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Winter Happens Here Too

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (11/30/18) Philip Reedy

Autumn ended yesterday.

Weeks ago, on the last day of November, Philip Reedy was traveling through the Hope Valley when he stopped to capture these wintry images of “everyone’s favorite cabin in the snow.”

We delayed posting his pictures until today, as they embody the transition from warm fall to cold winter colors, showing aspen bereft of their autumn gold, now encased in white.

Dude, winter happens here too. 

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (11/30/18) Philip Reedy
  • California Fall Color – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Lost Hope – So, Blue

Sunset Lake (10/14/18) Crys Black

Upper Blue Lake (10/14/18) Crys Black

Red Lake (10/14/18) Crys Black

Color spotter Crys Black visited the Hope Valley on Sunday, but arrived at the tail end of its peak.

Disappointed with the color, she “decided to go off the beaten path to see if we’d get lucky. We drove down to the Sunset Lakes where we found a little peak color and around Upper Blue Lake which had some nice scrub color.” Crys scores two First Reports for Sunset and Upper Blue Lakes.

Continuing onto Forestdale Rd., there were very few opportunities for color until she’d looped back to Red Vista Rd. beside Red Lake. If you make this drive, you must have a 4WD with high clearance. Anything less might get you stuck high and dry. 

  • Hope Valley – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Red Lake – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sunset Lake – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Upper Blue Lake- Peak (75-100%) GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
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Unbearably Beautiful

American black bear, Ursus americanus, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

Red Lake Creek, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

The High Sierra is “unbearably beautiful right now,” color spotter Clayton Peoples reported.

He was in the Hope Valley over the weekend, photographing along CA-88 and CA-89.

“While taking in fall colors, I was lucky enough to spot what is probably the largest black bear I have ever seen. It was feasting along a creek that passes under Highway 89,” he wrote.

What Clayton did to get this shot was to be as unobtrusive as possible, not approaching the animal and letting it act naturally.

Should you encounter wildlife and wish to photograph it, stop and don’t move. If you run to get closer, the animal will run away. But, if you stop, wait and watch, the animal may not notice you or will become used to you and not perceive you as a threat.

As long as the animal is not bothered by your presence, he will go about his business, which makes for great fall photography.

A long lens (200mm or greater) and sturdy tripod are useful for close up, sharp images. My favorite working lens is a 28 – 300 mm, f3.5-5.6. It provides enough length and range to capture either closeups or environmental shots of mammals.

Animals are creatures of routine. They tend to return to the same locations (watering spots, food sources) at similar times of day, and forage during he first couple and last two hours of daylight.

Aspen, Hope Valley (10/14/18) Clayton Peoples

American black bears are not generally a threat to people, unless they are protecting young or sense that you have food. They usually can be intimidated from approaching by raising arms above one’s head, shouting or making loud sounds (banging a pot), but if they do not, walk away.

In addition to the bear, Clayton found more “bare” branches among the Hope Valley’s aspen, though said the trees surrounding Red Lake Creek Cabin are “still stunning, and the highway (and nearby hillsides) are still sporting a patchwork of gorgeous color. I’m not sure how long it will last, but it is still very pretty right now.” 

  • Hope Valley(7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

 

 

 

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

Hope Valley (10/14/18) Robert Kermen

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Carson Pass and Hope Valley

Red Lake Vista, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Today’s Sunday drive took us across Carson Pass and into the Hope Valley to scout fall color.

Meadow, Kirkwood Inn (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Caples Lake, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Log barn, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Hope Valley (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Sorensen’s Resort, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Red Lake Creek Cabin, CA-88 (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

Willows, Woods Lake (10/7/18) John Poimiroo

As Joan and I neared the Kirkwood Lake turnoff, we were disappointed to see that winds had stripped the west slope of Carson Pass. Only the deep red and orange of meadow shrubs east of the Kirkwood Inn were still beautiful.

So, we approached Caples Lake hesitantly, finding the deeply textured vermillion aspen that Phillip Reedy had captured on 9/28 to be faded and Past Peak.

We then pulled off to explore Woods Lake, passing a few bright spots of yellow along the road to the picnic area. Woods is a picturesque subalpine lake, devoid of aspen, though chartreuse willows line its far shore. By noon, temperatures had only risen to the high 30s. So, we were glad to have brought along warm jackets, knit hats and fleece gloves, and promised ourselves to return in warmer months to kayak the lake.

Only when we reached Red Lake Vista near Carson Pass (8,652′) could full peak color be seen hundreds of feet below near the lake and extending south across the forest.

Continuing east into the heart of Hope Valley, aspen were front-lit and unexciting, but when you turned west, the backlit trees radiated vibrant yellow, while those to the north were orange, yellow and lime.

A stop at Sorensen’s found the resort bustling as usual for an autumn weekend. The waiting line for lunch was over an hour long. Visit midweek and you can get a table pretty quickly.

On both sides of the highway approaching and across from Sorensen’s, stands of aspen were irridescent yellow, as good as I’ve seen them there.

Now returning westbound through Hope Valley, the groves virtually caught fire, backlit with ten thousand points of intense yellow and orange.

Cars would stop at turnouts and unload occupants who would either hike out to the groves or stand by their cars taking cell phone pictures and selfies.

After taking a final shot at Red Lake Creek Cabin, I ran into an old friend who noticed that I seemed “to be on a mission” compared to others who were lingering to enjoy the color. He mentioned he’d missed peak in prior years, but was determined this autumn to spend the day with his wife celebrating her birthday and enjoying the Hope Valley at Peak.

He was not alone. CA-88 was bustling with leaf peepers. Annoyed motorists leaned on their horns to express frustration when they were forced to slow to avoid cars that were pulling in or out of crowded turnouts along the highway.

It made me think, was I becoming like the impatient motorists? I wasn’t honking, but I certainly wasn’t appreciating the moment.

Or was I? 

  • Kirkwood (7,690′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Caples Lake (7,800′) – Past Peak – YOU MISSED IT!
  • Woods Lake (8,200′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Vista (8,400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake (7,861′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Red Lake Creek Cabin – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sorensen’s Resort (7,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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High on Hope

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

Hope Valley (10/4/18) Clayton Peoples

It’s easy to be high on Hope Valley.

It has lakes, streams, a Sierra pass (Carson – CA-88) and aspen in abundance.

So, when Clayton Peoples sent these shots of photographs, captured on Thursday, I knew what to do with my Sunday … head there.

As I write this, breezes are rustling the leaves in the Sierra foothills and whistling over the gables and eaves of my house.

So, it will be an interesting comparison of what happens with four days of peak and a little bit of wind in this beautiful corner of the Sierra. 

Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Red Lake Creek Cabin (10/5/18) Bonnie Nordby

Red Lake Creek Cabin (10/5/18) Bonnie Nordby

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… The Threaded Foliage Sigh.

Beneath the forest’s skirts I rest,
Whose branching pines rise dark and high,
And hear the breezes of the West
Among the threaded foliage sigh.
— William Cullen Bryant

Such scenes are happening in California this week, as Peak color is blown by west winds of up to 20 mph.

Aspen Grove, Sand to Snow Nat’l Monument (9/29/18) Alena Nicholas

Aspen Grove, Sand to Snow Nat’l Monument (9/29/18) Alena Nicholas

Southern California color spotter Alena Nicholas hiked up to the Aspen Grove in the San Gorgonio Wilderness this past Saturday, returning with photographs of Near Peak color that show Patchy and Near Peak aspen pushing up within a forest of blackened trunks incinerated in the 2015 fire.

The grove is now part of the new Snow to Sand National Monument in the San Gorgonio Wilderness of the San Bernardino National Forest. A larger story on this aspen grove and its recovery is planned in a future article.

Alena called this morning to lament that strong winds from the edges of Tropical Storm Rosa may strip turned color which photos indicated might peak by the coming weekend.

However, there’s lots of green in the forest, so the peak will last another week or two. If you’d like to visit it, the Aspen Grove is accessible only by hiking there (about 1.5 mi.) along Aspen Forest Road 1N05.

Considering this week’s winds, you might want to consider to … GO NOW!

Hope Valley (9/30/18) Dan Varvais

Hope Valley (9/30/18) Dan Varvais

Hope Valley (9/30/18) Connie Varvais

Hope Valley (9/30/18) Connie Varvais

At Hope Valley, Dan and Connie Varvais photographed aspen and lamented that “It’s a mixed bag, right now … (and) It’s windy, GO NOW!” 

Aspen Grove, San Gorgonio Wilderness, Sand to Snow National Monument – Patchy to Near Peak (10-75%) GO NOW!

Hope Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Hope Has Arrived

Above Caples Lake, CA-88 (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

Woods Lake Road, CA-88 (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

Red Lake, Hope Valley (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

Pasture East of Blue Lakes Rd., Hope Valley (9/28/18) Phillip Reedy

The Hope Valley (CA-88) has arrived, with autumn color painting its aspen in lovely tones of vermillion, rose, orange, saffron, yellow and lime.

Phillip Reedy visited yesterday to find the area peaking overall, “especially along Red Lake Creek and near Sorensen’s Resort.  There are still groves above the West Carson and along 89 to Tahoe that are completely green.”

He estimates peak color will last through next weekend, though beyond that, no promises. Hope Valley color spotter Debbie Waldear agreed, stating that next weekend (Oct. 6-7) is a likely peak for the Hope Valley.

Though, our experience has been that the Hope Valley – due to its range of elevations – has two weeks of peak color with it lingering around Sorensen’s Resort and in Woodford’s Canyon, well after it has peaked at Red Lake Creek.

Debbie reported that the Alpine Aspen Festival will not occur this year, with local hopes that it returns next year. Despite disappointing news about the festival, she was upbeat about this being the prime week to cross Carson Pass and visit Hope Valley.

A possible mediating factor will be weather. Hurricane Rosa is on track to reach Baja California on Tuesday as a tropical depression, bringing rain to Southern California. Some of that will reach the High Sierra though is not expected to be severe.

The best days to visit Hope Valley in the coming week appear to be Sunday (tomorrow), Monday, Friday and Saturday (Oct. 6), with rain and snow Tues. through Thurs.

Should snow dust the High Sierra, photographs of the Hope Valley and Eastern Sierra could be mind-bogglingly beautiful. 

Hope Valley (7,300′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

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Hope Valley Continues to Improve, Still Patchy

Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

This image by Phillip Reedy about says it all for the Hope Valley. Patchy, though a lot more color than was reported a week ago. 

Here’s some of what he saw on this weekend’s scouting trip:

Red Lake, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Red Lake, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Red Lake, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Hooker Ranch, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Sorensen’s Resort, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

Sorensen’s Resort, Hope Valley (9/22/18) Phillip Reedy

 

 

Hope Valley (7,300′) – Patchy (10-50%)

 

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Hope Valley Still Just Starting

Aspen, Hope Valley (9/14/18) Phillip Reedy

West Carson River, Hope Valley (9/14/18) Phillip Reedy

Aspen, West Carson River, Hope Valley (9/14/18) Phillip Reedy

Aspen in the Hope Valley (CA-88) are beginning to show their autumn colors, though peak remains two weeks away.

Phillip Reedy made his first autumn drive to the Hope Valley yesterday, finding scattered gold among drying brush and late-blooming wildflowers beside the West Carson River. 

Just Starting (0-10%) Hope Valley

Aspen, Hope Valley (9/14/18) Phillip Reedy

Aspen in distance on Hooker Lazy J Ranch, Hope Valley (9/14/18) Phillip Reedy

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Autumn in the Higher Sierra

Anthony Occhipinti flew his drone over the Eastern Sierra and Hope Valley this autumn to capture these videos.

As of today, these areas are Past Peak, though the videos provide inspiring testimony as to what one videographer witnessed.

Past Peak – You Missed It.

Credit: Anthony Occhipinti, Coruscating Images, Sacramento