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Classic Camping

Classic Shasta Trailer, Lake Hemet, (11/8/19) Chance Gordon

An Indian Summer is extending the camping and fall color seasons in the San Jacinto Mountains where, at Lake Hemet, the days have been warm, the nights cool, and classic trailers even cooler.

Jeff Brown reports from Lake Hemet Campgrounds that wildlife viewing (bald eagles), fishing (rainbow trout) and fall color spotting (cottonwood, black oak) are at their peak in mid November.

  • Lake Hemet – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Goin’ to Jackson

Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest (11/5/19) Lance Pifer

Johnny Cash and June Carter would surely be “talkin’ ’bout Jackson,” ’cause the fire there’s not gone out. Black oak at Jackson Lake in the Angeles National Forest are aflame with color.

Lance Pifer visited Jackson Lake this past weekend, to find the Wrightwood/Valyermo areas displaying bright yellow and deep orange leaves.

Lance went for a run through the color along a Jackson Lake trail and enjoyed the color near Mountain High ski area near Wrightwood along CA-2. 

Indian summer weather is providing a short-sleeved extension to warm days and late autumn color in and around the lake, Wrightwood and Valyermo. And, it’s not just the weather that’s hotter’n a pepper sprout. So is the fall color. Lance figures it varies from 50 to 80% turned. Considering the late date, we’re classifying it as Peak and recommend to GO NOW!

As, snow will soon blanket the San Gabriel Mountains, and then, big-talkin’ man, you’re gonna snowball Jackson, kinda like the song says.

  • Jackson Lake, Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel Mountains (6,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Going PP in the San Bernardinos

No, “Going PP” is s not what you’re thinking. Shame on you. “Going PP” means, going Past Peak, and this is one of those hurry up and GO NOW alerts, and that’s not potty mouth advice.

As, Peak color is currently limited to Lake Arrowhead, Lake Gregory and a few other locations in the San Bernardino Mountains, and these areas are quickly going PP.

Now Past Peak is Big Bear Lake, though some bright color can still be found here and there.

You’ll find Southern California’s best fall color at Wrightwood (San Gabriel Mountains), Idyllwild and Lake Hemet (San Jacinto Mountains) and the Sespe Wilderness and Piedra Blanca Trail (Sierra Pelona Mountains).

Mt. Palomar and Mt. Laguna are Past Peak. Julian is peaking, though threatened by power outages (check before going – worth visiting!).

  • San Bernardino Mountains – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
  • San Gabriel Mountains – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sierra Pelona Mountains – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Mt. Laguna, Laguna Mountains – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Mt. Palomar, Peninsular Range – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Julian – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Check for power updates.
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Right Time For Wrightwood

Rabbitbrush, Wrightwood (10/17/19) Lance Pifer

It’s a good time, you might say the right time to head to Wrightwood.

First developed as a cattle ranching area, Wrightwood became a San Gabriel Mountain winter destination in the late ’40s when a ski area was opened there within an easy drive of Los Angeles. It’s called Mountain High, today.

That seems appropriate, as you get a mountain high from the beauty of autumn in Wrightwood.

Rabbitbrush, black and Fremont oak, bigleaf maple, white alder, creek dogwood, bitter cherry, blue and black elderberry, velvet ash and choke cherry provide a beautiful mix of deciduous color and berries.

Lance Pifer visited and sent back just the right mix for Wrightwood.

  • Wrightwood (5,935′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Remember Wendy

Newbury Park Section, Santa Monica NRA (10/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

On Oct. 7, fire spread across the Newbury Park section of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in Southern California.

Fortunately, the Wendy Fire was limited to 91 acres with no structures lost or human injuries. Its quick containment is credited to the National Park Service which, anticipating Santa Ana Winds, had pre-staged fire crews and equipment from Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks to help the Santa Monica Mountains team.

Previously, the Newbury Park section of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA been singed by the 2013 Springs Fire and the 1993 Green Meadow Fire. Then, in November last year, the Woolsey Fire devastated 89% of the Santa Monica Mountains NRA, including areas that containing Western sycamore like these:

At the time, we expressed concern over the future of the sycamore which are native to the Santa Monica mountains.

Fortunately, fire is a natural thing and nature recovers. SoCal color spotter and birder Kathy Jonokuchi reported that wildflowers were spectacular and lasted well into August with Large-flowered Phacelia covering the canyon and Humboldt lilies showing beautifully.

Then today, she sent these images from the recent Wendy Fire, showing Western sycamore pushing out fall color and wild rose that are abundantly covered with bright rosehips. 

Western Meadowlark can sing about it now, though the Wendy Fire did not leave behind much meadow to land in. What is there remains blackened. So, they spent their time in the trees.

Western meadowlark, Santa Monica NRA (10/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Happier days are ahead and we will keep watch over this great urban national park, as it continues its recovery.

  • Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (3,110′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Sespe Wilderness Reports

Southern California’s Sespe Wilderness peaks later in October, though these images from color spotter Lance Pifer show that fall color is developing there and should be on schedule for peak in 8 to 10 days.

Lance was fly fishing and though the fish weren’t biting, the weather was near perfect.

  • Piedra Blanca Trail, Sespe Wilderness (6,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Big Tujunga is the Big Kahuna

Cottonwood, Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga (12/15/18) Ken Lock

The Big Kahuna for fall color in Southern California’s mountains this past weekend was Big Tujunga Creek near Sunland-Tujunga where Ken Lock captured cottonwood still carrying gold.

Yes Gidget, it’s past peak. Though, spots of peak color can still be found here and there in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Mountains. 

Cottonwood, Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga (12/15/18) Ken Lock
  • Big Tujunga Creek, Sunland-Tujunga, Los Angeles – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Spoiler Alert

A colorful ending, LA County Arboretum (12/18/18) Frank McDonough

LA is the last place to give away an ending. As residents of the world capital of movie making, Angelenos will tell you to go see it, but will never say how it turns out.

That’s why we were a little surprised when Frank McDonough of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia sent these scenes from the closing moments of autumn at The Arboretum.

As colorful endings go, the finale at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is as memorable as any we’ve seen, but please don’t say we gave away the ending. 

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed It.
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Four Shopping Days Left

California Wild Grape, Vitis californica, LA County Arboretum (12/14/18) Frank McDonough

If you plan to shop for fall color, there are just four shopping days left, until the winter solstice.

One of the few places to find that last-minute gift of fall color is Los Angeles County, where a few trees are still carrying autumn leaves.

LA County Arboretum color spotter Frank McDonough sends these gifts of the season, complete with a bad pun. 

In fairness, Frank asked the question and we put a bow onto it by providing an answer. Happy holidays. 

Gingko biloba and bamboo, LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (12/14/18) Frank McDonough
  •   LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed it.
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SoCal’s Awesome Autumn

Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (12/11/18) Frank McDonough

Southern California color spotter Alysia Gray Painter of NBC knows her fall color.

Each year, she’s been one of the first color spotters in Southern California to alert us to color appearing in her region, and today headlined a post on NBCLosAngeles.com about SoCal’s late-peaking fall color, “Wow, Now.” 

To read it, CLICK HERE.

She wrote, “How cool, and SoCal is it, that fall lingers a little at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, even as its famous roses pop in time for the Tournament of Roses?”

Hella cool, we reply from NorCal. There’s nothing more SoCal than that, dudes. So, Go Now! 

LA County Arboretum, Arcadia (12/11/18) Frank McDonough
  • Los Angeles – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Burbank – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Arcadia – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Woodland Hills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Long Beach (Atlantic Blvd, Bixby Knolls) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!