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Natural Christmas Ornaments

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

American beautyberry, Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Seeing Darrell Sano’s photos of natural Christmas ornaments hanging from branches, I concluded they’re better looking than the artificial ones I’d just taken out of storage.

Yesterday, Darrell took a Black, er… Orange Friday road trip through Sonoma along Highway 12 and shares these images from his visit to Quarryhill Botanical Garden in Glen Ellen.

He reports that while Sonoma County’s vines are now well past peak (many had no leaves at all, most were brown or muddy yellow in color), he found an exuberant explosion of color at Quarryhill.

Loads of colorful berries and fruit provided added vibrance and form, in addition to harlequin-painted leaves.

“In the sunny, chilly morning, I was so happy to experience this beautiful garden (instead of a mall!),” he writes of his Orange Friday outing, and recommends Quarryhill Botanical Garden as “definitely a place to return to in springtime.”

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

Inspired by his Quarryhill visit, Darrell remembered Sandy Steinman’s report about the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley and headed there, today.

He reports, “I was amazed by the color. I felt this was possibly my last “gasp” at seeing the wonderment of fall color for the year. But you never know, California has so much to offer and discover.”

We agree, Darrell.  To use your words, it is, “An amazing place.” 

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Quarryhill Botanical Garden, Glen Ellen

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Vineyard, Sonoma County (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Vineyard, Sonoma County (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

Quarryhill Botanic Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15)

Quarryhill Botanical Gardens, Glen Ellen (11/27/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley (11/28/15) Darrell Sano

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California Fall Color Looks Back at 2015

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On this Thanksgiving Day, CaliforniaFallColor.com is indebted to every color spotter and photographer who contributed photographs and reports in 2015.

They include (from first turned leaf reported): LA Leaf Peeper, Alicia Vennos, Jon Klusmire, Alena Nicholas, Trapper Felt, Carol Waller, Christine Osborne, Julie Yost, Crys Black, Nikhil Shahi, Misti Sullivan, Kevin Lennox, Ashley Hollgarth, Jen Heger, Kimberly Kolafa, Julie Kirby, Aditi Das, Jeff Hemming, Erick  Castellon, Shanda Ochs, Jackson Frishman, Cuong Diep, Maddie Noiseaux, Leor Pantilat, Lara Kaylor, Jeff Simpson, Clayton Peoples, Lisa Wilkerson-Willis, Phillip Reedy Ruth Hartman, Charles Porter, Greg Newbry, Elliot McGucken, Jared Smith, Dotty Molt, Sherry Gardner, Jill Dinsmore, Josh Wray, Mike Nellor, Ivan Alo, Pushkar Gejji, Mariusz Jeglinski, Gary Young, Patricia Costa, Lisa May, Laurie Baker, Shuo Li, Dylan Ren, Brian Patterson, David Olden, Gabriel Leete, Jeri Rangel, Jim Beaux, Cory Poole, Walter Gabler, Max Forster, Jim Adams, Jeff Luke Titcomb, Nancy Wright, Bonnie Nordby, Kathy Jonokuchi, Linnea Wahamaki, Sarah Showalter, Vera Haranto Fuad, Jas E Miner, Susan Taylor, Santhakumar V A, Darrell Sano, Frank McDonough, Anson Davalos, Sandy Steinman, Anirudh Natikar, Jennifer “JMel” Mellone and Ron Tyler, who produced the above video.

We’re also grateful to the many hundreds of readers who posted comments and photos to our Facebook page and retweeted our Twitter posts. If we missed thanking you here, please know it wasn’t intentional.  We we are indebted to every color spotter, photographer and commenter. Thank you all.

Additional thanks are expressed to Inyo County Tourism, Mono County Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Redding Convention & Visitors Bureau, Shasta Cascade Wonderland Association, and The California Parks Company for underwriting California Fall Color. And, to the many reporters and media who carried our reports and gave attention to what we have shown about California’s fall color.

This thank you list is incomplete without mentioning Joan, my wife, who has: humored my recording of color percentages, species and elevations; pointed out particularly beautiful color; and driven the car and pulled it over to the shoulder, at my whim, so that I could jump out to photograph a particularly beautiful location.

Of course, our deepest thanks go to the many tens of thousands of people who have followed CaliforniaFallColor.com and our Facebook and Twitter pages.  You are, after all, the reason we do this.

Autumn doesn’t end on Thanksgiving Day. It has 26 more days to go.  We’ll continue to post photos and reports as received and plan a Special Report on San Diego County. Though today, we begin to dial back our reports, posting them less frequently. We also stop sending weekly reports to California TV meteorologists, travel and outdoor writers.

So, enjoy Thanksgiving Day, and we’ll see you next autumn, dude.

California (Peak 75-100%) – In our hearts, California is always peaking. GO NOW!

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Orange Friday at Lake Gregory

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Ansel Adams got so many great photographs of Yosemite, not just because he was a great artist,  but because he lived there.

Color spotter Alena Nicholas has shared many beautiful images of Lake Gregory this autumn, because she lives there.

Nicholas writes,”They say home is where the heart is, and after this weekend, I thought to share, once more, the beauty of my little “home” lake. It may not be Yosemite, the Eastern Sierras, or Northern California, but Lake Gregory always puts its best foot forward and shares whatever beauty it has to the very end!”

Big Bear (11/23/15) Nancy Barron Booher

Big Bear (11/23/15) Nancy Barron Booher

That’s certainly true of what Alena showed us of Lake Gregory, this autumn. The sunsets there and from the nearby Rim of the World have been beautiful.

In the collection of photographs submitted by Alena, today, we see another aspect of fall in the San Bernardino Mountains… a forest full of deeply orange black oak at peak. Along shore, hints of yellow brighten the scene.

Alena traveled to Big Bear today where she likely saw scenes like this black oak, shot by Nancy Barron Booher and posted on our Facebook page.

With more snow predicted to arrive in the San Bernardinos on Wednesday and Thursday, Alena’s trip could be her last fall color outing this autumn.

Let’s hope this won’t be a Black Friday, but will still be orange.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Lake Gregory, Rim of the World and the San Bernardino Mountains

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/22/15) Alena Nicholas

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Humboldt County – Now Peaking Tree By Tree

Avenue of the Giants (11/16/15) Max Forster

Avenue of the Giants (11/16/15) Max Forster

Max Forster reports from Humboldt County that, “It’s hard to really give a blanket rating of Peak/Past Peak for the area.  It’s more about individual trees or small areas than wide swaths of color.  Some spots are past, while others are just getting into peak.”

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Humboldt Redwoods State Park – While some of the big leaf maple have petered out, others that have been surviving outside of full sun are peaking now.  Avenue of Giants is still a worthwhile drive. 

Maple at the extreme southern and northern ends of Humboldt Redwoods State Park are looking nice.  For the south, by the Bolling Grove to Myer’s Flat.  For the north, specifically by the Drury-Chaney Grove in Pepperwood and the unnamed trail by Elinor Road are peak.

Mad River (11/16/15) Max Forster

Mad River (11/16/15) Max Forster

Vine maple, Pacific Coast Trail (11/16/15) Max Forster

Vine maple, Pacific Coast Trail (11/16/15) Max Forster

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park – Roosevelt Elk bulls are still actively rutting, battling rivals and gathering their harems.  They have been seen daily by Big Lagoon and the little red schoolhouse.  Similar to Humboldt Redwoods, bigleaf maple that have been growing without direct sunlight are really going off now.  The big maple by the visitor center is at peak. 

Vine maple is also finally peaking, turning brilliant yellow like their big leaf neighbors.  Some parts of the trails are like walking through a sea of yellow. 

Specific spots are along Drury Parkway by the Big Tree for the big leaf maple. For the vine maple, the Prairie Creek Trail is your best bet.  A very brilliant vine maple grove can also be seen roadside on Drury Parkway by the Brown Creek Trail.

Avenue of the Giants, Drury Chaney (11/16/15) Max Forster

Avenue of the Giants, Drury Chaney (11/16/15) Max Forster

Drury Parkway (11/16/15) Max Forster

Drury Parkway (11/16/15) Max Forster

Drury Parkway (11/16/15) Max Forster

Drury Parkway (11/16/15) Max Forster

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First Report: Ebbett’s Pass

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

I can’t recall when we’ve received a report on the fall color at Ebbett’s Pass, but today we correct that with one from color spotter Kimberly Kolafa.

Kimberly apologized for not having sent photos until this week, as she was in Maine backpacking amidst fall color “that never happened!” Un, huh, and…

Well, we have our own dismal story here, as most observers are noting that the drought has “really impacted leaf peeping,” so we quoteth Ms.Kolafa.

The drought is making it very difficult to rate an area, as aspen (such is the case with Carson Pass) may be stripped, while willows and ground shrubs are still Patchy but developing beautiful color.

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. — Henry David Thoreau

If you’re driving this route, look for interesting subjects to contrast what color is there, as Kimberly did, while turning rotten apples into sweet-tasting apple cider (couldn’t pass up the autumnal metaphor).

Chalmer's Mansion, Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Chalmer’s Mansion, Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

She found the Chalmers Mansion and Cemetery, edged with bright color and came away with this story to complement her image.

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kolafa

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Ebbetts Pass (10/4/15) Kimberly Kofala

Lewis Chalmers was superintendent of a mine in the Silver Mountain mining district (1870s – ’80s).  He and his brother had emigrated from Scotland; he returned to Britain in 1885 to raise funds for his mining operations and died there in 1904. Several of his family are buried near the mansion.

Photos like Kimberly’s shot of Chalmer’s Mansion could make up for the lack of color, in some locations, this autumn.

Editor’s Note: Please read the following comment about Hwy 4. This beautiful and historic route could use a little TLC, right now.  As, recent events (the Butte Fire, in particular) hurt the local economy and folks who live along the route would welcome seeing photographers, leaf peepers and all who appreciate beautiful places visit their communities and spread the word that the beauty and history are still there.  Favorites of ours are Ironstone Vineyards (Japanese maples in autumn, daffodils in springtime) in Murphy’s and Calaveras Big Trees State Park up the highway, where dogwood are getting good.  Bonnie Nordby suggests a particularly photogenic location. Our arms reach out to Brad Nordby’s family which lost their home during the fire.  Autumn is a reminder that what is lost always returns.

Patchy (10-50%) Ebbett’s Pass (Hwy 4) Shrubs – Grasses are yellow with green undergrowth and shrubs are yellow to maroon red along Silver Creek.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Ebbett’s Pass Trees – Like Carson Pass and the Hope Valley, most of the aspen have lost their leaves, though again similar to these areas, there are patches of aspen and cottonwood that remain green or are changing to lime and yellow.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Monitor Pass.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Taylor Creek, South Lake Tahoe – Aspen are past peak, but there’s hope for a good salmon run, as the creek appears to be running better than past years.

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Here Comes The Sun! – Mono County Shines

Parker Lake (10/3/15) Alicia Vennos

Parker Lake (10/3/15) Alicia Vennos

Color spotter Alicia Vennos reports the Eastern Sierra was blessed with a full day and a half of rain and snow at higher elevations this past Sunday.  That made fall colors stand out even more beautifully in the bright sunlight that has come out, since.

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

The most significant color to be seen in Mono County is at 9,000′, where we issue a GO NOW! alert for Rock Creek.  Alicia writes that it’s gorgeous and peaking from East Fork up to Rock Creek Lake.

This is the perfect weekend to make the drive, considering that this is the last weekend Pie in the Sky Cafe will be open.  Get there early, as they almost always sell out before noon.

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake Campground (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Rock Creek Lake (10/4/15) Alicia Vennos

Silver Lake (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

Silver Lake (9/30/15) Alena Nicholas

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Rock Creek – Rock Creek Road from East Fork to Rock Creek Lake. Color is now flooding this section of Rock Creek. Look out for motorists who are in awe, and always check rear-view mirror before pulling over or slowing down suddenly. From East Fork down to Tom’s Place, the aspens are still green in many sections, and Lower Rock Creek Road and the trail — popular with mountain bikers, hikers and anglers — is also yet to pop.

Patchy (10-50%) – McGee Creek – Aspen around McGee Creek Campground and McGee Creek Pack Station are just starting to turn color.  Hike up the trail for a mile or two and the aspen are bright yellow, orange and red.

Patchy (10-50%) – Convict Canyon – The colors from the lower section of the canyon up through the campground have increased slightly in intensity. The foliage along the lake has definitely begun to develop more color but there are still areas that haven’t turned. The change seems to be taking a little more time this year and it is difficult to predict the pace. The foliage throughout the canyon seems to be changing at different rates. One section may be bright yellow and adjacent to it are pockets of green. Even with the unpredictability, the peak should be just around the corner. The colors there now are still amazing and a walk along the NEW PATH on the south shore is recommended.

Lower Twin, Mammoth Lakes (10/7/15) Jen Heger

Lower Twin, Mammoth Lakes (10/7/15) Jen Heger

Patchy (10-50%) – Mammoth Lakes – The lakes basin continues to brighten.

Patchy (10-50%) – June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 – The Loop is taking its sweet time this year — or maybe it just seems that way, because our readers can hardly wait. Most of the aspens are just beginning to hint at the awesome color that is yet to come.  Around the Fire Station down canyon, the trees are beginning to move towards yellow-orange.  Even Parker Lake , off the north end of the Loop, seems slow to move to peak. We thought that last weekend it would be pretty close to prime but on Saturday, it still had more hues of lime-green and gold than orange.  It is a gorgeous 4-mile hike round trip with stunning views of Mono Lake and the color will have picked up a bit the last few days so still a good bet. Try and get to the lake itself before 9:00 am if possible as you will almost be guaranteed a spectacular reflection of the mountains on the surface of the water — unless it’s a windy morning, of course.  For those who are fit and enjoy a longer, steeper hike, try Bloody Canyon out of Walker Lake. The trees at the lake level have yet to really start turning but a couple of miles up the trail, you’ll find some exceptional color.  The June Lake Autumn Beer Festival is this Saturday, Oct. 10 at Gull Lake Park.

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Sage Hen Meadow Road.

Patchy (10-50%) – Lee Vining Canyon – Tioga Pass Road has awesome views of Lee Vining Canyon and the aspens look like they are still a couple of weeks from peaking.  Log Cabin Road area is starting to shine.

Lundy Canyon (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Lundy Canyon (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Lundy Canyon (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Lundy Canyon (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Patchy (10-50%) – Lundy Canyon – The thick aspen stands that line the road are still just beginning their autumn wardrobe change! Along the Lundy Canyon trailhead, the color is heating up a bit around the waterfall viewpoint, although still another week or more from peak.

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Twin Lakes – The higher elevations have been peaking over the last week in the areas around Barney Lake and Horsetail Falls. Expect to see greens, lime greens and some yellows around Upper and Lower Twin Lakes and Robinson Creek. The next two weekends should be spectacular here. Color spotter Jen Heger adds, “Aspen have many shades of yellow, light orange with patches of green.  Trees still have all their leaves… Just breathtaking and not many people around!”

Virgina Lakes Road (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Virgina Lakes Road (10/4/15) Dotty Molt

Past Peak YOU MISSED IT! – Virginia Lakes

Dunderberg Meadow (10/6/15) Philip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow (10/6/15) Philip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow (10/6/15) Philp Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow (10/6/15) Philp Reedy

Patchy (10-50%) – Conway Summit – Conway summit is also brightening substantially, making for really pretty photos right from the pull-outs on US 395. Always use caution when pulling over, of course. Bridgeport’s Ducks Unlimited Dinner is October 17 which should be perfect timing for peak color if you are hungry for a delicious dinner and a ton of great raffle prizes!

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Green Creek – Colors are at peak and are past peak in other places. The recent storm last Sunday blew off many leaves before reaching full color. We recommend starting at Summers Meadow and working your way up to Green Creek.

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Summers Meadow – Go Now! Summers Meadow off Green Creek Road will be perfect over the next week. Some leaves at the upper elevation may be past peak but there is still plenty of photo opportunities along Lower Summers Meadow Road.

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Monitor Pass – Go Now Colors have peaked at the top of Monitor Pass but as you progress down the mountain expect to see more color.

Patchy (10-50%)  Walker Canyon – The colors along the West Walker River are starting to glow in certain sections.

Patchy (10-50%)  Towns of Walker & Coleville – Still mostly green and traditionally is one of the last destinations to turn throughout the Eastern Sierra. Plan your trip for the last weekend in October.

SONORA PASS

Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – Sonora Pass/Leavitt Meadows – Leavitt Meadows is starting to turn gold, as are some of the aspens as you drive up Sonora Pass. The Leavitt Meadows Pack Station is open until mid-October for anyone wanting to take a ride by horseback to see the color!

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Of Things Yet To Come

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

Alena Nicholas titles these views near sunset at Lake Arrowhead, “Of Things Yet To Come.”

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

As, there is just a bit of color change to be seen in the San Bernardino Mountains.  However, following the storm seen moving across the mountains, colder nights are expected and Alena anticipates change, “sooner than later.”

To those who were anxious for an update on Southern California color, the storms prevented any worthy report, due to the low level of color to be seen down south.

Alena reports that she plans to tour Big Bear and Green Valley Lakes this weekend.  And notes, “I was surprised to see one very dedicated water skier out on the lake, this evening, who had the water almost all to himself!”

Just Starting (0-10%) – Lake Arrowhead 

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (10/6/15) Alena Nicholas

 

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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.