Hazy Daze

Haze envelopes Frémont cottonwood, El Dorado Hills (11/14/18) John Poimiroo

Haze and smoke from the Camp Fire (Paradise) has residents of the Sacramento Valley wearing paper masks outdoors, as health warnings discourage outdoor activity, just as fall color nears peak.

Frémont cottonwood and brush along creeks are otherwise crowned with gold and scarlet at Folsom Lake, Mormon Islands Wetlands Preserve and along the Humbug-Willow Creek Trail in Folsom and El Dorado Hills.

The Camp, Woolsey and Hill Fires have created widespread human and financial loss. The best way to help those displaced by the fires is by contributing to one of these nonprofit organizations (we’ve done so):

North Valley Community Foundation: This nonprofit in Chico is raising money to support organizations that are sheltering evacuees of the Camp Fire. These could include churches, fairgrounds and community centers, said Logan Todd, a foundation spokesman.

California Community Foundation’s Wildfire Relief Fund: For 15 years, the foundation has offered aid to those affected by wildfires. Grants have gone to rebuilding homes, providing financial and mental health assistance and helping those affected to get medical treatment.

California Fire Foundation: This organization is on the ground distributing financial assistance to people who have lost everything in the fires. Through its emergency assistance program, firefighters distribute pre-paid gift cards to help those who need to purchase necessities like food, medicine and clothing.

Caring Choices: This nonprofit, which is in Chico, Calif., has turned into a hub for organizing volunteers to help those affected by the Camp Fire. The organization has paused taking on new volunteers for the next few days but still encourages applications. Caring Choices is also seeking monetary donations for its operations.

United Way of Greater Los Angeles: This local branch of the national organization is raising money for those affected by the Woolsey and Hill Fires, specifically to help low-income residents.

United Way of Northern California: This local chapter of the national nonprofit has established a disaster relief fund to offer emergency cash and help to people who have lost their homes, according to a news release. 

  • Folsom – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • El Dorado Hills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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!
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Gone Big in Big Pine

Frémont cottonwood, Big Pine (10/30/18) Mark Harding

Cottonwood cannot be overlooked in the Owens Valley. They’re just too big.

Color spotter Mark Harding was driving US 395 through Big Pine on Tuesday when he could hardly stop looking up, and it wasn’t the views of Mt. Whitney that caught his eye.

Frémont and black cottonwood (Populus Fremontii and Populus trichocarpa) each grow to 100 feet in height in the Eastern Sierra.

A landmark Frémont cottonwood can be as tall as an 11-story building and five feet wide at its base.

Their limbs are loaded with golden leaves at peak and, with little else as tall in the Owens Valley, elder cottonwood dominate the valley horizon.

The most pronounced difference between each genus is its leaves. Frémont cottonwood have heart-shaped leaves, while those of the black cottonwood are spear-tip shaped.

Those in Mark’s pictures are Near Peak, though cottonwood hold their leaves longer than aspen, so they will continue to stay bright for another two weeks.

Cottonwood growing nearby in the Alabama Hills have peaked in January, proving a durability that just cannot be overlooked. 

  • Big Pine (3,989′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

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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California Wild Grape

California Wild Grape, Cameron Park (10/5/18) John Poimiroo

California Wild Grape, Cameron Park (10/5/18) John Poimiroo

Fremont Cottonwood and California Wild Grape, Cameron Park (10/5/18) John Poimiroo

California Wild Grape, Cameron Park (10/5/18) John Poimiroo

California Wild Grape (Vitis californica) is a treat for fall color foragers.

It’s known to climb as high as 50′ and one specimen I found in Cameron Park easily topped that height. It had overgrown a stand of  Frémont cottonwoods, with grapes hanging in bunches like Christmas ornaments all the way to the top of the trees.

This woody vine is found growing between sea level and 4,000′, often climbing into trees, Falcon Press’ Plants of Northern California reports.

In autumn, their large grape leaves turn a vibrant yellow or deep red at peak.

Only a few leaves had yet blushed, though I plan to  return to get more pictures and purloin a basket of grapes, which have a very pleasant, mild and sweet grape flavor. 


California Wild Grape (1,198′) – Patchy (10-50%)


Bishop Creek – You Missed It.

Sabrina Lake (10/12/17) Jeff Hemming

Bishop Creek Canyon is now almost entirely Past Peak.

Aspendell, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/14/17) Adam Weist

Whenever we report that an area is Past Peak, there’ll surely be someone who will send a photograph showing we’re wrong. Yes, there is still great color to be seen up Bishop Creek. However, for the most part it has blown. Tomorrow’s predicted wind event (gusting to 30 mph over ridges) will almost certainly strip what little remains.

The featured photograph (above) was taken by Jeff Hemming a week ago (Oct. 12) at Sabrina Lake (Bishop Creek Canyon). It shows Near Peak color at an area that has peaked in September in years past. Such is this autumn. It has been topsy turvy, cattywampus, totally out of sync.

Today, Sabrina Lake is officially Past Peak, though no doubt peak color can be seen today where it was green a week ago. As seen in Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar’s images, South Lake Rd. still has pockets of late-turning fall color, though most color spotters would classify the canyon, overall, as Past Peak.

That’s the story of this autumn… of stands of aspen changing in staggered displays according to their internal genetic clock.

So, what remains to be seen in Inyo County?

South Inyo County is at Peak or Near Peak at Big Pine Creek, the Whitney Fish Hatchery and Alabama Hills. Spectacular Peak color was seen this past week on the trail to Whitney Portal. Likely, spots of that color remain, though the big ribbon of color (search Whitney Portal to see it), is gone.

Near Peak to Peak this week will be Pine Creek Rd. and the Round Valley, north of Bishop, with an impressive, long and scenic band of lush Frémont and black cottonwood, likely California’s best groves. Eastern Sierra color spotters have ignored Pine Creek, perhaps because it has cottonwood, not aspen. They shouldn’t, as the trees are backed by a breathtaking range of peaks at the western end of the canyon. This could be a great drone shot, which we’d love to post (YouTube).

The Round Valley (north of Bishop) also has towering cottonwood, some near weathered old cabins… well worth a detour.

Eastern Sierra

Southern Inyo County

  • Whitney Portal (8,374’) – Peak to Past Peak  – You Almost Missed It.
  • Onion Valley (9,600’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Big Pine Creek (7,660’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Whitney Fish Hatchery (4,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Alabama Hills (4,534’) –Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Northern Inyo County

Mountain Glen, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

South Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Weir Pond (9,650’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Parchers Resort (9,260’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Willow Campground (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Table Mountain Group Camp (8,900’) –Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Mountain Glen -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Mist Falls and Groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) -Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Four Jeffrey (8,000’) – Peak (75-100%)  GO NOW!


S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

Sabrina Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Sabrina Approach (9,100′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Aspendell (8,400’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Intake II (8,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Near Peak (50-75%)    GO NOW!


Willows, Campground,
S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/16/17) Suvadeep Ghosh Dastidar

North Lake

  • North Lake Road (9,000’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • North Lake (9,255’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Upper North Lake Road (9,255’) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Pine Creek/Round Valley

  • Pine Creek Pack Station (7,441′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.
  • Pine Creek Road (7,200′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!
  • Round Valley (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!
  • Lower Rock Creek Road (7,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%)  GO NOW!

Owens Valley/Bishop

  • Owens Valley (4,100′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Bishop (4,150′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Mt. Laguna Majesty

Black Oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Black oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Often, a photograph is more than a reflection of reality, it is a glimpse into another reality.

That’s what color spotter Shane Coker took away from his drive over Mt. Laguna, through Julian and Lake Cuyamaca, yesterday.

His drive provided our first report from San Diego County, but more, it provided a glimpse of this photographer’s vision.

Mt. Laguna (5,738′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Julian (4,226′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Lake Cuyamaca (4,613′) – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Frémont cottonwood (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Frémont Cottonwood (10/12/17) Shane Coker

Black oak (10/12/17) Shane Coker


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Mono Lake to Topaz is Golden

Fremont cottonwood, Topaz, CA (10/24/16) Jeff Simpson

Fremont cottonwood, Topaz, CA (10/24/16) Jeff Simpson

Mono Lake (10/24/16) Jeff Simpson

Mono Lake (10/24/16) Jeff Simpson

The northern end of US 395 in the Eastern Sierra, before it passes through Nevada, is in its glory.

Tall Fremont cottonwood that grow beside the Walker River and in the towns of Walker, Coleville and Topaz are loaded with golden leaves.

Walker Canyon – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! The banks of the West Walker River are lined with gold! Plan your viewing for mid-day as the shadows will be out early in the morning and late afternoon.

Towns of Walker & Coleville – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Lots of great color in Antelope Valley. The cottonwoods around Topaz Lane and gold and orange. Make sure to head up to the shores of topaz lake for some spectacular views.


San Bernardino Mountains Near Peak

Mountain Maple, Big Bear Lake (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Exotic Silver Maple, Big Bear Lake (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Fremont Cottonwood (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Fremont Cottonwood (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Japanese Maple (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Maple, Green Valley Lake (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Color spotter Nick Barnhart traveled up to the San Bernardino Mountains this past weekend and got these colorful shots of fall color at Lake Gregory, Green Valley Lake and Big Bear Lake.

San Bernardino Mountains (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

San Bernardino Mountains (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Rabbitbrush and cottonwoods (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Rabbitbrush and cottonwoods (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

GO NOW! Near Peak (50 – 75%) – San Bernardino National Forest – A mix of black oak, mountain maple, rabbitbrush and aspen are delicately coloring Southern California’s San Bernardino Mountains.

Mountain Maple, Big Bear Lake (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Silver Maple, Green Valley Lake (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

GO NOW! Peak (75 – 100%) – Big Bear Lake – Christine, a color spotter visited the famous aspen grove near Big Bear and repots it is peaking.  This is probably the last weekend to see it in its glory.

Lake Gregory (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Lake Gregory (10/5/14) Nick Barnhart

Patchy (10 – 50%) – Lake Gregory and Lake Arrowhead – Only about 25% of the trees are showing color.


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