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Night and Day

Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough

During this festive season, the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens is beautiful both night and day.

Nightly until Jan. 12, during its Moonlight Forest event, the LA County Arboretum is illuminated with colorful lanterns while sunlit days still hang heavy with the last of LA County’s autumn color.

Here’s some of the beauty to be enjoyed. Click to enlarge images.

LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Moonlight Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
Sunlit Forest, LA County Arboretum (12/12/19) Frank McDonough
  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, Arcadia – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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Leafless Tree Identification

Gingko biloba, San Francisco (12/6/19) Friends of the Urban Forest

San Francisco’s Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) are “hedging bets,” this Sunday (love the pun), by leading a free walking tour of fall color remaining in San Francisco’s Mission District, regardless of predicted stormy weather.

Ben Carlson of FUF says the walk hopes to “catch the tail end of our fall colors, but on the other hand we’ll be talking about how to identify many of San Francisco’s most common deciduous species once they’ve lost their leaves altogether (looking for clues in twigs, bark, overall shape etc.).”

That’s a fascinating idea … a Leafless Tree Identification Tour. For me, it’s hard enough discerning one tree from another using their photographs, but take away the leaves? These FUF guys are good.

To participate, meet on Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. at 735 Dolores St. for the walk or CLICK HERE for more information.

Now, should you miss the walk, consider picking up a Green Christmas Tree from FUF. A $95 donation gets you a recyclable live tree to decorate. After the holidays, return the tree and it will be planted somewhere in San Francisco.

Ester goes home for the holidays, San Francisco (12/3/19) Friends of the Urban Forest

What’s pure fun about this program is that each tree has been given a name, not a number. In the above example, “Ester” (a fern pine, Afrocarpus gracilior) will be spending the holidays with her benefactor, then return to FUF to grace The City’s streets, thereafter.

For more about how to participate in this program and help green-up San Francisco’s urban forest, CLICK HERE.

  • Presidio, San Francisco – Peak to Past Peak, GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT. And while you’re there, donate and borrow a living Christmas Tree to improve San Francisco’s urban forest.

Nights of the Jack

Nights of the Jack, Calabasas (10/19/19) Kathy Jonokuchi

California holds the world’s most amazing artistic events.

A sampling of the state’s best, include: the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, Ferndale Kinetic Sculpture Race, Comic-Con San Diego, Laguna Beach Pageant of the Masters, Ramona Pageant, Monterey Jazz Festival, Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade, South Lake Tahoe Snowglobe, Palm Springs Film Festival, Coachella Music Festival, Yosemite Bracebridge Dinner, and – in Autumn – Calabasas’ Nights of the Jack.

Nights of the Jack is an artistic display of jack o’ lanterns, all carved from real pumpkins, then lit on nights leading up to Halloween at King Gillette Ranch in Calabasas.

Kathy Jonokuchi sent these images of this year’s displays, though this is one event you have to go see to believe.

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Nevada City Peaks In Time For Victorian Fall Colors Tour

On Saturday (Oct. 26), Nevada City will host its annual Victorian Fall Colors Tour. The tour includes stops at 15 locations where peak fall color promises to be seen.

Robert Kemen and Ravi Ranganathan visited Nevada City this past week and captured some of what’s in store.

  • Nevada City (2,477′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Fall Events: Inyo County

Hot rod, hot color, hot photo at Bishop Creek (10/2/16) Daniel Stas

In our series of reports on great fall events, we end where autumn begins … in the Eastern Sierra.

Inyo County is California’s dramatic backbone. It rises from the lowest point in North America (Death Valley, -282.2’) to the highest in the contiguous 48 states (Mt Whitney, +14,505’).

Because of that extreme elevation difference, fall color has been seen peaking in Inyo County from mid September to January. Prime peak, however, occurs up Eastern Sierra creek drainages from mid September through mid October.

U.S. 395 travels between Death Valley and Mt. Whitney through the Owens Valley. Along the route, the towns of Lone Pine, Independence, Big Pine and Bishop and their locales hold one-of-a-kind events that celebrate the region’s cultural and natural history.

Inyo County is a place made famous for its western films, towering mountains, high plains, cattle and sheep ranchers, mountaineers, anglers, wranglers, native people, scenic touring routes, food and zest for fun.

Follow US 395 and this list to combine fall color viewing, festivals and events, this autumn:

  • Sept. 6 and Oct. 4 – First Friday Markets.  Downtown Bishop on Academy Street, between Main Street and Warren Street.  Handcrafted items, crafters and artisans, local produce, kid crafts, wine tasting, food booths, local beer and distillery and local bands.
  • Oct. 19 – Downtown Bishop Chocolate Art Walk, delicious to the tongue and the eye.

Fall Events: Shasta Cascade

Manton Apple Festival (File Photo) Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association

UpStateCA (the vast northeast corner of California, also known as the Shasta Cascade region) is California’s hidden gem.

In autumn, vibrant pockets of fall color brighten lakes, rivers and forests, which attract every type of outdoor recreation one can imagine. This is an outdoor paradise for anglers, hikers, boaters, photographers, RVers, backpackers, off-roaders, mountaineers, sightseers, hunters, wildlife viewers and anyone out for an adventure.

Twenty percent of California’s landmass is contained within the Shasta Cascade – an area the size of Connecticut – yet UpStateCA comprises less than a percent of the state’s population.

Sundial Bridge, Redding (File Photo) Shasta Cascade Wonderland Assn.

It’s an area the size of Connecticut with, Mt. Shasta, Lassen Peak, Shasta Lake, six national forests, 11 state and national parks and California’s most spectacular footbridge (Sundial Bridge), but with fewer people than live in Bakersfield.

Given all those outdoor wonders, the lucky few who reside in UpStateCA know how to celebrate, and they do so throughout Autumn at these events:

Direct flights to the Shasta Cascade Visitors land daily in Redding, from San Francisco and LAX on United Airlines. By land, drive north on Interstate 5, east on CA-44 or west on CA-299 or ride Amtrak to Redding.

For an off-the-beaten-path experience where people celebrate nature in one of California’s most beautiful places, visit Redding and the Shasta Cascade.


Fall events: Mono County

June Lake Autumn Beer Festival (file photo) Mono County Tourism

Each autumn, events bring together opportunities to see fall color and have fun at inexpensive gatherings. They vary from car shows, to brewfests, to nature walks, to history talks, to photo and art classes, to runs, rides and banquets with local legends.

To help add some of this fun to your fall color wanderings, CaliforniaFallColor.com will be publishing lists of California’s best autumn events. We begin in the Eastern Sierra.

For those unfamiliar with Mono County, it’s from where the sun rises over Yosemite National Park.

Mono County is best known as home of Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain, June Lake and its famous loop, Tioga Pass, Mono Lake, Bodie Ghost Town State Historic Park, cattle rangeland that spreads across the Bridgeport Valley, the Owens River, Walker River and Antelope Valley, but it also has many precious surprises.

Mono County is reached by US 395, Monitor Pass (CA-89), Sonora Pass (CA-108) and Tioga Pass (CA-120E).

Fall color can be seen first near tree line (10,000′) at Rock Creek Lake by mid-Sept. Then, it descends at a rate of about 500′ a week, before it’s gone. During the show, these events add flavor and fun to a Mono County fall (Click bold titles for links):

  • Sept/Oct. – Field Seminars by the Mono Lake Committee, including such topics as: fire ecology, geology, fall color, arborglyphs, watercolor painting and photography.
  • Sept. 3 – Nov. 15 – Ambush at the Lake, a renowned fishing derby at Convict Lake, with Morrison’s Bonus Derby occurring Oct. 26 – 28.
  • Sept. 6 – 8 – Graniteman Challenge, combine three athletic feats into what is considered to be one of the most challenging triathlons on Earth.
    • Sept. 6 – Granite to Granite Swim, 2.4-mi on June Lake.
    • Sept. 7 – Mammoth Gran Fondo, 102-mi bike ride.
    • Sept. 8 – Tioga Pass Run, a 12.4-mi run up Tioga Pass.
  • Sept. 6 – 8 – June Lake Jam Fest at Gull Lake, a jammin’ concert benefitting the Mono Arts Council.
  • Sept. 20 – 21 – Mammoth Oktoberfest, beer, wine, family-friendly games and mouth-watering food.
  • Sept. 21 – Bodie Hills Stewardship Day, by Friends of the Inyo. Give back with other outdoor enthusiasts at a volunteer project then celebrate your good work with new-found friends.
  • Sept. 24 – 28 – Eastern Sierra ATV & UTV Jamboree in Coleville and Walker, ride your OHV on guided trail rides through gorgeous backcountry.
  • Sept. 28 – Ridge Rambler Half Marathon in Twin Lakes. Run downhill from Twin Lakes (7,100′) to Bridgeport (6,600′), past alpine lakes and over rolling hills. End up at the Bridgeport Autumn Festival & Wrecks and Rods Car Show.
  • Sept. 28 – 7th June Lake Autumn Beer Festival at Gull Lake. Brewers will present their craft brews in a music and fun-filled family-friendly beer garden.
  • Sept. 28 – National Public Lands Day – Free admission to Yosemite National Park. Voluntourism projects.
  • Sept. 28, Oct. 12 and Oct. 26 – Historic Benton Hot Springs Fundraising Dinners. History-focused dinner talks provide fascinating insights to: Scandalous Women of Benton, Restless Spirits of the Old Stone Store, and Warren Davis, Gentleman Horse Thief.
  • Oct. 5 – 55th Deer Hunter BBQ. Dine with local legends on a legendary secret BBQ recipe with all the fixin’s and dessert at the Walker Community Center.
  • Oct. 6 – Crowley Lake Trail Run. 5k, 10k and kids 1k trail runs along scenic Crowley Lake and past Beaver Cove and Crooked Creek with views of the Sierra Nevada and Glass Mountains.
  • Oct. 10 – 13 – Mammoth Photo Festival. Learn from professional landscape photographers in panel sessions, keynote addresses and photo walks.
  • Oct 12 – Bodie Fall Photo Day, apply for access to photograph Bodie Ghost Town at this special photographer’s event.
  • Oct. 10 – 15 – Annett’s Mono Village Fall Fishing Derby. This is an ideal fishing event for kids and kids at heart.
  • Oct. 12 – Ducks Unlimited Dinner in Bridgeport. Support waterfowl protection at an evening of camaraderie and good food.
  • Oct. 18 – 20 – Leaves in the Loop at June Lake. A fall color focused festival that features photography and painting classes, contests, a history tour and “Taste of the Town,” restaurant sampling.
  • Oct. 25 – 27 – Eastern Sierra History Conference at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory Page Center (10 mi south of Mammoth Lakes). Historian-led discussions on the people, cultures and traditions of the Eastern Sierra.

Recycled Christmas Trees

Green Christmas Tree, San Francisco (2018) Friends of the Urban Forest

Friends of the Urban Forest (FUF) is providing San Franciscans with a way to bring seasonal cheer into their homes, while supporting the planting of trees throughout The City.

In partnership with the San Francisco Department of the Environment and Hayes Valley Art Works, Friends of the Urban Forest offers living, potted Christmas trees in November and December, each year.

A tax-deductible donation ($75 early bird and $95 after December 1), provides rental of a three-to-six-foot-tall, non-traditional living tree to bring home for decoration and enjoyment. 

After the holidays, trees returned to FUF are planted in San Francisco as part of the organization’s Neighborhood Tree Planting program.

Popular choices include PrimroseFruitless Olive, and Fern Pine. Unfortunately, deciduous trees aren’t used in the program, as they’ve dropped their leaves, though anything that gets more trees planted in our cities is good for the air and the spirit … including the Christmas spirit. 

To learn more about FUF’s Green Christmas Tree program, CLICK HERE

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LAte Start

Moonlight Forest Display, LA County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens, Arcadia (11/27/18) Frank McDonough

The LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden seems to be having a LAte start this autumn, though December is always when LA shows its best.

A colorful addition this autumn/winter season is Moonlight Forest, a display of magical lanterns that will glow at The Arboretum, Wed. – Sun. nights until Jan. 6.

Most of the color to be seen at The Arboretum is happening at night, right now. Though color spotter Frank McDonough sends this portfolio of what fall color is now appearing in the garden. 

  • LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!
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Forest Bathing at Berkeley

Beautyberries, Callicarpa americana, UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/24/18) Sandy Steinman

On Wednesday (Nov. 28), Hana Lee Goldin, a certified forest bathing guide, will offer a series of “guided invitations to assist you in finding your own authentic way of interacting with the land at UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley.” For more info or to register, CLICK HERE.

That’s a very Berkeley way of saying that she’ll be introducing visitors to forest bathing.

Called “shinrin yoku” in Japan where it was defined, forest bathing helps reduce stress and improve cognition and emotional well being. It involves slowing down and opening up one’s senses to the beauty around us. 

East bay naturalist Sandy Steinman did a bit of forest bathing of his own, Saturday, as a light rain wet the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley. Here are his images.