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California’s Urban Forests are – in a word – “Glorious”

Acapulco St., Campbell (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Acapulco St., Campbell (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

A road trip from the Sierra Foothills to Silicon Valley and back, today, provided opportunities to see how color is developing along the I-80, I-680 and I-880 corridors.  In a word, it is “glorious.”

Land Park, Sacramento (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Land Park, Sacramento (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Sacramento – Piles of leaves along Sacramento streets are a sure sign that the fall color is past peak on some species.  Sycamore are among them, though other large species in Sacramento are still yellow and orange, with spots of red.  Land Park, south of U.S. 50 and the Fabulous 40s in midtown have the best displays of color.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Dixon Agricultural Corridor – Orchards between Davis and Vacaville are at peak.

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Danville Oak (File Photo) Yelp

Danville Oak (File Photo) Yelp

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon – Native oak are softly pastel orange, while exotic species are blazing.  Color spotter Linnea Wahamaki sent along these shots taken this past week at the Livery Shopping Center in Danville.  We tip our hat to Danville which, Linnea reports, “Does a good job of planting and protecting trees, and is really gorgeous during the autumn season – as is evident by these stunning trees!”  Danville is one of California’s Cities of Trees, even with a landmark oak that has it’s own Yelp page.

Palo Alto (11/17/13) Mathias Van Hesemans

Palo Alto (11/17/13) Mathias Van Hesemans

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – San Francisco Peninsula – The Peninsula communities of Burlingame, Hillsborough, Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Atherton are providing the best show of color in the Bay Area.

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Livery Shopping Center, Danville (11/13/13) Linnea Wahamaki

Leaf pile on Pine in San Jose (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Leaf pile on Pine in San Jose (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Pomagranate, Silicon Valley (11/15/13) John Poimiroo

Pomegranate, Silicon Valley (11/15/13) John Poimiroo


GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Silicon Valley – The Santa Clara County communities of Campbell, Los Gatos and San Jose are dressed in fall foliage.  Brilliant stands of gingko are found along the boulevards.  Before it became known as Silicon Valley (for the silicon chips produced here by Intel), the Santa Clara Valley was known for growing fruit (apricots, plums and other tree fruit).

Today, a pomegranate bush along Pine in San Jose was heavy with ripe fruit.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Japanese Maple Leaves during storm (11/28/12) John Poimiroo

Redbud (11/28/12) John Poimiroo

Redbud (11/29/12) John Poimiroo

Mission olives (11/28/12) John Poimiroo

A lot changes in a day, as seen in these photos (left) taken of a redbud tree in El Dorado Hills that was denuded in a day.

High winds and rain have knocked color from trees (above), carpeting Northern California with wet color.

On Tuesday, we traveled up CA-99 to Chico, stopping at Chaffin Family Farms near Oroville, where another aspect of fall color was seen… the olive harvest.

75 – 100% – Sacramento Valley – Nut and fruit orchards vary from peaking to past peak.  Recent storms have stripped trees of turned leaves, though color remains to be seen throughout the valley.

75 – 100% – Chico – Cottonwood were showing 75% yellow with some lime to green in riparian areas along the Sacramento River, west of Chico.

75 – 100% – CA-99 – Cottonwood are 75% yellow with some lime to green along the Feather River, east of Gridley.

Color Moves to the Mid Elevations

Napa Valley (file photo) John Poimiroo

Fall color has now descended to the mid elevations throughout California, with peak color occurring in the vineyards, the Sierra foothills, the San Jacinto Mountains in Southern California and on Hwy 299 between Redding and Weaverville.

Color is peaking in urban forests and orchards of the Sacramento Valley.  With an approaching storm, leaf peepers and photographers are advised to go now to peaking areas, before the leaves are further denuded from branches.

Eastern Sierra

75 – 100% – Owens Valley – The Owens Valley remains beautiful with long-lasting spots of bright color along US 395 in Bishop and Independence.

75 – 100% – Rock Creek – First to peak and last to peak in the Eastern Sierra, Rock Creek continues to have areas of lovely color at its lowest elevations.

Past Peak – June Lake – Although there are small pockets of nice  color found along the June Lake Loop, this area is now mostly past peak.

High Sierra

Past Peak – All elevations above 5,000′ are now past peak.

Past Peak – Yosemite Valley – The combination of snow on fall color was gorgeous in Yosemite Valley this past weekend, but this likely was the last spurt of leaf peeping to be seen in the national park.

Gold Country

75 – 100% – Color has descended along the Mother Lode with beautiful orange and yellow maples and oaks showing from the 2,000 to 4,000′ elevations.

Central Valley

75 – 100% – The urban forests in Sacramento, Modesto and  cities of the northern Central Valley have been peaking for the past two weeks with beautiful color reported.  Sacramento is a veritable jewel box of brilliant reds, auburns, oranges, yellows and chartreuse.  Recent storms have affected some trees, though there’s still a lots and lots of color to be seen.   Go Now!

North Coast

75 – 100% – Napa and Sonoma County Vineyards – As has been happening for near a  month, the vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Counties have been peaking, with vineyards showing ruby, orange, yellow and lime by variety.  The wine country doesn’t change all at once, it shows by plot, though lots of great color remains.  Go Now!

Southern California

75 – 100% – San Jacinto Mountains – Dazzling displays of yellow and orange have been seen among the maple and oaks of the San Jacinto Mountains near Lake Hemet, Mountain Center and Idyllwild.  Go Now!

Sacramento Wins Votes – Go Now!

In time for the fall election, the state capital city of Sacramento gets the votes of color spotters Amy King and Nicole Coburn, as popping with campaign-winning color.

75 – 100% – Sacramento – The City of Trees is aflame in red, orange and yellow with a display of fall color that is strong enough to stop political ads dead in their tracks.

Here’s a proposition… go now to see the urban forest of our state capital at its prime.  Great places to see color: Capitol Park, Land Park and the Fabulous 40s (residential areas along avenues 40 through 49 in midtown Sacramento).

What a Difference a Day Makes

Redbud before the storm (11/30/11) © 2011 John Poimiroo

Same redbud, after the storm (11/30/11) © 2011 John Poimiroo

It didn’t even take “24 little hours” for the color to disappear in El Dorado Hills.  These two photographs of a Redbud, covered with yellow leaves were taken four and a half hours apart, as gale force winds lashed northern California today.  Some of the color survived, but much was blown from the trees.

75 – 100% – Sierra Foothills – A major windstorm lashed the Sierra Foothills, denuding some species of their colorful leaves, though leaving many other trees with lots of leaves on their branches.

75 – 100% – UC Botanical Garden – Color Spotter Sandy Steinman of Natural History Wanderings has posted lovely photos taken within the botanical garden at UC Berkeley, showing that there’s still plenty of beautiful autumn color to be seen in the San Francisco Bay Area, if you know where to wander!  CLICK HERE to see his excellent report.

Tallac Knoll with shaving brush tree at right (11/29/11) © 2011 Frank McDonough

Ginkgo biloba Saratoga, LA County Arboretum (11/29/11) © 2011 Frank McDonough

50 – 75% – LA Arboretum and Garden –Frank McDonough reports that fall color is still coming along at the Arboretum with 60%-75% of all trees here that change color having turned, but the predicted 60-70 mph winds lashing the state could be a death knell for fall color there.  Still, anyone who says there isn’t fall color in Southern California hasn’t looked out from the arboretum’s Tallac Knoll across the landscape, as seen at left.

Liquidambar, LA County Arboretum (11/29/11) © 2011 Frank McDonough

A Cornucopia of Color

75-100% – Urban Forests – Urban areas throughout California are glowing colorfully in time for Thanksgiving Day.  Mild weather has contributed to keeping leaves and berries on the trees.  The colorful show has now descended among exotic trees to below 1,000 ft in elevation with Chinese pistache showing flame red, crabapples yellow to orange-red, Sycamores varying from chartreuse to burnt sienna, and plums radiating burgundy red.  Look for the color to continue through Thanksgiving week in the Sierra Foothills, Sacramento, Fresno and San Francisco Bay Area.

Glory Continues along 299, 101 and 99

Here’s a followup report on CA-299, on visiting Redwood National and State Parks and a drive along CA-99 from Red Bluff south to Sacramento.

75 – 100% — CA-299

This route, between Redding and Arcata, is now peaking.  The colors to be seen along the route are the best I’ve ever seen along this route and should remain good until at least Sunday, when rain is predicted.

CA-299 Roadside Bigleaf Maple (11/3/10) - John Poimiroo

Bigleaf maple are absolutely iridescent, glowing phosphorescent yellow to yellow-orange.  There’s lots of chartreuse in the mixed oak, maple, fir, pine and hardwood forests along the Trinity River. Wild cucumber (poisonous) drape oaks in muted shades of yellow-orange to chartreuse, though have lovely heart-shaped leaves that provide a dappled beauty.

CA-299 Berry Summit (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

The best viewing areas are from Whiskeytown Lake NRA west to Weaverville, then again from the Salyer Rest Area west to Berry Summit.  If you stop at the Salyer rest area, enjoy taking a short walk in the hardwood forest on a hillside behind the rest area.  Levels of colorful lime to yellow leaves provide a zen atmosphere to the naturally landscaped scene.

CA-299 Near Hoopa (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

At points along the route, clusters of bold yellow maple provide stunning contast to the subtle oranges of the oaks that climb high up to mountain crests.  The subtlety of color here is special… quite different from the bold colors of the Eastern Sierra, but still lovely.  At times, it’s hard to keep the car on the road, the colors are so beautiful.  These photos, sadly, do not do it justice, though click on any of them to get a better rendering of what I saw.  They’ll blow up and show the color more clearly.  And, to learn more about visiting the area, CLICK HERE.

15-30% – Redwood National and State Parks

I drove 299, then US 101 to Redwood National and State Parks.  The color change in the national park is disappointing, though occasional maple are colorful.

Roosevelt Elk Play Fighting at Elk Meadow (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Roosevelt Elk, Redwood National and State Parks (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

What didn’t disappoint were the Roosevelt Elk.  Locals report that the annual elk rut was especially violent this year with several cars rammed by the aroused elk.

The rut has mostly ended, though I caught these boys play fighting beneath a beautiful tree at Elk Meadow Cabins, one of the best places to see the elk, dependably.

Morning at Elk Meadow Cabins (11/4/10) - John Poimiroo

The past two mornings, I awoke at Elk Meadow Cabins to find the local herd of some 30 Roosevelt Elk, including cows and bulls grazing around the cabins.

An elk cow considers crossing (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

I used an 18 – 200mm lens and these shots varied in focal length from 60 to 200mm.  It is advised to approach the elk only so close that they do not react to you, any further and you place stress upon them.

CLICK HERE to learn more about seeing the elk.

15-30% – CA-99 Red Bluff to Marysville

Sacred Stones in a Walnut Orchard (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

On my return from Redding, I decided to drive down CA-99 to see if walnut and prune orchards were changing.  In keeping with what we’re seeing throughout California this year, the color change is late in the orchards, just as it was in the Eastern Sierra.  That means orchards in the northern Central Valley of California should be turning through mid November… a wonderful visual treat for anyone in search of late fall color.

A stop at Vina (north of Chico) included a visit to the Abbey of New Clairvaux, where the sacred stones of an 800-year-old Cistercian monestary are being erected.  This project is considered to be the most important contemporary reconstruction of a historic stone building, anywhere on Earth.  When completed, the Gothic interior of the Abbey’s ancient Chapter House will be the most complete and significant example of Gothic architecture in the Western Hemisphere.

Ancient gothic arches are rising inside a building at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/10) - John Poimiroo

Visitors to the Abbey of New Clairvaux have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a true Gothic structure being rebuilt.  So, I urge anyone who appreciates architecture to make a trip to Vina now to see the abbey’s chapter house being rebuilt, before it’s finished.  CLICK HERE to read more about the sacred stones.

We received these other reports from Leilani one of our color spotters from the Shasta-Cascade Wonderland Association:

Butte County

Butte County’s trees are continuing to give quite a show.   The leaves are still on the trees and the color change is now at 70%, more in the higher elevations of the Paradise/Magalia area.  Pentz and Bille Road areas are spectacular as well. Colors will continue to intensify over the next few weeks and then should peak.

Shasta County

North Valley towns

Fall colors are vibrant now.  Brilliant reds, oranges and yellows are splashed across the valley floor pallet.  The ornamentals are showing at about 80%, while the willows, liquid amber and birch that turn such a beautiful yellow are past peak and in the process of losing their leaves.

Whiskeytown National Recreation Area:

The colors around Whiskeytown have increased to about 50%.  The Chinese pistachios and liquid amber are beautifully framing the lake.  With consistent cold weather and rain coming the colors will intensify and peak quickly now.

Burney Falls State Park:

Colors are great up at Burney Falls.  It’s a good time for a drive, since the California State Park ranger says the colors are at peak but with a good wind, they will be gone.  Don’t miss this spectacular area.

Tehama County

Lassen Park:

Colors are in full swing in the park.  Aspen, cottonwood & willows still have good color but are peaking now.

Lassen County

Lassen National Forest:

There is noticeable change throughout the forest.  Colors are in post-peak but still beautiful and dramatic.  Time for a day trip!

Modoc County

Modoc National Forest

There is snow in the higher elevations so the fall colors in past peak now.

Siskiyou County

More vibrant colors have appeared this past week around the Mt. Shasta area, peaking in the higher elevations.

Trinity County

There is still some color to be seen around the Hwy.3 loop but most of the trees in the county are past peak.

Plumas County

Trees in Plumas County are at peak.  The oaks have turned an incredible orange.  The aspen and dogwood are also spectacular.  The areas around the Feather River Canyon, Cromburg, Indian Valley and Antelope Lake are worth a trip.

CLICK HERE for more about visiting the Shasta Cascade.

Wishing it would Rain…

Sacramento-based travel writer Barbara Steinberg comments to us this past week…

“I must say this really has been the most colorful Sacramento autumn I can recall. I guess the lack of rain and storms has kept the leaves on the trees…downtown Sacramento, Midtown, and surrounding neighborhoods are just beautiful. And a recent visit to Fairfield and Suisun Valley was much the same. The walnuts are green and yellow…vineyards are still showing their colors and clusters of grapes.  Still…I do wish it would rain.”

Seasons Change from Fall Color to Holiday Sparkle

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Gum and Mulberry trees, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Although autumn doesn’t end until December 21, Thanksgiving Day always seems to be the last day of the year in  which Californians are in an autumn state of mind.  After that, a blizzard of holiday sales make falling prices overwhelm falling leaves.

While there’s still lots of color to be enjoyed, most Californians shift their search from looking for fall color to searching for colorful Christmas lights and Christmas trees.

However, just because the holiday season is upon us does not mean that Mother Nature has given up her beautiful show of autumn color.  California’s urban landscape flickers with auburn, orange, crimson and yellow within its parks and along its boulevards.  Because California’s weather has been mostly mild and clear this fall, 2009 will be remembered as one of the best for beautiful and long-lasting displays of fall color.

This is the last planned California Fall Color report of the season.  Our thanks are expressed to the many color spotters across The Golden State who emailed photographs and reports.

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

Clear Lake, Lakeport (11/24/09)

75-100% — Lake County. Terre Logsdon reports that “While the harvest of pears, walnuts, and wine grapes has ended for the year, large swaths of color throughout the county remain to be enjoyed as the many oak varieties – black, blue, valley, and Oregon – are at 75% of peak and turning a muted gold to vibrant orange against a backdrop of evergreen pines. Sweet gums are a riot of color in the town of Lakeport, at their peak of color ranging from gold to deep burgundy. Flowering mulberries are nearing their peak ranging from canary yellow to bright green.

Lakeport Dickens Faire (stock photo)

Dickens Christmas Market, Lakeport (stock photo)

An annual Dickens’ Christmas Market occurs Nov. 28 in Lakeport.  This annual Christmas event transforms Lakeport into an old English village, complete with costume-clad characters, food booths, and entertainment, as well as an all-day Christmas Market from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Lighted parade begins at 6 p.m. and Christmas tree lighting follows at 6:30 p.m. on Main Street. CLICK HERE for more about this event or call (707) 263-5092.

75-100% — Onyx. Color spotter Danna Stroud of Mammoth Lakes reports that lovely gold colors clusters of trees in the Southern Sierra along CA-178 west of CA-14 and east of Lake Isabella.  Danna oversees the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau which will soon open one of the three new California Welcome Centers recently approved for designation by the California Travel & Tourism Commission.  The new Welcome Centers are located in Mammoth Lakes, El Dorado Hills and Vista and should open in early 2010.  When these state-sanctioned visitor information centers open, the number of California Welcome Centers will increase to 17.  California Welcome Centers bring together visitor information from across California and are great places to get maps and guidance on visiting California.

75-100% — San Francisco Bay Area. Color is at or past peak around San Francisco, providing lots of nostalgic autumn color in the Bay Area for the Thanksgiving Day weekend.  If you’re in The City this weekend, head to Yerba Buena Gardens and Golden Gate Park for the most diverse show of color.  Cindy Hu reports that russet and gold have “been supplanted by LEDs in many corners of The City.  Market Street is adorned with illuminated snowflakes and the palm trees in Union Square have been encircled with white lights.”  She recommends checking out these “bright spots:” Embarcadero Center, Pier 39, Ghirardelli Square, Union Square, Huntington Park, Castro and 18th Streets, Union Street, Golden Gate Park, The Presidio and Fisherman’s Wharf.  CLICK HERE for more details.

Beautiful color may also be found down the Peninsula in Burlingame, Menlo-Atherton, Palo Alto and Los Altos; in the East Bay communities of Danville, Moraga and Walnut Creek; and in the north bay cities of San Rafael and Novato.

75-100% — Sacramento. This Central Valley city is known as being second only to Paris in the number of trees, per capita.  Sacramento has so many trees that special rules govern when and where you can park, so that leaves can be cleared during autumn.  The best displays of fall color are found downtown, surrounding the State Capitol, in the Fabulous Forties (avenues numbered in the 40s) and surrounding Land Park, south of US 50 and downtown.

Past Peak — Plumas County. Color spotter Suzi Brakken reports that the Plumas and Lassen National Forest offices are now selling Christmas tree cutting permits for $10.  All you need is a saw, dry boots and snow clothes. Keep in mind that snow is plentiful in the higher elevations, especially where the favorite Silvertips are found. The permits for Plumas National Forest are also available at many local businesses, including at the Plumas County Visitors Center at the Quincy airport, a half mile west of Quincy on CA-70.  Maps of approved cutting areas come with permits, which are on sale through Dec. 24.

On the Thanksgiving weekend, holiday light parades will be held in Chester and Taylorsville, and merchant open houses with refreshments and tree-lightings will be held in small towns throughout Plumas County this weekend and next. For more information, CLICK HERE.

Past Peak — Gold Country. Color has now descended below 1,000′ in the gold country with little left to change among the oaks and maples.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!  See you next fall!

Spiritual Fall Color

Frank Helmholz carving a capital at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/09)

Frank Helmholz carving a capital at the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina (11/5/09)

Today, I drove from Redding, south, stopping in Vina to visit the Abbey of New Clairvaux.  There, master stone mason Frank Helmholz is leading a team of the world’s best stone masons in reconstructing an 800 year old Cistercian gothic abbey’s chapter house (meeting room).

Walnut Orchard and Chapter House building (11/5/09)

Walnut Orchard and Chapter House building (11/5/09)

William Randolf Hearst saved the chapter house from sure destuction and despoilation, though ran out of funds before he could reconstruct it.  In a way, it’s fortunate that happened, as it would have been placed in one of the Hearst family’s private homes.  Now, it’s being rebuilt for everyone to enjoy.  For many years, the monks at Vina have been aided by private donations (since they live a life of poverty, hard work and prayer) in rebuilding the structure.  It’s a laborious process, but when finished, it will be the finest example of original Cistercian gothic architecture in the western hemisphere.

I caught Frank Helmholz as his crew were finishing up work on the central support columns that will eventually support a spectacular vaulted gothic ceiling inside the chapter house.  The structure that contains their stone work is surrounded by walnut groves, prune orchards and vineyards, where the monks often toil.  Here’s a report what you’ll see if you drive along CA-99 north of Sacramento to Vina.

Walnut Orchard and Vineyards, Abbey of New Clairvaux (11/5/09)

Walnut Orchard and Vineyards, Abbey of New Clairvaux (11/5/09)

30-50% — CA-99.  From Yuba City north to Vina, prune and walnut orchards similar orchards have turned bright yellow-orange, tinged with bronze.  Other orchards along the route remain green, though with an early hint of color.

75-100% — Chico.  This college town (Chico State University) has perhaps California’s prettiest autumnal urban forest.  The trees are nearing peak and Chico is darn near phosphorescent right now with vibrant orange-red, yellow-orange, pink, lime-yellow, garnet, and cadmium yellow colors.  If you’ve never been to Chico, it’s well worth the drive, particularly for the next week or two, when the town is litterally aflame with fall color.  If you go, include lunch at the Sierra Nevada Brewery.  Whether or not you enjoy beer, the restaurant is superb.  Chico has lots of arts galleries.  One of my favorite is Orient & Flume Art Glass at 2161 Park Ave.  A guide to local art galleries is available at most of the galleries.  Bidwell Park encompasses over 3,600 acres, making it one of the largest municipal parks in the nation.  The Bidwell Mansion preserves the home of one of California’s most acclaimed pioneers, and the town has several museums, including the National Yo-Yo Museum.

Photo Credit: © 2009, John Poimiroo