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Late Color

Bigleaf maple, Angeles NF (11/2/20) Ken Lock

The Angeles National Forest has often shown Peak fall color by mid October. Considering that the forest was closed (due to wildfire smoke) for such an extended time this autumn, perhaps it’s best for color spotters that the color is now appearing late.

Ken Lock found this bigleaf maple peaking in the forest on Monday, one of a few with fall color, he writes.

  • Angeles National Forest (4,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Serviceberries at Big Bear

Surrounding the town of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, the national forest is officially closed, but a forest closure does not mean the trees stop what they do naturally.

Fall color is Patchy (10-50%) at Big Bear Lake, though serviceberry bushes, as local color spotter Trent Vierra found, are Near Peak.

Trent took these from the forest hillside behind his cabin in the Moonridge area. He admits that his “little hillside seems to be much farther along than other areas, probably due to it being north-facing. The serviceberry bushes on the hillside, which are pictured, are very golden, while the one by our deck is more green. Black oak, also pictured, on the hillside are about 40% changed into their beautiful autumn russet color.

“Elsewhere around town, the bigleaf maple and some cottonwood are starting to turn, about 40% or less as well. On the drive up the 330, some willows and ferns are beginning to change and there are cool, shaded pockets, especially after the dam on the way into town, where there is some really great golden color in the deciduous ground cover,” Trent posted in a very thorough and appreciated report.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier), deciduous shrubs within the rose family, have beautifully delicate blossoms in springtime and the Autumn Brilliance variety is rich with deep orange and red in fall. The shrub needs little care or attention, though occasional pruning will accentuate its form and remove dead, crossing or dry stems.

  • Big Bear Lake (6,752′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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LA County Arboretum Near Peak

Gingko biloba, Herb Garden, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Native and exotic trees are near peak at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, dressing its grounds with red, orange, yellow and chartreuse.

Red oak, Quercus rubra, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Los Angeles County has a long peak, from mid November to mid December, though it is specific to a few national forest drainages and to urban forests with concentrated areas of deciduous non-native foliage.

American elm, Historic Section, LA County Arboretum (12/4/19) Frank McDonough

Arboretums and gardens are the best locations in LA County to see peak fall color right now, including the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge, the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the South Coast Botanic Gardens in Palos Verdos Peninsula.

Two of these gardens add illuminated displays during the holidays. The LA County Arboretum in Arcadia hosts Moonlight Forest, a nighttime display of colorful lanterns (seen in some of these images). And, Descanso Gardens in La Canada-Flintridge hosts the Enchanted Forest of Lights in which trees are flooded with dramatic, colorful lighting.

Click to enlarge photos.

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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SoCal: As The Crow Flies

Nanday conures, Peter Strauss Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/25/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

“As the crow flies,” Kathy Jonokuchi reports, “Peter Strauss Ranch is a few miles west … from Paramount Ranch” in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Peter Strauss Ranch was another of the areas burned during last year’s Woolsey Fire and is still closed to the public. 

Named after actor Peter Strauss who lived on the ranch, then sold it to the National Park Service. The property been a site for relaxation and recreation for nearly a century.

Triunfo Creek, a seasonal stream on the ranch is home to Western sycamore and coastal live oak, both of which have recovered from the fire, Kathy reports.

Fall color there is now past peak, though Nanday conures were feeding on sycamore seed pods and a large flock of California Quail foraged the ground for scattered seeds, beneath the black-hooded parakeets.

Fremont cottonwood, Big Tujunga River, Angeles National Forest (11/30/19) Ken Lock

Elsewhere in Los Angeles County, Ken Lock found Fremont cottonwood to be peaking along the Big Tujunga River. He noted that while autumn has ended elsewhere in California, several locales in Southern California are still prime.

  • Angeles National Forest – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Cottonwood.
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You Gotta Love It.

Spectrum News 1 joined up with color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart to report about fall color in the Oak Glen area of Southern California.

Nick’s comment? “Fall color in California? You gotta like it.”

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Paramount Ranch, Not “The End”

Valley oak, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Last year, the Woolsey Fire roared through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, incinerating the historic Paramount Ranch film location. At the time, many thought the park’s closing credits would declare “The End” for Paramount Ranch.

However, on a visit this week, Kathy Jonokuchi found that the National Park Service, with help from motion picture studios and the public, plans to rebuilt its Western Town, to be used again in television, commercial and feature films.

Paramount Ranch had served as a film location, since 1927. All that remains of Paramount’s sets are the Western Town’s train station and church (seen in the HBO series, Westworld). Click to enlarge photos.

Gone are sets once used to film the TV series Cisco Kid (1950s), Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman (1990s) and countless feature films, TV commercials, videos and photo shoots.

Valley oak, Western Town, Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

The magnificent Valley oak that grew in the middle of the set had been rumored to have budded this past spring, though it is a charcoal remnant of the great tree it once was (seen above).

Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA (11/18/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Kathy found that many of the trees had succumbed to the combination of drought and the fire. Though there’s still life in the now stark landscape surrounding Paramount Ranch.

The park still had “plenty of songbirds and raptors … Nanday conures and an acorn woodpecker” seen storing acorns for his winter cache.

Paramount Ranch can’t claim a happy ending, though it’s not entirely a downer, either. Nature is recovering, and with a helping hand, the national recreation area’s legacy as a film location will recover, as well.

  • Paramount Ranch, Santa Monica Mountains NRA – Patchy (10-50%) – there is not a lot of fall color. Though, what’s there inspires hope.
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A Cornucopia of Color

Liquidambar, Oak Glen (11/18/19) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen is displaying a cornucopia of color.

Though the San Bernardino Mountains apple-growing area is at an elevation of 4,734′, fall color still looks good and should stay at peak until Thanksgiving Day, SoCal color spotter Alena Nicholas estimates.

She was there on Monday taking pictures and being interviewed by Spectrum News for Californiafallcolor.com.

Oak Glen (11/18/19) Alena Nicholas

Alena reports that Oak Glen’s ponds, woods and orchards are still full of bright color. Deer have settled into the orchards as they wait for the inevitable apple to fall from an upper branch.

Oak Glen was California’s first apple harvest destination. Its farms and shops are famous for their homebaked apple pastries, nature trails, handmade gifts, harvest atmosphere, honest family fun and fresh-pressed cider.

And yes, there’s still time to order a ready-to-bake apple pie before Thanksgiving Day.

  • Oak Glen (4,734′) – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
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Angelic San Gabriel

Bigleaf maple, San Gabriel River Trail (11/17/19) Steve Shinn

Liturgy describes St. Gabriel (San Gabriel in Spanish) as the archangel of judgment. If so, then color spotter Steve Shinn judges the West Fork of the San Gabriel River as absolutely angelic.

Steve volunteers for the U.S. Forest Service, capturing the beauty of San Gabriel National Forest and people enjoying it. As such, he visits the area regularly and writes he would vote the West Fork of the San Gabriel River, which connects CA-39 above Azusa, as one of the most beautiful spots in the San Gabriel Mountains.

  • W. Fork San Gabriel River – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW or YOU MISSED IT.

Sherwood Forest Peaks

Lake Sherwood, Ventura County (11/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

Peak color is being seen at Sherwood Forest, surrounding Lake Sherwood near Westlake Village, not Nottingham, England.

Nonetheless, this is truly where Robin Hood and his merry men once lived. Wayne Gretzky also lived there. Lake Sherwood was so named because two films starring Errol Flynn were partly filmed there in 1922 and 1938. A community eventually formed around the lake.

Southern California color spotter Kathy Jonokuchi was among Audubon Society birders who were invited to visit the exclusive neighborhood to observe over 60 species of wintering birds there. Click to enlarge.

Ringing Lake Sherwood, she found Western sycamore, cottonwood and valley oak, not the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men.

Western sycamore, Lake Sherwood (11/17/19) Kathy Jonokuchi
  • Lake Sherwood, Westlake Village (879′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Because this is a private community, you can’t actually go now. The closest similar fall color would likely be seen surrounding Malibu Lake.
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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!