Scouting Report: Siskiyou

Mt. Shasta, Autumn (File Photo)

Whenever I visit Siskiyou County, I question why it took so long to return. The county is so beautiful and loaded with tantalizing outdoor things to do that it’s a wonder it’s so lightly populated and traveled.

Siskiyou is the frosting atop California’s layer cake of spectacular places, and Mount Shasta is its grandest decoration.

What’s kept me from visiting more often has been my perception that it’s too far away. However, on a recent scouting trip up north, time melted away and anticipation built as I drove north on I-5.

Near Red Bluff, big, beautiful, frosted Mt. Shasta rose above the horizon, beckoning and reminding me why Siskiyou is so irresistible.

CaliforniaFallColor.com posts far too few reports from locations north of Shasta Lake, but when we do, they glitter with gold.

Among my favorites for fall color are the Klamath River, McCloud River, Hedge Creek, Mossbrae Falls, Faery Falls and any spot that contrasts fall color with Mt. Shasta.

Greenhorn Rd., Etna, Autumn (File Photo)

I asked Siskiyou County’s Megan Peterson where locals go when the color begins sparkling. She likes the Scott Valley where bigleaf maple populate the twisting edges of the Scott River. Good one.

Megan also likes the Gateway Trail system near Yreka. Dogwood and Bigleaf Maple are the dominant deciduous trees and part of the Foundation Trail (part of the Gateway) has tightly bunched dogwood that “put on a great show” in autumn.

Hiker Jane Cohn of Mt. Shasta City lists the Castle Lake Shore Trail, Lake Siskiyou Trail, Box Canyon Trail, Ney Springs Canyon Trail, McCloud River Fall Trail, Sisson Meadow Trail, Dunsmuir Trail, Sacramento River Trail, Pine Tree Hollow Loop, Kelsey Creek Trail and Cabin Creek as all being flanked with pockets of bold color in autumn.

Hikemtshasta.com recommends the Cliff Lake Trail and Spring Hill Trail. 

Mt Shasta Resort, Autumn (File Photo)

Then, of course, the Mt. Shasta Resort’s golf links are lined with trees that shine bright orange in autumn.

In late May, driving along the McCloud Road, dogwood were abloom with their floral white bracts, hinting at the display of yellow sure to appear once autumn arrives.

Autumn is, however, still a season away, but then don’t put off visiting, as I had. There’s just too much to see, enjoy and explore atop the state in Siskiyou County that is downright irresistible.

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Special Report: New England

Cambridge (11/8/18) Crys Black

While California and the west have experienced exceptional color this autumn, it was disappointing in the northeast.

One of the warmest summers on record, one that extended into October and that kept nights warm, was credited for delaying color development across New England. Trees remained green into October. 

Then, it rained as temperatures cooled, ruining the leaves.

California color spotter Crys Black enjoyed a trip to beantown this week and sent back these snaps of New England’s trees carrying Peak to Past Peak color.

Though the show was not New England’s typical brilliant scarlet, gold, gamboge and orange, its somber tones of marroon, burnt umber, auburn and feuille morte have a deadened dignity that remains beautiful, particularly in the soft glow of twilight. 

  • New England – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
Cambridge (11/8/18) Crys Black

Special Report: Japan

Japanese Larch, Patchy (10/19/18) Julie Kirby

5th Station, Mt Fuji, Japan (10/19/18) Julie Kirby

5th Station, Mt Fuji, Japan (10/19/18) Julie Kirby

Japan is renowned for its beautiful autumn colors. So, when color spotter Julie Kirby wrote saying she was traveling to Japan and hoped that the Japanese maple would be peaking, I encouraged her to send pictures.

She was there as fall color was at the upper end of Patchy, so the forests were not full of gold, orange, crimson and auburn. Though, her photographs show the beauty that a Japanese autumn promises.

Japanese Larch, 5th Station, Mt Fuji, Japan (10/19/18) Julie Kirby

Among the colorful trees Julie saw was the Japanese Larch, Larix kaempferi. This deciduous conifer was in the process of changing from green to yellow.

No similar deciduous conifers are native to California. Though, the Western Larch, Larix Occidentalis, grows in the northwest (bright yellow); the Subalpine Larch, Lariz lyallii, is a golden yellow native to parts of Canada and the northwest U.S.; and the Tamarack larch, Larix laricina, is native to northern Minnesota and Canada (orange-yellow).

Virginia creeper, Lake Ashi, Japan (10/19/18) Julie Kirby

Virginia creeper, Takayama, Japan (10/21/18) Julie Kirby

Just as we love Japanese maple, so too the Japanese return the favor with an affection for North American Virginia Creeper, Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Julie saw brightly draped walls of purple, maize and scarlet Virginia Creeper flourishing on Honshu (Japan’s largest island) at Takayama and Lake Ashi.


Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa, Japan (10/23/18) Julie Kirby

Sakura (cherry), Kanazawa, Japan (10/22/18) Julie Kirby

Curiously, Virginia creeper, growing in North America, are being eaten voraciously by invasive Japanese beetles, Popillia japonica, a specie of scarab beetle Whereas, in Japan, the beetle is not similarly destructive because they are controlled by native predators.

The Japanese are famous for their artistic gardens. Julie found beautiful trees at the Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa hinting of Autumn’s glory to emerge in coming weeks, Sakura, Prunus serrulata (cherry) trees now drop orange, red and golden leaves that spiral downward to reflecting ponds coursed by colorful koi fish. 

Thinking about that image inspires Autumn Haiku:

Autumn winds twirling,
Lifting leaves of gold and red,
How I love the dance!

Karen Ball

Leaves that spiral down
to still, reflective waters;
Autumn in Japan.

— John Poimiroo

  • Honshu, Japan – Patchy (10-50%)

Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa (10/23/18) Julie Kirby




Special Report: Odessa

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Southern California color spotter Alena Nicholas sends these images from Odessa a Ukrainian city on the Black Sea.

Odessa is the third-most populous city in the Ukraine and one of the most visited in Eastern Europe.

Alena’s images show a bit of the fall color that fills its parks, the city center and Black Sea area. The city’s innocence, playfulness and old-fashioned character is evident in her photos.

Odessa has been at the crossroads of conflicts throughout its existence. Originally a Greek city, it then became Tartar, then Ottoman, then Russian and Soviet, before being a self-governing nation and friend of the United States.

Several California cities have sister city or agreement relationships with Ukrainian cities: Sebastopol with Chyhyryn, Sonoma and Santa Rosa with Cherkassy, Davis with Uman and Santa Barbara with Yalta.

Often occupied and desired for its warm-water seaport, Odessa is called the “Pearl of the Black Sea.”

Odessa’s architecture reflects its diverse governance, though was heavily influenced by French and Italian neo-classical, art nouveau and renaissance styles during the Czarist period. That’s evident in Alena’s pictures of the city park and street scenes.

In autumn, Ukraine is beautiful to behold, as 52 percent of its trees are deciduous, including birch, aspen, maple, elm, acacia and ash. As evidenced above, Odessa loves trees and culture, with landmark plane trees shading violinists and downtown shoppers.

Odessa is the first European city to be featured by a Special Report on CaliforniaFallColor.com. When you travel to colorful fall destinations, send photos and we’ll report what you’ve seen. 

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas

Odessa, Ukraine (10/23/18) Alena Nicholas


Legends and the Land

Keddie Ridge, Plumas County (10/21/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

All cultures pass stories and legends from generation to generation. Some are related to religious or origin beliefs, others to civil or moral codes. Some are intended as guidance to children, while others are of family or tribal history.

California native people retold many legends about land features, and it is impossible to scout for fall color without being at places that were described in these legends.

When filing a report about fall color in the Indian Valley, Jeff Luke Titcomb mentioned “Indian Head” a feature of Keddie Ridge in Plumas County that is now skirted with golden yellow maples and orange/yellow oaks, saying the Mountain Maidu people of Northeast California tell stories of its origin.

In Jeff’s picture above, rock outcroppings on the ridge resemble the face and body of a sleeping man. According to Mountain Maidu legend, an ancient giant once traveled the world measuring the depths of lakes and streams. After measuring a lake atop the ridge, he was so fatigued that he lay down to rest and fell into a deep sleep. He never awoke, and his reclining figure is seen to this day. According to Maidu elders, when he eventually awakes, it will mark the end of our time on Earth.

By learning legends, such as this, we enrich our search for fall color, gain a greater connection to the places we visit, better appreciate the cultures that preceded us, and sustain their memory.

To know more about Mountain Maidu legends that are connected to auto tours of Plumas County’s Indian Valley, CLICK HERE


Special Report: Rocky Mtn NP

Glacier Gorge Trailhead, Rocky Mtn NP (10/6/18) Cathy Tsao

Least Chipmunk, Rocky Mtn NP (10/6/18) Cathy Tsao

Beaver Ponds, Rocky Mtn NP (10/6/18) Cathy Tsao

North American Elk, Rocky Mtn NP (10/6/18) Cathy Tsao

Upper Beaver Meadows, Rocky Mtn NP (10/6/18) Cathy Tsao

Rocky Mountain National Park was my “go to” place when I was a J-school grad student at Boulder.

It was where I would go, when completing a photography project, to wind down or just be inspired.

So when Cathy Tsao a color spotter from the North Bay sent these pictures of RMNP, I just had to share them.

Cathy apologized for the “overcast and drizzly” day, but no apology was necessary, many of the photographs I treasure most from my days at CU happened on drizzly days in the national park.

Colorado has large stands of aspen that spread across similar elevations throughout the Rockies. Because of this, Colorado’s fall color all seems to peak within two weeks. So, the rush to see the trees during that tight window is intense, as is the disappointment of not getting there in time.

@RockyNPS posts photographs of the fall color and it appears the color shows very similar in timing to the High Sierra, as peak color was being reported in late September.

Colorado is famous for panoramic swaths of yellow color, though at RMNP the aspen carry red, orange, yellow and lime, similar to that seen in the Hope Valley and Eastern Sierra.

Tsao found color to be approaching Past Peak this week along the park’s Bear Lake Road and Trail Ridge Road. She was impressed to see “some hillsides absolutely blanketed with color, as in the photo taken from the Glacier Gorge trailhead.”

If Yosemite is a landscape park, Rocky Mountain is a wildlife park, famous for its bighorn sheep, North American elk, moose, lynx, wolverine and endearing chipmunks. 

  • Rocky Mountain National Park (7,800′) – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW as YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!



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Special Report: Land of 10,000 Lakes

Oberg Mountain Loop, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Oberg Mountain Loop, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Oberg Mountain Loop, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Oberg Mountain Loop, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Gooseberry Falls State Park, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Tettegouche State Park, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Oberg Mountain Loop, Minnesota (9/26/18) Nick King

Minnesota follows Alaska as the second northernmost state. It is so far north, that it’s motto is Star of the North, though most people think of it as the land of 10,000 lakes.

When Fresno color spotter Nick King, a reporter at Fox 26 KMPH, wrote saying he’d been hiking in Minnesota last week, I just had to ask, “Did you get any photographs of fall color?”

Nick’s photos establish that the land of 10,000 lakes does not disappoint when it comes to autumn color. A mix of deciduous maple (sugar, red), red twig dogwood, witch hazel, birch, poplar and smoke tree grow among coniferous pine and spruce in the state’s two main forests, the Laurentian mixed forest and Eastern broadleaf forest.

This color now carpets the undulating hills of the Sawtooth Mountains (north shore of Lake Superior) and Misquah Hills (northeast Minnesota), with a Peak blend of evergreens with red, orange, yellow and russet.

Nick wrote that he found the Oberg Mountain Loop trail to be truly spectacular. True to his training as a TV newsman, he wished he’d had a drone with him. Oberg Mountain was an easy three-mile hike on the north shore of Lake Superior, with about 500 feet of elevation gain.

This past week, he described, the treetops “started to look like lollipops, and the further inland from Lake Superior, the better. Another hiker told us that she was there just two days earlier, on Monday, and everything was basically green.”

At Gooseberry Falls State Park, also along the north shore, only a few trees were showing any color change. And, at Shovel Point at Tettegouche State Park, “the color really hadn’t made it’s way to the lake yet, but there was some signs of yellow.” He noted that as a first time visitor to Minnesota, he was impressed at how much the cliff side of the lake looked like the Northern California or Oregon coast.

Minnesota’s mountains only reach elevations of 2,266′. So, though hiking there is not likely to make you breathless, the autumn color certainly will. 

Minnesota (2,266′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!











Note: CaliforniaFallColor.com does not make it a practice to report on areas outside California, though we have occasionally published reports from New York, Idaho, Arizona, China, and – now – Minnesota. If in your travels, you capture beautiful scenes as Nick King did, here, please send them to [email protected] As, we enjoy seeing autumn beauty everywhere.


Finding the Extraordinary

Rice winnowing, Tambo (11/22/17) Robert Kermen

Searching for fall color reveals aspects of life in California that are unexpected and extraordinary, such as this scene captured by Robert Kermen. You might expect to see winnowing by hand in Southeast Asia, but instead it happens each autumn in Tambo, near Marysville.

Kermen was traveling from Grass Valley toward Marysville on CA-20 when he detoured onto Mathews Lane to photograph raptors perched near wetlands. Nearby, at a rice milling plant, rice whose hulls were too obstinate to be winnowed is dumped into a pile. Before rains can ruin the un-winnowed rice, industrious scavengers visit the location and sift the pile for gleanings.

Until recently, Robert had never been able to get a photo of that happening, though on this occasion, he got his shot.

The search for California Fall Color is not just about landscape photography or appreciating trees. It is about finding golden jewels throughout the golden state.

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A Taste of Oak Glen

Mule deer in an apple orchard, Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Los Rios Rancho (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

One of California’s great autumn traditions is driving to Oak Glen (San Bernardino County), Apple Hill (El Dorado County) or Julian (San Diego County) for a taste of the harvest.

Of course, no trip to these apple-growing areas is complete without buying an apple pie, apple strudel, apple dumpling, candied apple, apple cider or some other delicious apple delicacy.

Legendary Oak Glen bakers, Theresa Law of Law’s Oak Glen Coffee Shop and Steve Gillespie of Los Rios Rancho are famous for their apple pies. The following recipe incorporates the best of both.

Since food is so important to Thanksgiving Week, we provide the recipe should you want to bring a taste of California Fall Color to your Thanksgiving Day dinner. Why, even the mule deer are paying attention.

Of course, as color spotter Alena Nicholas suggests, there’s still time to get to Oak Glen, Apple Hill or Julian, should you want to buy a pie straight out of the oven and bring home the sweet smell of autumn.

Indian Corn, Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Famous Oak Glen Apple Pie


  • 9 cups peeled, cored, and thinly sliced apples such as Idared, Jonagold, Newtown Pippin, or Stayman Winesap (about 2 1/2 lb. total) Adjust sugar and lemon juice according to the sweetness of the apples you use.
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4-1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • Pastry for a double-crust 9-inch pie
  • 1-1/3 cups apple juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick (3 in.)
  • 1 strip orange peel (1/2 by 4 in., orange part only)
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • Vanilla ice cream (optional)
  1. Mix apple slices with 1/2 cup granulated sugar, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ground cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and, if desired, add more granulated sugar and lemon juice
  2. On a lightly floured board, roll half the pastry into a round 1/8 inch thick. Line a 9-inch pie pan with pastry. Fill with apple mixture.
  3. On a lightly floured board, roll remaining pastry into a 1/8-inch-thick round and lay over apple mixture. Fold edges of top pastry over edges of the bottom one and crimp to seal together. Cut decorative slits in top pastry and sprinkle with about 1 tablespoon granulated sugar.
  4. Bake on the lowest rack in a 375° oven until juices bubble in center of pie, 1 to 1 1/4 hours. If pastry edges brown before pie is done, drape affected areas with foil. Cool pie on a rack at least 2 hours.
  5. Meanwhile, in a 1 1/2- to 2-quart pan, combine apple juice, cinnamon stick, and orange peel. Cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes. Stir in brown sugar until it dissolves. Mix remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch smoothly with 3 tablespoons water; stir into juice mixture over high heat until sauce boils. Discard cinnamon stick and orange peel.
  6. Cut warm or cool pie into wedges; top each portion with vanilla ice cream and warm or cool cinnamon sauce.

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Oak Glen (11/19/17) Alena Nicholas

Nutritional Information Per Serving:

  • Calories: 476
  • Calories from fat: 28%
  • Protein: 3.2g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Saturated fat: 3.8g
  • Carbohydrate: 84g
  • Fiber: 3.2g
  • Sodium: 244mg

Why Don’t Evergreen Trees Lose Leaves and Change Color?

Coastal Redwood, El Dorado Hills (9/7/17) John Poimiroo

Actually, they do.  It just doesn’t happen all at once.

Evergreen trees have both broad leafs and needles. Madrone, magnolia and photinia are examples of broadleaved evergreens, while pine, fir cedar, spruce, redwood have needled leaves.

Evergreen needles can last anywhere from a year to 20 years, but eventually they are replaced by new leaves. When that happens, the old needles turn color and fall, but not all together, and not as dramatically as deciduous trees (e.g., maple, oak, dogwood, alder, birch).

The reason needles are green is that they are full of chlorophyll which photosynthesizes sunlight into food for the tree and reflects green light waves, making the needles look green.

Needles, just like deciduous leaves, contain carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments. You just don’t see them until the green chlorophyll stops being produced. Once that happens, hidden carotenoids (yellow, orange and brown) emerge, as is seen in the above photograph. Additionally, red, blue and purple Anthocyanins – produced in autumn from the combination of bright light and and excess sugars in the leaf cells – also emerge once the chlorophyll subsides. Yes, even evergreen leaves change color… eventually.

Evergreen trees tend to carry needles in snowy regions. A waxy coating on needles along with their narrow shape, allows them to hold water better, keeps water from freezing inside the needle (which would otherwise destroy the leaf), prevents snow from weighing down and breaking evergreen branches, and sustains the production (though slowed) of chlorophyll through winter. Whereas, broadleaved deciduous trees would be damaged if they kept producing chlorophyll and didn’t drop their leaves.

Evergreen trees do lose their leaves and the leaves do change color. It just isn’t as spectacular.