country along the Upper Sacramento River, south of the town of Mount Shasta.

Phil reported these areas of the Upper Sac “that would normally be peaking, still have a way to go.” He estimates the color to be between 25 and 50% of peak, “especially at lower elevations near Castle Crags.”

Phil prefers long exposures, ones that turn the movement of water on streams to lacy whiteness, but he said the wind from an oncoming front was disturbing the leaves, blurring them in his shots.

He made me smile when he wrote, “That required me to me to go against every fiber of my being and actually raise my ISO above 64.” then added a disheartened emoji.

Reedy is suggesting peak color among the Indian rhubarb (Darmera) on the Upper Sac is still about a week away. “Last year, at this time, the Indian rhubarb were in full glory.”

One of his favorite hikes to Mossbrae Falls had a lot of bright, Near Peak yellow bigleaf maple.  Up by the falls he also found maples cheerily dressed in yellow. He suggests it’ll stay good for at least one more week.

Bigleaf maple along the tracks, Mossbrae Falls (10/23/20) Philip Reedy

A word of caution, however, the hike to Mossbrae Falls involves walking along active railroad tracks. The trains arrive pretty suddenly and don’t make much noise, so remain watchful when on or near the tracks and always have a place in mind to go to get out of the way of an approaching engine. They will not stop.

Indian Rhubarb, Upper Sacramento River (10/23/20) Philip Reedy

A week ago, Reedy sent an absolutely beautiful photograph of Indian rhubarb within the dark recesses of a box canyon between Cantara and Ney Springs.  The magenta Indian rhubarb from last week has faded, but plenty of green ones have yet to turn.

Upper Sacramento River (10/23/20) Philip Reedy

And, lurid bigleafs are reflecting their electric yellow leaves upon the river. Go quickly, as they’re at peak.

Upstream at Ney Springs many spots of nice color can be found, but nothing yet exceptional. Give it a week.

Box Canyon, Upper Sacramento River (10/23/20) Philip Reedy
  • Castle Crags State Park (6,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Upper Sacramento River at Castle Crags (2,500′) Patchy (10-50%)
  • Bigleaf Maple, Upper Sacramento River – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Indian Rhubarb, Upper Sacramento River – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Mossbrae Falls (2,529′) – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Ney Springs Creek Trail (1,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Siskiyou Splash

Indian rhubarb, Darmera, Cantera Loop, Upper Sacramento River, Dunsmuir (10/16/20) Philip Reedy

Indian Rhubarb (Darmera) have begun splashing the edges of the Upper Sacramento River by the Cantera Loop in Dunsmuir with flame red/orange and magenta, color spotter Philip Reedy reports.

Indian rhubarb, Darmera, Cantera Loop, Upper Sacramento River, Dunsmuir (10/16/20) Philip Reedy

Autumn’s show is just beginning between Dunsmuir and Mt Shasta, where bigleaf maple are speckling the forest with bright spots of yellow.

Downstream from McCloud Falls, on the McCloud River, the Darmera are dripping with orange and hot yellow. Just upstream at the middle falls, there is just a hint of color below the falls. However, most of the Indian Rhubarb along the river above middle falls remains green. Give it a week or two for peak.

Over the next two weeks the colors will develop steadily moving downstream toward Castle Crags.  Based on historic pattern, Reedy forecasts “it should be very nice in a week.”

  • Cantera Loop, Upper Sacramento River (2,290′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) Go Now.
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Antelope Lake Recreation Area

Åt 5,000′ in elevation, Antelope Lake is high enough to be populated with Aspen and to receive one of Plumas County’s first peaks.

Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb was there a week ago to find aspen flourishing following a fire that ravaged the forest some time ago.

Pine and fir are reforesting the area slowly, leaving the aspen to dominate the landscape, which they will do for years to come.

  • Antelope Lake Recreation Area (5,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Good Morning, Quincy

Courthouse square, Quincy (10/13/20) Michael Beatley

Sunlight had just peeked over the northern Sierra and was brushing downtown Quincy with a glow when Michael Beatley set out from Meadow Valley to photograph fall color.

Beatley had Quincy to himself. You usually do at dawn on an October morn. Appropriately, fall color has awakened across Plumas County.

Plumas County courthouse (10/13/20) Michael beatley

The bigleaf maple and sycamore that stand around courthouse square were airbrushed yellow and chestnut by the morning light. Peak has arrived in one of America’s loveliest hometowns, and it’s a welcomed guest that will stay for at least a week, perhaps two.

The northern Sierra’s azure skies reassure that no wildfires burn nearby, none to spoil picturesque orange-red Indian rhubarb being reflected in the black waters of Spanish Creek. The days are autumn-perfect again with crisply cold nights that have the friendly people of Quincy stacking wood for winter and pressing cider.

Michael left this placid scene to drive three miles north to the edge of American Valley to Spanish Creek at Oakland Camp.  Oakland Camp is owned by the city of Oakland as a summer camp for children.

The pool it contains is edged with Indian Rhubarb (Darmera), now approaching Near Peak. Black oak, California buckeye, bigleaf maple and riparian grasses give it a parklike appearance with trails to hills overlooking Quincy.

From Main street Quincy, take Quincy Jct Road past the high school ’til it ends then turn left onto Chandler road. Cross the single-lane bridge  over Spanish Creek, turn right and drive to the camp.  Then, bear right thru the camp onto the USDA Forest Service road that runs alongside the creek.  

Jeff Luke Titcomb traveled from Greenville to the Genesee Valley, part way to Antelope Lake.

His route began by stocking a picnic lunch at the Genesee Store, which offers food on weekends; all other days, Young’s Market in Taylorsville.

Jeff said the drive has lots of golden aspen, yellow bigleaf maple and rosy dogwood, which are nearing peak. Scattered black oak are dressing early for Halloween in their orange and black.

A little rain cleared the air, but also discouraged fall color outings. Now cold nights are intensifying the color and attracting color spotters.

  • Quincy (3,342′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) Go Now!
  • Oakland Camp, Spanish Creek (4,300′) – Near Peak (50-75%) Go Now!
  • Genesee Valley (3,701′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) Go Now!
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Circling Manzanita

Chaos Crags (left) and Lassen Peak at Manzanita Lake (10/12/20) Shanda Ochs

Lassen Volcanic NP color spotter and park guide, Shanda Ochs took a moment to circle back to Manzanita Lake.

Shanda didn’t use “circle back,” though it’s apropo, since the two-mile Manazanita Lake trail circles the lake. Still, the term has become such a 2020 cliche. It embodies both the suggestion that you don’t have time right now, but that whatever you’re circling back to do is somewhat important.

Circling Manzanita Lake is important. If you’ve never done it, put it on your bucket list.

Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/12/20) Shanda Ochs

The lake, at 5,900′, is picture-perfect. Lassen Peak – southernmost peak in the Cascade range – and the Chaos Crags – youngest group of lava domes in Lassen Volcanic NP – reflect their barren volcanic slopes upon still water. Reaching out to touch the reflection are lurid cottonwood, mountain alder and varieties of willow that ring the lake.

Honey bee, rabbitbrush, Lassen Volcanic NP (10/12/20) Shanda Ochs

Bees visit the last blooming rabbitbrush, oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings, as they collect autumn’s last nectar.

  • Manzanita Lake, Lassen Volcanic National Park (5,900′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) Go Now!