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A Week of Photos In Review

North Lake (9/27/15) Elliott McCucken

North Lake (9/27/15) Elliot McCucken

North Lake (9/27/15) Elliott McCucken

North Lake (9/27/15) Elliot McCucken

Sunrise, Tioga Pass (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

Sunrise, Tioga Pass (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

 

So many photographers send great photos to share with CaliforniaFallColor.com readers, that we often don’t have time to post them.  Let’s make that up, today.

Anyone can send photos.  The best way to get your photos published is to email them to editor(at)californiafallcolor.com.

Photos should be large enough to post. 1,000k is best, though we can use photos down to about 250k.

The top five photos, each week, are (with the photographer’s permission) sent to media for placement on their websites on television (weather reports) and in newspapers.  This is a great way to get published and garner exposure from a major medium.  For these, we need high resolution shots (300 dpi).

We’re unable to promise to publish every photo, but when a photo is of a place we don’t see very often or is exceptional, we try our best to post it.

Here are some of the best photos received this past week from color spotters across California.  Enjoy.  We sure did.

AN-YosemiteValley-1

Dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Bishop Creek (9/27/15) Elliott McCucken

Bishop Creek (9/27/15) Elliot McCucken

Blue Lake above Big Virginia Lake (9/27/15) Kevin Randick

Blue Lake above Big Virginia Lake (9/27/15) Kevin Lennox

Tioga Pass (10/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Tioga Pass (10/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Tioga Pass (10/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Tioga Pass (10/1/15) Alena Nicholas

Bishop Creek (9/27/15) Elliott McCucken

S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/27/15) Elliot McCucken

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Weekend Forecast: A Wet Mix of Peak and Past Peak

Mule Deer at June Lake (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

Mule Deer at June Lake (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

Color spotter Alena Nicholas reports from a lakeside cabin at Boulder Lodge on June Lake, near where these photos were taken.  Nicholas notes that June Lake is joyfully transitioning from green to yellow, though the color is still at the low end of being Patchy.  When it’s drizzling, as is now happening in the Eastern Sierra, it’s time to look for new things to photograph, like deer enjoying fresh bursts of green.

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

This weekend, all points above 9,000’ in the Eastern Sierra (Inyo and Mono Counties), including: Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, Hilton Creek, Virginia Lakes, Green Creek, Summers Meadow, Sage Hen, Dunderberg Meadow and Twin Lakes have the most color, though how long it lasts will depend on the weather.

Yesterday, light breezes blew some of the color from areas in the Eastern Sierra that had peaked or were approaching peak (see below reports). However, the wind only got to what had peaked.  As Alicia Vennos wrote from Mono County this morning, there is still “far too much green mixed with the yellows and oranges,” for the show to end.

That should hold true even after this weekend’s storm passes by. Trees that have green leaves or slightly turned leaves will retain them and their fall color will emerge in coming days and weeks.

Prime areas to see California Fall Color this weekend are at all points above 9,000’ in the Eastern Sierra (Inyo and Mono Counties), including: Bishop Creek, Rock Creek, Hilton Creek, Virginia Lakes, Green Creek, Summers Meadow, Sage Hen, Dunderberg Meadow and Twin Lakes.

Patchy (10-50%) – June Lake – Still early, though color has begun developing.

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Yee Haw! Mono County Nears Peak

Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Jennifer Roeser rides her mule, Pearl, in McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Editor’s note: This report is based on observations made this week. However, in the past day, light rain and wind has stripped some leaves from aspen (See Kahlee Brighton’s comment under “Baffling Brilliance”).  As always, these reports can be affected by changing conditions. 

One of the most enjoyable ways to see California’s Fall Color is to ride to it by horseback, as seen above. Jennifer Roeser, owner of the McGee Creek Pack Station, is one of several wranglers who operate fall color rides from Eastern Sierra stables.

Above 9,000′, Mono County is approaching peak, reports color spotter Alicia Vennos. Below 9,000′, a beautiful mix of yellow and gold blended with lime-green and pops of bright orange are emerging.  

Mono County’s hot spots this weekend (conditions permitting) will be: Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Canyon (about 1.5 miles up the trail), Parker Lake (north of the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158), Bloody Canyon out of Walker Lake (hike up about 2 miles), Virginia Lakes Road, Dunderberg Meadow Road, Twin Lakes near Bridgeport  and Sage Hen Meadow Road, off Hwy. 120 East.  Here’s Alicia’s report by area:

Near Peak (50-75% –GO NOW!) Upper Rock Creek Road/Rock Creek Lake – This 11-mile drive diverts from 395 at Tom’s Place. Along the route, there are lots of hiking options. Colors are in full swing a few miles up the road, around the lake, and up Hilton Creek trail. If you’re going for the pie at Pie in the Sky Café, get there early, as they sell out often by noon. 

Patchy (10-50%) – Upper Rock Creek Road – Around East Fork, you’ll see a blend of green, lime-green, gold and orange.  A favorite hike starts at the East Fork campground and meanders along the aspen-lined creek all the way to Rock Creek Lake. 

McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

McGee Creek (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Patchy (10-50%) – McGee CreekThere are still so many green aspen around the McGee Creek Campground, Pack Station, and trailhead at the end of the road, that we continue to rate this area as patchy. Though, hike up the trail and you will soon see aspen that range from gold to orangey-red.  

Patchy (5-35%) – Convict Lake Canyon – Color spotter Charles Porter says Convict Lake is starting to show pockets of yellow from top to bottom. The color change has increased modestly over the last week. Foliage along the lower creek, around the resort and in the campground is now about 30%. These areas are still showing a generous amount of green but the hues of orange and yellow are starting to establish themselves. The back of the lake and up the canyon is showing an increase of yellow but will need a few weeks to reach peak.

This week, a road crew was laying down asphalt. By the time the aspen peak here, there will be new road access to the lake. Until then, for day-use parking use the marina lot or the parking lot at the entrance of the campground.  

The Convict Lake Resort is offering Fall Lodging Specials starting at $379+tax (Sunday thru Thursday – 2 Nights for 2 Persons). They include a $100 restaurant credit & full-day motor boat rental. Ambush at the Lake, the resort’s fall fishing derby, continues through Nov. 15 with $6,000 in resort prizes and a $2,000 cash bonus weekend on Oct. 30 – Nov. 1.

Beaver Pond, McGee Creek Trail (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Beaver Pond, McGee Creek Trail (9/28/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Patchy (10-50%) – June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 – Color is escalating on the mountainside at the north end of the June Lake Loop, while down canyon and on the south end of the Loop, the change is still in its beginning stages.  

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Parker Lake – As reported earlier this week, the hike to Parker Lake is beautiful right now. To get there, take the Parker Lake Road at the north end of Hwy. 158.  It’s a good dirt road with some washboard and rough spots.  

Bloody Canyon Trail (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Bloody Canyon Trail (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Bloody Canyon Trail and Walker Lake (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Bloody Canyon Trail and Walker Lake (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Walker Lake – Another excellent but steep hike is Bloody Canyon out of Walker Lake.  The aspen at lake level are still mostly green, but if you trek two miles up the trail at the west end of the lake, the aspen are abundant and peaking. June Lake Brewing hosts the June Lake Autumn Beer Festival on Oct. 10 at Gull Lake Park.

Sage Hen Meadow Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Sage Hen Meadow Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Sage Hen View (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Sage Hen View (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Sage Hen Summit Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Sage Hen Summit Rd. (9/27/15) Alicia Vennos/Mono County Tourism

Peak (75-100% –GO NOW!) – Sage Hen Meadow Road – Off CA-120 East at Sage Hen Summit, turn south on Sage Hen Meadow Road for a few miles where you will find thick aspen groves of brilliant yellow and orange alongside the road.  It is a short but sweet stretch. If you continue driving, take the first left-hand turn which will bring you to an overlook of the Sage Hen aspen groves. They seemed to have peaked early this year so there is only some red-orange color left, but the views of Mono Lake are pretty.  

Patchy (10-50%) – Lee Vining Canyon – Aspen at the lower end of the Tioga Pass Road look like they are still a couple of weeks from peaking.  Log Cabin Road, which is a good dirt road with some relatively steep switchbacks to an historic cabin is aspen-lined and is starting to show some rich golden color.

Patchy (10-50%) – Lundy Canyon – A beautiful paved drive to Lundy Lake takes you past aspen along the road that are just beginning to change. Beyond the lake, the road turns to dirt and takes you to some photogenic beaver ponds and one of the prettiest hiking trails in the area.  Lundy Canyon still has a way to go before it nears peak, though it’s definitely starting.

Virginia Lakes (9/26/15) Misti Sullivan/Twin Lakes Resort

Virginia Lakes (9/26/15) Misti Sullivan/Twin Lakes Resort

Dunderberg Meadows (9/26/15) Misti Sullivan/Twin Lakes Resort

Dunderberg Meadows (9/26/15) Misti Sullivan/Twin Lakes Resort

Peak (75-100% –GO NOW!) – Virginia Lakes/Dunderberg/Green Creek Road/Bridgeport/Twin Lakes – Summer’s Meadow off Green Creek Road will be gorgeous this weekend.  Same with Virginia Lakes Road and Dunderberg Meadow Road which are peaking now.  Conway Summit is also brightening substantially, making for really pretty photos right from the pullouts on US 395.  

The Bridgeport Valley’s Hunewill Ranch has been a working cattle ranch for over 100 years and offers horseback rides to see the fall colors and the opportunity to participate in an authentic cattle drive. Check out their programs at HunewillRanch.com.

Patchy (10-50%) – Walker/Coleville/Sonora Pass/Leavitt Meadows) At the higher elevations above the West Walker River, the aspen stands are glowing golden and light orange, as is the top of Sonora Pass/Hwy. 108 and on the crest of Monitor Pass/Hwy. 89.  Some aspens have lost leaves due to black leaf spot fungus. Leavitt Meadows is just starting to show off. Another area to ride to see the fall colors is the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station, which remains open until mid-October.  Coming up on Oct. 3 is the Antelope Valley’s annual Deer Hunter Barbecue in Walker featuring a homemade dinner with the community’s “secret barbecue sauce.” Call (530) 208-6078 for more info.

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Bishop Creek Canyon: Baffling Brilliance

The Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

The Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

“Baffling brilliance” is all we can think of to describe what’s happening this year up Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra.  Today, we announce ominously, Tah, Dah!, that if you didn’t get to Weir Pond, Parcher’s Resort, Table Mountain Camp, Surveyor’s Meadow or Lake Sabrina,  YOU MISSED IT! 

That’s right. You missed it. These areas are now Past Peak and it’s still September… well, at least for the rest of today it is.

However, despite being past peak, these areas retain impressive patches of fall color near streams. OK, now you’re as baffled as we are.

What is happening, in this fourth year of drought, is that some groves are going off quickly while others that have water seem to be on their normal schedule. That creates what Jared Smith termed, last week, “transitional change,” where part of the forest is peaking, while other parts are still patchy.

The bottom line to anyone who wants to photograph or see fall color at peak is that when we announce GO NOW!, you must not delay, even if the alert is for Near Peak areas.  As, this year the color change may not last a week, OR (more bafflement), it could continue for weeks on end.

Here’s todays report from color spotter Jared Smith of Parcher’s Resort:

Overall Conditions Above 8500ft Elevation – Peak – Go Now! (75% – 100%) – Out of all the years Jared has been doing fall color reporting for the Bishop Creek Canyon, he writes “this has been by far the most difficult to put into a rating scale. There are areas of color that are absolutely going off in full peak color, right next to areas where the color is quickly diminishing, right next to areas containing lots of green still developing color…it’s very difficult.”

Still, while some areas in the higher elevations were better last week than they are today, there are more areas of peak color than not at the higher elevations so he went with a peak rating. The highlights this week are the South Fork of Bishop Creek near Willow Campground, and between Parchers Resort & Weir Pond. On the other side of the canyon, the area between Sabrina Campground and the Sabrina Dam is stunning, and North Lake has tons of peak color.

A storm is predicted for the weekend, including wind and a chance of snow.  So, let’s cross our fingers that the color withstands the cold front.

Overall Conditions Between 7500ft & 8500ft Elevation – Patchy (10% – 50%) – The yellow continues to develop, along with a few patches of orange and red, but the green is holding strong, at least for the next few days. Look for this elevation to be in near peak condition or better by next week’s report. The best color is showing near Cardinal Village on up towards Cardinal Mine. A few small patches of brilliant color near Intake II also.

Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Road to Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Peak – Go Now! (75% – 100%) – Sabrina Campground to Sabrina Dam (9000ft) – Some of the red shown over the past few weeks is gone, but without skipping a beat, the color within the campground on up to the approach to the Sabrina dam is absolutely spectacular. Especially beautiful are the views of the winding road across the bridges.

Peak – Go Now! (75% – 100%) – Willow Campground (9000ft) – The next few days will have primo color in and around Willow Campground. A few of the trees already have lost their leaves but the vast majority of the color is just now at or extremely close to peak. The color on the mountain above the camp and also along the old road between Willow and Parchers is really stunning.

North Lake Road (9/30/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/30/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/30/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Peak – Go Now! (75% – 100%) – North Lake (9255ft) – This area continues to give Jared fits as a reporter, since parts of the shoreline are naked, parts are bright red, and the famous grove lining the road between the first parking area and the campground is about as gorgeous as it gets, a far cry from last week when there was still green dominating that spot. Anyhow, there is enough peak color here, and enough areas that are at their best, for this to get a peak rating still. But seriously, GO NOW!  Jared questions whether the color will be as good next week. Willows are almost completely naked now, a sure sign that the color won’t hold out for much longer at this location.

Weir Pond (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Weir Pond (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT! (but still impressive) – Weir Pond (9650ft) – As expected, Weir Pond isn’t quite as stunning as it was last week with much of the scrub aspen on the hillside above the pond having gone naked. Lots of color has developed along the road and the color is still beautiful surrounding the pond itself. Any photographer visiting the area should check this spot out – it’s still very much worth the trip.

Past Peak– YOU MISSED IT! (but still impressive) – Parchers Resort (9260ft) – There is a bunch of color still around the resort, especially along the back trail towards South Lake and below on the way to Willow. However, the best color has started to falter, especially higher on the mountains where the smaller aspen have given up. There is some especially brilliant color along South Lake road next to the resort as well as on the canyon wall to the west wall of the canyon that is hanging tough and very much worth a look.

Table Mountain Camp (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Table Mountain Camp (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Past Peak– YOU MISSED IT! (but still impressive)  – Table Mountain Camp (8900ft) – The color higher on the mountain and within the campground is showing past peak conditions. Lots and lots of color along the stream though, anywhere between the Stiny Loop and the campground.

Surveyor's Meadow (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Surveyor’s Meadow (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Past Peak– YOU MISSED IT! (but still impressive) – Surveyors Meadow (8975ft) – Color-a-plenty can be found in the area between Surveyors and the Tyee bridge, but last week was better than this week, so it gets the past-peak rating.

Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Lake Sabrina (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Past Peak– YOU MISSED IT! (but still impressive) – Lake Sabrina (9150ft) – The color in the back of the lake is gorgeous orange, yellow and red and a walk along the trail that skirts the west shore of the lake offers some pretty impressive views. The east shore is less so, and given how far the color is along here, Jared doubts much will remain after the weather this weekend.

Near Peak (50 – 75%) – Stiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8600ft) – Jared questions how much peak color will develop at this location, considering that the color seems to disappear as fast or faster than it appears.

Mist Falls (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Mist Falls (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Just Patchy (10 – 50%) – Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8350ft) – Finally a bit of progress in the color this week with a lot more yellow showing up around the waterfall and in the groves between there at Mt. Glen Campground. This will likely be one of the highlights by next weekend (not this weekend).

Aspendell (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Aspendell (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Groves Above Cardinal Village (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Groves Above Cardinal Village (9/30/15) Jared Smith

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Aspendell (8400ft) – Very little yellowing, but the green is getting very light so Jared predicts patchy or better color within the week.

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Groves above Cardinal Village (8550ft) – The aspen blanketing the hillside from Cardinal Pinnacle down are pretty much toast. But, now that is done, the color all down the creek from the North Lake turnoff winding down the canyon past the mine towards Cardinal Village is showing yellow. Jared anticipates a great report from this area next week, conditions permitting.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Four Jeffries (8000ft) – Nothing but a few yellow branches showing right now. The aspen have lightened considerably though over last week.

Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Intake II (8000ft) – The canyon wall is mostly stripped now but there are some very nice patches near the dam, and a couple of the large aspen along the shoreline are starting to yellow quite nicely.

Just Starting – (0 – 10%) – Big Trees Campground (7800ft) – Nothing but green here right now.

 

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Bloody Good

Blood Moon over Mt. Shasta (9/27/15) Cory Poole

Blood Moon over Mt. Shasta (9/27/15) Cory Poole

Cory Poole’s photograph of this past weekend’s eclipse of the moon over Mt. Shasta can only be described as “Bloody Good.”

Poole is a high school teacher who combines an eye for astronomy and landscapes in his photography.  Like many photographers who contribute their work to California Fall Color, he sells prints of his work. If you see any photographs on this site (including this bloody good image) of which you would like to buy a professionally printed reproduction, email editor(at)californiafallcolor.com and we’ll put you in touch with the photographer.

Dogwood, Plumas County (9/25/15) Jeff Titcomb

Dogwood, Plumas County (9/25/15) Jeff Titcomb

Indian Rhubarb, Feather River (9/25/15) Mike Nellor

Indian Rhubarb, Feather River (9/25/15) Mike Nellor

Other photographers providing work from the Shasta Cascade this week are Mike Nellor and Jeff Titcomb.

Mike captures the first coloration of Indian Rhubarb along a stream, while Jeff creates a still life of changing dogwood leaves.

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Confirmed: North Lake Peaking For Sure

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

We were as surprised as our readers when Bishop Creek (Inyo County, Eastern Sierra) jumped from Patchy to Peak last week, though color spotter Nikhil Shahi confirms this rating was deserved and shares these beautiful pictures, taken this past weekend.

Nikhil writes, “North Lake is at peak, for sure… it will not last. It’s just gorgeous there.”

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/27/15) Nikhil Shahi

South Lake Road is bursting with color as far up as Weir Pond.  Lee Vining Canyon is two weeks away from full color and there’s good color at Conway Summit and along the road to Virginia Lakes.

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What A Difference Three Days Makes

Crab Park, Eel River, Loleta (9/28/15) Crys Black

Three days ago, Mendocino County color spotter Crys Black had decided to report fall color as Just Starting north of Willits on U.S. 101, but when she drove The Redwood Highway this morning, “the color was beautiful and I have to bump it up to 10-50% with the best location just north of Willits.”

Oriole in Yarrow, Crab Park, Eel River, Loleta (9/28/15) Crys Black

Crys says Mendocino County received two inches of rain recently, nourishing beautiful orange, yellow, “even some purple… wildflowers.”

The fall color along 101 is Patchy, with a lot of yellow and some oranges and reds. Most of the yellow comes from bigleaf maple, the orange from alder, chartreuse from climbing wild cucumber and splashes of red from poison oak, Toxicodendron diversilobum.

There is no poison in poison oak. What creates its irritating, painful rash is contact with urushiol oil, a potent allergen found on the plant’s leaves. Unfortunately for those affected, poison oak is California’s most prevalent woody shrub. That prevalence, for those of us who appreciate red fall color, has the positive aspect of brightening woodlands with crimson in autumn.

U.S. 101 North of Willits (9/28/15) Crys Black

U.S. 101 North of Willits (9/28/15) Crys Black

U.S. 101 North of Willits (9/28/15) Crys Black

U.S. 101 North of Willits (9/28/15) Crys Black

Crys says the vines are showing pretty color around Asti and Geyserville, though it’s Just Starting.  Crush arrived early this year, though fall color will develop as in previous years.

Donna Hufford a color spotter at Elk Meadow Cabins in Orick reports that alder and bigleaf maple beside U.S. 101, north of Orick, are now coloring Redwood National and State Parks with bright patches of orange and yellow.  Roosevelt Elk bulls, the largest in North America, are in full rut as they trumpet and fight one another for mating rights to harems of elk cows.

Just Starting (0-10%) – North Coast Vineyards

Patchy (10-50%) – U.S. 101 – Willits to Klamath 

Just Starting (0-10%) – U.S. 101 – Klamath to Crescent City

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Mono County Gets Hot – GO NOW!

Summer's Meadow from Green Creek Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Summer’s Meadow from Green Creek Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

In what she describes (we concur) as some of Mono County’s nicest photos so far this season, color spotter Alicia Vennos updates us on how her county has suddenly gotten hot with fall color.

Virginia Lakes Road (9/23/15) Alicia Vennos

A VW Camper patrols Virginia Lakes Rd. for fall color (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Dunderberg Meadow Rd near Virginia Lakes Rd (9/24/15) Alicia Vennos

Lower Twin Lakes (9/25/15) Misti Sullivan

Lower Twin Lakes (9/25/15) Misti Sullivan

Lower Twin Lakes (9/25/15) Misti Sullivan

Lower Twin Lakes (9/25/15) Misti Sullivan

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Virginia Creek Rd/Dunderberg Meadow Rd. – Groves of aspen near the Virginia Lakes currently range from bright red, to orange, to gold and lime-green, with a few completely denuded stands (our bet is those that lost their leaves were due to black leaf spot fungus, not the change of seasons).

Patchy (10-50%) – Green Creek/Summer’s Meadow – Green Creek/Summer’s meadow is about to pop and should be peaking within a week.  This is one of the most beautiful areas of the Eastern Sierra and one that few photographers and leaf peepers ever visit.  A vehicle that doesn’t mind a dirt road (Rats! I just washed my car… oh, well) that’s bumpy in places is best to make this trek.  And, if you happen to have a SUV, well use it as it was designed to be used… off-road.

Near Peak (50-75%) – Twin Lakes, Bridgeport – Most of the Twin Lakes area is glowing and by next week should be peaking.  The Twin Lakes are tucked against an escarpment of Sierra peaks in the southwest corner of the Bridgeport Valley, a broad, grassy mountain basin that in summer is covered with hundreds of grazing cattle.  The town of Bridgeport is the capital seat of Mono County with a photogenic 1880 Italianate county courthouse that is still being used.  It even has a cannon sitting in front of it.

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Sherwin Lakes Brightly Beautiful

Sherwin Lake (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Sherwin Lake (9/24/15) Josh Wray

The trail to Sherwin Lakes Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

The trail to Sherwin Lakes Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Fly fishing at Sherwin Lakes Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Fly fishing at Sherwin Lakes Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Aspen along the trail to Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Aspen along the trail to Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

Sherwin Lakes (9/24/15) Josh Wray

It’s an invigorating hike to the Sherwin Lakes above the town of Mammoth Lakes, though the reward is worth the effort.

The trail passes through colorful brush and the lakes reflect fall color that rings the lakes.  And, once at the lakes, dip your fly to catch and release native trout.

Here’s what color spotter Josh Wray found with some friends when they hiked there, yesterday.

Patchy (10-50%) – Sherwin Lakes – Brush paint the trail to the Sherwin Lakes above Mammoth in shades of gold and buff.  At the lakes, a mix of green, lime, yellow and orange aspen are reflected in the lake’s still waters.

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High Sierra Surprise: Full Peak – GO NOW!

Weir Pond (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Weir Pond (9/24/15) Jared Smith

After posting Mono County’s report this morning, I anticipated the arrival of Jared Smith’s report from Bishop Creek Canyon in the Eastern Sierra.  I sensed he would report Near Peak at Surveyor’s Meadow, but was blown away by the news that color has changed rapidly in the past few days, pushing all areas above Mt. Glen Campground to full Peak.

Therefore, CaliforniaFallColor.com is issuing its first GO NOW! alerts of autumn (just a day after the autumnal equinox).  When we issue these alerts, do not delay getting to the locations identified as Near Peak or Peaking, as the turned leaves are very fragile and can be blown away.  In this instance, there is such a mix of color that it should last a while, though our advice is… GO NOW!

Here’s Jared’s report:

Overall Conditions Above 8500ft Elevation

Surveyor's Meadow (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Surveyor’s Meadow (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – What a difference a week makes! Color has exploded up Bishop Creek Canyon at higher elevations, with Lake Sabrina, North Lake and anything on the South Fork above Mt. Glen Campground peaking.

Jared says he’s noticing some odd transitioning occurring. “Where usually entire groves change together, instead a really cool mix of yellow, orange and red are appearing simultaneously with quite a few stubborn green aspen in the mix.” The color variation is gorgeous though he is rating these areas at Full Peak or at the high end of Near Peak, “as by the time those stubborn green trees turn, the others may have given up their color.  We’re certainly in the “Go Now!” zone. If the weather plays ball, the next 7 days will be excellent in the higher reaches of the canyon…hard to say beyond that.”

Overall Conditions Between 7500ft & 8500ft Elevation – Patchy (10% – 50%) – Quite a bit more yellow than last week but still mostly green in areas that we’ll see go off later in the autumn. I would rate this area just above 10% but barely. Some brilliant yellow patches below Mt. Glen Campground, Cardinal Village, Intake II and Mist Falls, but below those spots we’re looking at mostly green.

Weir Pond (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Weir Pond (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – Weir Pond (9650ft) – Weir is about as good as its going to get this season with brilliant yellow and a bit of orange reflecting off the glass pond. The aspen along the road are still mostly green so there is still a little left to change, but this is pretty much peak photo time if you want to catch the yellow on the hillside and near the inlet.

Sabrina Campground (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Sabrina Campground (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – Sabrina Campground (9000ft) – This area is hard to call because even areas close to one another change at slightly different times, but there is peak color right now in large areas along Hwy 168 and just above the campground on the North Lake Rd. Still some green within the campground itself but there is peak color surrounding it.

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – Parchers Resort (9260ft) – Yellow pretty much surrounds the resort on all sides with the groves above Rainbow Meadow on the old trail to South Lake taking the cake as the most brilliant. Groves below the resort in between Parchers and Willow Camp are also looking spectacular.

Near Peak – GO NOW! (50% – 75%) – Willow Campground (9000ft) – The campground is really starting to change but the canyon walls above the to the south of the beaver pond are already exploding with color. I’m still guessing next week will be the best.

Peak – GO NOW!(75% – 100%) – Table Mountain Camp (8900ft) – Lots of color now showing all around the campground as well as below the campground. There is still some green yet to change along the roadway but it likely won’t the best will be seen over the next 7 days tops.

Surveyor's Meadow (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Surveyor’s Meadow (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – Surveyors Meadow (8975ft) – This is probably the most brilliant view along South Lake road with lots of yellow and touches of orange. We’ve lost a little color from those scrub aspen that popped early, but the larger aspen are now showing brilliant color and have brought this area into the “Go Now” zone. I’d expect the next 7 days to be the window for this location to be at its best.

Sabrina Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Sabrina Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Sabrina Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Sabrina Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – Lake Sabrina (9150ft) – Spectacular views at Lake Sabrina now. This may be closer to the 75% mark than the 100% mark, especially as the approach to the lake still has some ways to go, but not for long. Some rosy red, orange and yellow blanket the shoreline as well as the canyon wall near the lake’s main inlet. Breathtaking morning reflections off the lake despite the lower than normal water level.

North Lake Road (9/24/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/24/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/24/15) Jared Smith

North Lake Road (9/24/15) Jared Smith

North Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

North Lake (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Peak – GO NOW! (75% – 100%) – North Lake (9255ft) – This was an area difficult to grade as areas of the north shore of the lake, the approach to the lake, and the aspen grove near the upper parking lot are all fully peaking. Still yet to peak however are the road just past the lake (one of my favorite views), and the aspen along the west shore. It’s hard to say whether or not this area will have color all at once so I consider this a “go now” scenario as there is peak color to be had and whether it will get much better is hard to say.

Near Peak – GO NOW! (50 – 75%) – Stiny Loop above Mt. Glen Camp (8600ft) – We’re getting pretty close to a peak color situation here with tons of yellow mixed in with lime green.

Groves Above Cardinal Village (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Groves Above Cardinal Village (9/24/15) Jared Smith

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Mist Falls and the Groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8350ft) – I almost wanted to call this patchy but alas, only a few yellow trees and some obvious lightening of the aspen at the very crest of the waterfall. This location is always photo-worthy, but not like it will be in 7 to 10 days from now.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Aspendell (8400ft) – Very few signs of color here right now.

Patchy (10 – 50%)  – Groves above Cardinal Village (8550ft) – This area actually lost some color over the last report as far as the yellow that was blanketing the east wall of the canyon below Cardinal Pinnacle. The aspen surrounding and below Cardinal Village are starting to lighten up considerably with some nice yellow patches in the mix. Looking for this to get really good in the next week or so.

Just Starting (0 – 10%) – Four Jeffries (8000ft) – Nothing but a few yellow branches showing right now. The aspen have lightened considerably though over last week.

Patchy – (10 – 50%) – Intake II (8000ft) – Much of the yellow on the canyon wall is gone, but the color is just starting to develop around the lake with bright lime greens mixed with some patchy yellow.

Just Starting – (0 – 10%) – Big Trees Campground (7800ft) – Nothing but green here right now.