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Last Light

Pecan orchard, CA-20, Williams (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

The last light of fall color can still be seen in California’s orchards and woodlands.

Walt Gabler found it along CA-20 from Williams to Clear Lake, though noted “It is nearing its end.”

Black oak, CA-20, Upper Lake (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

The Lake County region (north of the Napa Valley) gets its fall color from its pear and walnut orchards, vineyards and California native trees (bigleaf maple, black oak, cottonwood).

This lovely area surrounds the largest natural freshwater lake wholly within California. It is also ancient. Samples of sedimentary levels date it as 480,000 years old.

Renowned as a bass fishing water, Clear Lake is also famed for watersports, including swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, sailing, jet skiing and boat racing.

More recently, the area’s wineries have attracted attention.  The best-known Lake County wineries include: Guenoc, Langtry Estate Vineyards and Winery, Ployez Winery, Steele Wines, and Wildhurst Vineyards.

Christmas berry, Toyon, Colusa/Lake County Line (12/4/18) Walt Gabler

This late in autumn, snow has dusted the High Sierra and California holly (Toyon) are now dressing coastal and valley woodlands with bright red Christmas berries. 

Conway Summit, US 395 (12/3/18) Walt Gabler
  • CA-20, Williams to Upper Lake – Peak to Past Peak, You Almost Missed It.


Singed Edges of Yosemite

This past summer’s Ferguson Fire singed the edges of Yosemite National Park and consumed 96,901 acres. It also was a human tragedy, killing two and injuring 19.

Color spotter Crys Black explored a large area of the Yosemite region, this past weekend to see how the fire affected the park experience.

She began at Mammoth Pool Reservoir, south of Bass Lake. The following day, she drove north along CA-41 through the southwest park entrance, past Wawona and Glacier Point before descending into Yosemite Valley, finally leaving by the Merced River Canyon, a route that took her through the center of the Ferguson complex.

Near Bass Lake, Crys reported spotty color, “around Nelder Creek and again near Mammoth Pool Reservoir and the San Joaquin River on Minarets Rd.”

“Sunset near Whiskey Falls at Cascade Woods was something else, especially spooky with fire-ravaged trees standing sentinel.”

She past severe fire damage along CA-41, 140, and the Glacier Rd., though remarked that, “even amongst the damage, new growth has already started in most places.”

Yosemite Valley was “as breathtaking as I’ve ever seen it,” staying so long that the light was too low to photograph the Merced River Canyon on her departure along CA-140 toward Mariposa, noting that the Yosemite View Lodge was “spared, yet again.”

Though she could not photograph the canyon, Crys reported that it should “remain colorful probably for another weekend if the weather is gentle, aside from the fire areas, all the way into Mariposa.” 

  • Southwest Entrance, Yosemite National Park – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT. – Spots of color are all that remain between Fish Camp and Tunnel View.
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Black oak and cottonwood are at peak, bigleaf maple and dogwood are Past Peak.
  • Merced River Canyon, CA-140 – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

It Hasta Be Shasta

Black oak and Mt. Shasta (11/3/18) Namita Mishra

For sheer drama posed beside fall color in early November, it has to be Shasta.

Color spotter Namita Mishra was there this past weekend and sent back photographs of black oak, Quercus kelloggii,  laden with orange leaves near the end of peak.

This week is likely the last to see peak color around the City of Mt. Shasta. Check below for previous reports on peak color being seen from Mt. Shasta south to Redding. 

  • Mt. Shasta – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
Black oak and white alder, Mt. Shasta (11/3/18) Namita Mishra


The Longest Peak

When all other native trees are past peak, Black oak, Quercus kelloggii, hang in there.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples traveled to McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park on Saturday and was impressed by the fall color, which “was absolutely stunning. Although some of the black oak leaves have dried/browned a bit, others are still a vivid orange/yellow.

“Moreover,” he continued, “because autumn has been mild with few storms and little wind, trees are retaining their leaves quite well.”

He found that even “close to the falls, vegetation has begun to turn color, creating a colorful frame/backdrop for the falls. The same can be said for the creek, which is lined with a great variety of vegetation, all of which is sporting gorgeous fall color.”

That’s impressive, as Burney Falls is at elev. 2,783′ and yet elevations down to 100′ are nearing peak.

If you’re near Redding, Clayton encourages getting to Burney Falls now before storms arrive. As, the trip “is well worth it!” 

  • Burney Falls, McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park (2,783′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Freeway of Love

Bigleaf maple, Moccasin, CA-89, Plumas County (10/27/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, CA-89, Crescent Mills (10/27/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

There’s something about taking a long, slow weekend drive in a classic Cadillac, especially on a beautiful autumn day.

Roll down the windows and take in the sweet smells of autumn leaves as they tumble about you.

I recall drives like that in my mother’s two-toned mint/forest green ’56 Sedan de Ville with satin brocade seats.

Dad had gotten it for a song after it was returned to a dealership when its sale went bad.  Suddenly, everyone thought we were rich and snooty. Neither was true, though mom liked to pretend that we had more than we really had.

Indian Creek, CA-89, Crescent MIlls, Plumas County (10/27/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

To a kid, mom’s Cadillac was magical. The lights would dim automatically when cars approached. In other cars, the driver would stomp on a floorboard button to dim them. The gas cap was hidden under one of the tail lights. You pushed a reflector to open the fin-shaped dome. And, at 214.5 inches long, there was plenty of leg room for a kid, two kids, three kids, a whole Pack of Cub Scouts, and no seat belts.

In the ’60s, Cadillac was the automotive brand most mentioned in songs. I found a couple of dozen songs that mentioned or were about Caddys, before I gave up counting. Cadillac still holds the number three position for most songs ever written about a car, and they’re some of the best songs ever written. Sure, Brian Wilson wrote “Little Honda,” which is a great song, but it’s about a motorbike, not about a Civic.

So, what do my reminiscences about Cadillacs have to do with fall color? Only that Plumas County color spotter Jeff Luke Titcomb is like me. He knows there’s little in life better than listening to old songs as you slow-drive an oldie-but-goodie down a country road past fall color. And, he did it along the backroads and byways of Plumas County in his classic Caddy, this weekend. 

Now, let’s roll down the window, let that warm/crisp autumn air blow our cares away and listen as Aretha sings …

“Oh, we got some places to see
I brought all the maps with me
So jump right in, it ain’t no sin
Take a ride in my machine
 … “

— Aretha Franklin, Freeway of Love

  • Indian Valley, Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Round Valley, Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Black oak, Round Valley Reservoir, Greenville, Plumas County (10/27/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb


Surprising Susanville

Susanville, CA-36 (10/21/18) John Poimiroo

Susanville, CA-36 (10/21/18) John Poimiroo

We didn’t expect much as we drove toward Susanville on CA-36, this past Sunday.

Willows along the Susan River were dry and colorless, but then the hills surrounding Susanville began to light up with orange-yellow black oak sprinkled along a ridge of conifers.

Then, “Surprise, surprise,” the drive through Susanville, then south on US 395, beside Honey Lake and past Janesville and Milford, massive black oak and Fremont cottonwood popped with gorgeous color, backlit by the afternoon sun. 

  • Susanville (4,186′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Susanville, CA-36 (10/21/18) John Poimiroo

Black oak, Milford, US-395 (10/21/18) John Poimiroo


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Plumose Plumas

Community United Methodist Church, Quincy (10/20/18) Michael Beatley

Quincy (10/19/18)Ravi Ranganathan

Plumas County is absolutely beatific.

Peak fall color is brightening all its byways and Quincy, the county seat, has never looked better.

Michael Beatley, Phillip Reedy and Ravi Ranganathan have been working the byways, backroads and city streets of Quincy to show Plumas and its environs at plumose perfection.

Beatley describes Quincy as “gorgeous right now. Beautiful peak with blue skies, daytime temps low 70s, nights 25-32 degrees. The wonderful thing about Quincy, is that all its downtown power lines were buried years ago. No telephone poles. The whole town is full of beautiful foliage.”

To get this fabulous light, he was up at dawn to shoot historic Plumas Superior Courthouse and Community United Methodist Church bathed in color so angelic, it makes me want to genuflect.

Ravi began his photo safari in Quincy, but then traveled to Oakland Camp where “the rhubarbs were mirrored gloriously along Spanish Creek.”

Oakland Camp, Feather River (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

The highlight of Ravi’s Plumas County fall color excursion was a hike along the Cascades Trail “with beautiful colors all along. I hiked ’til I came upon a couple of wooden bridges. Looking down, the view of the stream was amazing with the fall colors reflected with gold.” (First Report)

Ravi’s fall color expedition included stops at Thompson Lake, Bucks Lake and Big Creek Road, all “filled with aspen, oak and maple. He had used to research the places he wanted to photograph and gave a nod of thanks to Michael Beatley and Jeff Luke Titcomb for additional guidance and inspiration.

What Ravi accomplished in capturing in a short amount of time was nothing short of astonishing, hitting a number of Plumas highlights.

Plumas County Superior Courthouse, Quincy (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Plumas County Superior Courthouse, Quincy (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Similar to Ranganathan’s photo tour, Reedy began in Quincy, then toured through the Lakes Basin and down Hwy 49 to Downieville along the north fork of the Yuba.

Phil said “Quincy looks lovely, although the maples at the courthouse still have a bit to go to reach full color. Perhaps another week will do it.” That’s good news for anyone reading this, as there’s a week to get there and still see it at peak, though as Ravi’s photographs show, aspen at Thompson Lake are dropping color.

One of the reasons Plumas County is such a great fall color destination is that a variety of trees show at one elevation in successive displays over about three weeks: first pink dogwood, then yellow aspen, then golden bigleaf maple, then multicolored exotics, and finally orange black oak.

Reedy said CA-70 from Quincy to Graeagle is showing “a lot of oaks at Peak color right now and very pretty. There are some aspens in the Lakes Basin area, but nothing too exciting when compared to areas like Hope Valley.”

Yuba River, Sierra City (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Salmon Creek, Sierra City (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Yuba River, Downieville (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Black oak, Quincy to Graeagle (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Black oak, Quincy to Graeagle (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

Sardine Lake (10/19/18) Phillip Reedy

















He continued, between 5,000 and 6,000′ along CA-49 east of Sierra City, “the aspens are definitely at peak or a bit beyond. Downstream between Sierra City and Downieville there are nice colors from big leaf maples, but I would guess another week will be needed to fully develop the colors.” 

  • Plumas County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Big Creek Rd., Plumas County (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Big Creek Rd., Plumas County (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Big Creek Rd., Plumas County (10/20/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Road to Buck’s Lake (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Thompson Lake, Plumas County (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Bucks Meadow, Plumas County (10/20/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Oakland Camp, Feather River (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Oakland Camp, Feather River (10/19/18) Ravi Ranganathan

Quincy (10/19/18)Ravi Ranganathan

Quincy (10/19/18)Ravi Ranganathan

Keddie Wye, (10/19/18) Plumas County Ravi Ranganathan

Sugar maple, (10/19/18) Thompson Ranch, Ravi Ranganathan

Plumas County Superior Courthouse, Quincy (10/20/18) Michael Beatley


Meadow Valley Morn


Pacific dogwood, Bigleaf maple, Black oak, Meadow Valley (10/16/18) Michael Beatley

Aspen, Meadow Valley (10/16/18) Michael Beatley

Black oak, Meadow Valley (10/16/18) Michael Beatley

Manzanita, Meadow Valley (10/16/18) Michael Beatley

Dogwood, Meadow Valley (10/16/18) Michael Beatley

Mornings are golden in Meadow Valley, Plumas County color spotter Michael Beatley reports.

Michael shot pictures  along Big Creek Rd,  just west of Meadow Valley in Plumas County.  It is the lower road to Bucks Lake. Turn Left at the split in the road where the sign reads, “Bucks Lake via Big Creek Rd for RVs.” The road is populated with bigleaf maple, Pacific dogwood, black oak, and some quaking aspen.

As Beatley’s photographs show, this nine-mile road to Bucks Lake is gorgeous and “worth the drive.” Intense purple, orange, red, yellow, vermillion, gold, lime, pink and green tones, illuminated by shadowed light create magical results on a Meadow Valley morn.

Best time of the day to drive Big Creek Rd. is between 9 a.m. and noon. A 4WD vehicle is required. Accommodations may be obtained in Quincy (click the UpStateCA graphic below for guidance).

Plumas County is at Peak now and through the coming week. A trip to the Northern Sierra now is a must for anyone who’s never seen it at Peak. 

  • Meadow Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!



Road to Round Valley

Bigleaf maple, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Bigleaf maple, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

“Road to Round Valley,” sounds like it should be a country song, doesn’t it?

In my mind, I hear the “Yodeling Blonde Bombshell” Carolina Cotton, singing about losing her first love along that road “when a black oak stole his blackened heart.”

The pain of her loss just makes me saddle sore, though having seen these oaks at peak, I understand how her cowboy’s affections could be stolen so easily.

So, when Jeff Luke Titcomb sent images taken along the “Road to Round Valley” in Plumas County, the black oak, bigleaf maple, California ash and Pacific dogwood he’d photographed had me humming a cowboy melody as Carolina might sing, complete with mournful yodel.

Pacific dogwood, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

California ash, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Round Valley (10/13/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Jeff writes, “The road to round valley is still waiting for the oaks to change and they still have some time to go. Dogwoods started early but slowed down when the rain came, but now the leaves are just dropping in some places most likely due to months of dry weather.”

The action appears to be among the bigleaf maple, “which are in full color.”

Perhaps in my reverie, Carolina wins her cowboy’s heart again “beneath the spreading branches of granny’s golden maple tree.” Brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? 

  • Round Valley (4,692′) – Patchy (10-50%) – Bigleaf maple are Near Peak, though dogwood have slowed and black oak are weeks from peak.




Indian Falls: Short Hike 4 Color

Black oak, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Indian rhubarb, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

It’s a short hike from CA-89 to Indian Falls. So short, that Jeff Luke Titcomb walked there for a picnic lunch.

Indian Falls is a popular summer swimming hole (be cautious of ankle grabbing rocks), but in autumn it’s a convenient spot for a quick get away.

Black oak (Quercus kelloggii) that have grown between cracks among the boulders like larger bonsai trees, have turned bright red and orange. Mid October is an early Peak for black oak, which is more a Halloween tree.

In comparison, the bigleaf maple (Acer macrophyllum) and Indian rhubarb (Darmera) near the creek are Patchy. Still, it’s worth the hike to see the oaks and enjoy a bit of solitude by Indian Creek. 

  • Black oak, Indian Falls (3,202′) – Peak – (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Indian rhubarb and Bigleaf maple, Indian Falls (3,202′) – Patchy (10-50%)

Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Black oak, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Indian rhubarb, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Indian rhubarb, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb

Indian rhubarb, Indian Falls (10/12/18) Jeff Luke Titcomb