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Sunsets Over The Central Valley

Central Valley Sunset, Folsom Lake (11/7/16) John Poimiroo

Blue oak, Folsom Lake sunset (11/7/16) John Poimiroo

Autumn sunsets are the best of the year, particularly as seen across the Central Valley.

Sunsets are particularly spectacular in autumn because blue light is scattered easiest by nitrogen and oxygen air molecules, whereas “longer wavelengths — reds and oranges – are not scattered as much by air molecules,” The Weather Channel reports.

During sunrise and sunset, sunlight must pass through more of the atmosphere before we see it. TWC explains, “so it comes into contact with even more molecules in the air.”  And, “As days grow shorter, the skies at sunset glow with the most spectacular hues, blooming with pinks, reds and oranges.”

Autumn weather patterns also bring drier, cleaner air from the north, allowing more colors of the spectrum to “make it through to our eyes without getting scattered by particles in the air, producing brilliant sunsets and sunrises that can look red, orange, yellow or even pink,” concludes TWC.

In the Central Valley, agricultural haze from farmers burning off their fields adds carbon molecules to the air, making the sunsets downright awe inspiring.

[wunderground location=”El Dorado Hills, CA” numdays=”4″ showdata=”daynames,icon,date,conditions,highlow” layout=”simple”]

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Autumn Spore-t: Mushroom Hunting

Chicken of the Woods, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Chicken of the Woods, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

A favorite northwest autumn sport is mushroom hunting.

Gabriel Leete of Redding sends these photographs of mushrooms found exploring the Lower Sacramento River, in Anderson and Redding.

Caution and expert knowledge is required, as some species are both poisonous and edible. You don’t want to make a mistake, by thinking you have the edible variety, when in fact it’s poisonous.

Chicken of the Woods (seen above) [Laetiporus] is “a very brilliant spp. of fungi,” Gabriel reports, “As the nomenclature indicates, it is bright yellow & orange (sulphur colored).  And the common name is due to the whitening of the flesh when cooked and has somewhat of a chicken and mushroom flavor.  It is used by vegans and vegetarians in lieu of chicken.”

Agaricus, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Agaricus, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Unidentified, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Unidentified, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Earth Star, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

Earthstar, Anderson (10/31/16) Gabriel Leete

The common Agaricus genus contains some 300 members, both poisonous and edible.  Caution is advised.

Earthstar  [Astraeus hygrometricus] is a fascinating mushroom that resembles a globe over a star. They are too tough to be edible, so don’t bother.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Earthstars have, however, been used by native Americans and Asians medicinally as a salve against burns. The Blackfoot people called them “fallen stars,” considering them to be stars that fall to Earth during supernatural events.

It’s amazing what color you find in autumn, when looking down.

 

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Special Report: Wenzhou, China

Gingko, Lingyan Temple, Yandang Mountain Park (10/26/15) John Poimiroo

Gingko, Lingyan Temple, Yandang Mountain National Park (10/27/15) John Poimiroo

Gingko, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Gingko, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Maple, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

This past week, my attendance at the annual meeting of the Society of American Travel Writers took me to Wenzhou.

It’s an inviting, industrial city in eastern China, along the Ou River between Shanghai and Hong Kong. Near Wenzhou are several mountain parks, which provided the opportunity to see a Chinese autumn emerging.

Yandang Mountain National Park, an hour north of Wenzhou by superhighway, is a World Geological Park and one of China’s top-rated mountain areas. It is like Yosemite, but with temples.

Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Copper-blue stream, goldfish, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Copper-blue stream, goldfish, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Within the national park are soaring rock monoliths, rock climbers, waterfalls, copper blue mountain streams, wildlife areas, caves, and ancient Buddhist temples and shrines, many of which are framed by fall color in late autumn.

Maple trees are prolific in eastern China and forested areas like Yandang Mountain National Park are full of them. Japanese maples are a common choice of horticulturists in the United States, though there are more varieties of Chinese maples, according to MrMaple.com, a cultivar of Asian maples.

Surrounding ancient Lingyan Temple (over 1,000 years old and listed as one of the 18 oldest temples in China) are stands of golden to orange maple and towering, venerable gingko trees, whose bright yellow leaves were transitioning from green to yellow.

Gingko leaves, Lingyan Temple (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Gingko leaves, Lingyan Temple (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Guidebooks show bright yellow to orange stands of maple filling the forest with color. Though on our visit, even the tea was green.

Only the gingkos were near peak. Guides blamed unseasonably warm weather as keeping the forest from turning, though it’s more likely that, due to the area’s low elevations and latitude, peak does not usually arrive until mid to late November.

Wenzhou Ecological Park near the city, contains Daluo Mountain and a network of stone paths that climb to geologic features, streams, pools and pagodas at points of rest and scenic inspiration.

Green tea, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Green tea, Yandang Mountain NP (10/27/16) John Poimiroo

Daluo Mountain (10/26/16) John Poimiroo

Daluo Mountain (10/26/16) John Poimiroo

Hiking, Daluo Mountain, Wenzhou (10/26/16) John Poimiroo

Hiking, Daluo Mountain, Wenzhou (10/26/16) John Poimiroo

Daluo Mountain’s trails pass through lush bamboo corridors and past a variety of deciduous plants that were just starting to show color.

  • Yandang Mountain National Park (3,635′), Yandangshan,China – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Daluo Mountain (2,300′), Wenzhou Ecological Park – Just Starting (0-10%)

One of the most colorful autumn scenes in Wenzhou was found on Jiangxin Islet in the middle of the Ou River where, at dusk, brides gathered in front of the decaying Victorian-era (1890) British Embassy to pose for wedding pictures.

As golden Gingko leaves fluttered past the posing brides, I saw the following image developing and moved into position to frame a shot that eventually won the Society of American Travel Writers’ Bronze Award in the 2018 Bill Muster Photo Competition Culture Category.

Wenzhou Brides, Jiangxin Islet (10/28/16) John Poimiroo

Special Report: Why Do Trees Drop Their Leaves?

Big Bear Ski Resorts (11/11/15) Alena Nicholas

Big Bear Ski Resorts (11/11/15) Alena Nicholas

It’s survival not just of the fittest, but of the wisest.

Deciduous trees drop their leaves in order to survive.  As days grow shorter and colder, deciduous trees shut down veins and capillaries (that carry water and nutrients) with a barrier of cells that form at the leaf’s stem.

Called “abscission” cells, the barrier prevents the leaf from being nourished. Eventually, like scissors, the abscission cells close the connection between leaf and branch and the leaf falls.

Had the leaves remained on branches, the leaves would have continued to drink and, once temperatures drop to freezing, the water in the tree’s veins would freeze, killing the tree.

Further, with leaves fallen, bare branches are able to carry what little snow collects on them, protecting them from begin broken under the weight of the snow. So, by cutting off their food supply (leaves), deciduous trees survive winter.

The fallen leaves continue to benefit the tree through winter, spring and summer by creating a humus on the forest floor that insulates roots from winter cold and summer heat, collects dew and rainfall, and decomposes to enrich the soil and nurture life.

It’s a cycle of survival, very wisely planned.

Special Report: Why Do Leaves Change Color?

Chlorophyll Molecule (Wikipedia)

Chlorophyll Molecule (Wikipedia)

We explain this each autumn and now is as good a time as any to describe it, once more.

It is the combination of shorter days and colder temperatures that cause leaves on deciduous trees to change color.

Throughout spring and summer, green chlorophyll (which allows trees to absorb sunlight and produce nutrients) is made and replaced constantly. However, as days grow shorter, “cells near the juncture of the leaf and stem divide rapidly but do not expand,” reports Accuweather.com, “This action of the cells form a layer called the abscission layer. The abscission layer then blocks the transportation of materials from the leaf to the branch and from the roots to the leaves. As Chlorophyll is blocked from the leaves, it disappears completely from them.”

That’s when vivid yellow xanthophylls, orange carotenoids and red and purple anthocyanins emerge.

Orange is found in leaves with lots of beta-carotene, a compound that absorbs blue and green light and reflects yellow and red light, giving the leaves their orange color.

Yellow comes from Xanthophylls and Flavonols that reflect yellow light. Xanthophylls are compounds and Flavonols are proteins.  They’re what give egg yolks their color.

Though always present in the leaves, Carotenoids and Xanthophylls are not visible until Chlorophyll production slows.

Red comes from the Anthocyanin compound. It protects the leaf in autumn, prolonging its life. Anthocyanins are pigments manufactured from the sugars trapped in the leaf, giving term to the expression that the leaves are sugaring up.

The best fall color occurs when days are warm and nights are clear and cold. California’s cloudless skies and extreme range of elevations (sea level to 14,000′) provide ideal conditions for the development of consistently vivid fall color, as seen in these reports.

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Special Report: San Diego Roars

San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Color correspondent Alena Nicholas was on safari for fall color in San Diego on Thanksgiving Day and Orange Friday and found it at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. And, did San Diego roar!

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Coastal marsh, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego County (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Pacific Coast, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego County (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

North San Diego County (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

African Elephants, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

African Elephants, Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

In 2016, the San Diego Zoo celebrates its 100th birthday. So, during this celebratory period is the time to visit what Trip Advisor rates as the world’s best zoo.

What makes the San Diego Zoo so good is both the breadth of species to be seen (Chinese Giant pandas, Australian koalas, African elephants, Malaysian tigers, California condors, African lions…) and the natural, seemingly unfenced habitats in which they reside.

That means there aren’t many bars or mesh wire fences through which to observe or photograph the animals, but open space instead, and the areas provided for the animals are expansive and have natural settings.

At the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (an hour north of the San Diego Zoo in Escondido) visitors ride carts, trams and now motorized trikes, along roads and paved trails into the savannah where they see animals interacting as they would in the wild.

One of the interactive programs at the Safari Park is Cheetah Safari where the “jaw-dropping” speed of a cheetah is demonstrated as it races along a 330-foot long track. Programs at both locations immerse visitors in better appreciating wild animals and the threats to their continued existence in the wild.

On Alena’s safari to San Diego, she captured not just the amazing and colorful inhabitants of the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park, but also the foliage to be seen in beautiful Balboa Park and throughout the region: native California fan palms taking on a yellow-orange glow, black oak dressed in lime, yellow and orange, exotic maroon fountain grass, orange-red coastal marsh grasses and trees carrying lime, yellow, orange and red confetti.

San Diego’s climate is so temperate and inviting that the seasonal change is hardly evident, though it can be felt in the autumn air, seen in San Diego’s glorious sunsets and found along stream beds where golden cottonwood and orange black oak paint the landscape.

Early December is an ideal time to visit San Diego.  The weather is good (this week, it will be in the low 70s), and the last of California’s fall color will continue to peak through the next two weeks. In two words… GO NOW!

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – San Diego Zoo and Safari Park

San Diego (11/28/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego (11/28/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Pacific coast, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, San Diego (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Safari Park (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego County (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Malaysian tiger, San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Black Oak, San Diego (11/28/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

AN-SanDiego-15

Balboa Park, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

AN-SanDiego-13

Balboa Park, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Black oak, San Diego County (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park, San Diego (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Cheetah, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Escondido (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Australian koala, San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Australian koala, San Diego Zoo (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

San Diego Zoo, Balboa Park (11/26/15) Alena Nicholas

Safari Park, Escondido (11/27/15) Alena Nicholas

 

 

 

Special Report: Sedona, Arizona

Fall color spreads across the high desert near Sedona at dawn (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Fall color spreads across the high desert near Sedona at dawn (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Occasionally, we’ll get autumn shots from other parts of the country. This autumn, we posted one from Idaho. California is our focus, but it’s interesting to see what’s happening elsewhere, now and then, though we’ll always be true to CA. There’s just too much fall color here to start taking on the rest of the country.

However, today we receive this special report from Alena Nicholas who was in Flagstaff and Sedona, Arizona. Alena provides this postcard collection of the change of season in one of our neighboring states.  So, we’re creating a new category called “Special Report” where photographs from other fall color destinations can be published.

Let’s look at what Alena discovered in The Grand Canyon State.

Oak Creek Canyon Rd, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon Rd, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Restaurant, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Restaurant, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Plateau Rd. above Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Plateau Rd. above Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Art Gallery, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Art Gallery, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

West Fork, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Slide Rock River, Sedona (11/1/15) Alena Nicholas