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Peak on the Wing

White pelicans, Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

Sometimes you don’t need fall color to find Peak.

Alena Nicholas found it Sunday at Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains, south of Idyllwild.

“Great cloud formations and active wildlife made up for “peak color,” she wrote. “As usual, there where plenty of guests fishing and camping at Lake Hemet,” and, as seen in these photos, several of them flew in for the weekend. (click to enlarge photos)

Bald eagle, Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

A photogenic flock of visiting white pelicans and resident pair of bald eagles have become local celebrities.

Lake Hemet’s human visitors rent 12′ motorboats, 22′ pontoon boats and kayaks at the marina or launch their own craft, to get closer to the birds. The pontoon boats are the most stable platform for capturing wildlife photography and the have the room to allow use of a tripod, which improves image sharpness.

The best way to approach is slowly and not closer than the point at which the birds notice or indicate concern about your presence. Otherwise, you’ll interrupt their natural behaviors and they will fly to another less-busy location. Too much of that and they’ll find another lake.

These wild birds perceive humans as a threat. So, a telephoto lens is needed to get closeup photographs.

Lake Hemet (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas

Dramatic cloud formations made colorful reflections on the lake. Along the shore, spots of Past Peak color could be seen. Nicholas estimates the remaining color should last through the Thanksgiving Day weekend, providing one more location to celebrate Orange Friday (the day following Thanksgiving Day to photograph fall color). 

  • Idlyllwild (5,413′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT.
  • Lake Hemet (4,340′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT.
Black oak, Idyllwild (11/18/18) Alena Nicholas
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Mt. San Jacinto – A Palm Springs Peak

Mount San Jacinto State Park (10/7/17) Naresh Satyan

The bright gold of peaking willows, grasses and ferns becomes intensified at sunset at Mount San Jacinto State Park above Palm Springs, reports Southern California color spotter Naresh Satyan who scores a First Report.

Naresh reported the best color seems to be along the creek between Long Valley and Tamarack valley between 8500′ and 9000′, only a short walk from the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway station.

He recommends taking the tram up to hike the mountains any time of year, though in autumn, the colors provide extra incentive.

Mount San Jacinto State Park, above Palm Springs (8,516′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

 

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SoCal Mountains: Past Peak, Still Glowing in Places

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

We’ve been reporting that Southern California’s mountains are past peak, though as color spotter Alena Nicholas shows us in this post… many spots of bright color can still to be discovered.

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

She traveled to Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory in the San Bernardino Mountains and Idyllwild in the San Jacinto Mountains to find these scenes.

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholass

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholass

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Arrowhead (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Idyllwild (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Idyllwild (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Idyllwild (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Idyllwild (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

Lake Gregory (11/12/16) Alena Nicholas

While the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa prepares for the holidays by putting up colorful lights and decorations, nature continues to light up the forest with black oak and Rocky Mountain maple providing orange and red ornaments.

Should you visit Lake Arrowhead, stop into the Gift Gallery to see Alena’s photographs. We extend the same invitation to other photographers and color spotters who contribute your work to this site.  Should you have them on display, tell us and we’ll pass the word to others so they can see what you’ve seen and photographed.

Alena agrees that the mountains are generally past peak, but for the observant the glow continues.

Southern California Mountains – Peak to Past Peak – YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!

[forecast location=”Lake Arrowhead, CA” numdays=”4″ showdata=”daynames,icon,date,conditions,highlow” layout=”simple”]

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The Damaging Effect of Drought on Beauty

Mt. Laguna Stilllife (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna Still life (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Modern Hiker correspondent, hiker and color spotter Scott Turner spent yesterday afternoon at Mt. Laguna in eastern San Diego County and provides these compelling images of the effect of drought on trees that live at the edge of a desert.

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black Oak (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Mt. Laguna (10/27/14) Scott Turner

Black oak there, which would normally be a vivid mix of green, lime, yellow, orange, gold and buff are, sadly, a dull beige. Scott said the effect of drought on the forests of Mt. Laguna are palpable.  Some trees appear to have lost the majority of their leaves, though what remains is still partially green.

Scott found it hard to assess the change, because so much has dropped, though he classifies Mt. Laguna as near peak, but nothing like the vibrant show seen last autumn.  He notes that the oaks were hit hard by bark beetles with a lot of them dying.

Scott plans to hike and photograph Mt. Palomar on Friday. On his last trip, he noted that the oaks there appeared to be healthier, but then they live at an elevation that is 1,000′ lower. That likely means Palomar’s peak is two weeks away.

On a separate Southern California note, I met with Jonathan Patterson of Lake Hemet yesterday.  Jonathan said the color is beginning to look beautiful around the lake.  He was reluctant to classify it as near peak, though from other reports made directly to me by John Koeberer who’d been there this weekend, the San Jacinto Mountains are a definite GO NOW!  Jonathan said Idyllwild has been peaking for a week.  Our recommendation is head up to the San Jacintos, camp at Lake Hemet in the middle of the color and take side trips to Idyllwild and Mountain Center.  If you get great photos of the San Jacintos, email them to us and we’ll post.

Mt. Laguna (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Drought and bark beetles have damaged the trees.  The color is not the brilliance it had last autumn.  Do a rain dance for Eastern San Diego County.

Idyllwild (Peak – 75 – 100%) – Beautiful color in and around Idyllwild is nearly past peak. GO NOW!

Lake Hemet (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) – Camp beside the lake surrounded by intense fall color.  Very few people and developing color that should be good for the next couple of weeks (weather permitting).  Just say no to Santa Anas! GO NOW!

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Color Drops Below a Mile in the San Jacintos

Color spotter Jim Beau was in Idyllwild on Friday and reported, “It looks like this might be the last weekend of fall color in Southern California’s mountains (above a mile high).  Driving southbound from I-10 on Hwy 243, the oaks were pretty much done for the year.   

“On Thanksgiving weekend last year, we hit Idyllwild at peak fall color.  In comparison, this year was a bit of a disappointment.   Since a weak winter storm has moved into the area this weekend, it was pretty dreary up there, yesterday.  And, I don’t expect what little is left to last into next weekend.  So, it looks like it’s time to head to the lower elevations for fall color in Southern California.” 

Past Peak – Idyllwild – Black oaks  are now cloaked only in rusty brown leaves.

GO NOW! – 75 – 100% – Mountain Center/Lake Hemet (4,500′) – Heading west on Hwy 74 near Mountain Center, there is a nice, mile-long section of oaks and a few cottonwoods at peak.

GO NOW! – 50 – 75% – Hwy 74 (below 4,000′) – Heading west toward Hemet, the cottonwoods and sycamores were just starting to turn yellow and chartreuse.

 


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!