Owens Valley Coming Out

Chuckwalla (Sauromalus),Owens Valley (4/13/19) Gigi De Jong

It’s springtime in the Owens Valley and wildflowers are appearing first from the lowest elevations to the highest.

Gigi De Jong sends these images with a report that wildflowers are abloom in the southern Owens Valley and marching north.

Even the lizards are coming out.


25° x 36° x 118°

Alabama Hills, Inyo County (12/15/18) Bruce Wendler

Alabama Hills, Inyo County (12/15/18) Bruce Wendler

It was 25° when Bruce Wendler passed the Alabama Hills at 36° 35′ 41.141″ N by 118° 6′ 11.232″ W, yesterday.

Cold enough for a winter day, yet it was still autumn. The proof? These pictures. 

  • Alabama Hills (4,534′) – Past Peak, You Missed It.
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Death Valley Crossing

Lone Pine (11/25/18) Crys Black

The story of the first crossing of Death Valley is an epic tale of ’49ers who attempted a late autumn trek from the Great Salt Lake to California’s gold fields by way of the “Old Spanish Trail,” which was purported to travel around the southern end of the Sierra.

By the time they neared Death Valley, they’d run out of water, abandoned their wagons, and killed their oxen and horses for sustenance. An early snow storm provided life-saving water.

Only one of the party, which had split into separate groups, died along the route, but as they made their way west over the Panamint Range, someone is said to have turned back to look upon the deep valley they’d struggled to cross and proclaimed, “Goodbye, Death Valley.”

And so, the valley was named.

Northern California color spotter Crys Black made her own Death Valley crossing over the Thanksgiving Day weekend. She wrote, “After struggling to get to the Eastern Sierra on Wednesday night, we enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving at The Rafters in Mammoth Lakes.

“Foiled from traversing desert trails due to road closures, we went down Lower Rock Creek Rd and were stunned to see some color still hanging in that little community near the bottom that calls itself Paradise with these photos taken near the Lower Rock Creek Trail Lower Trailhead.

“Suddenly hopeful, we spent the weekend around Death Valley. Beatty, NV, home to wild donkeys, and Lone Pine were both in full and glorious peak color.

“We were terribly thankful to have been at the right places to continue to enjoy a continuing, wonderful fall color season,” Crys concluded.

We turn back and add, “Goodbye, Fall Color.” 


Fabled Hills of Western Lore

Cottonwood, Alabama Hills, Mt. Whitney, Eastern Sierra (11/25/18) Clayton Peoples

 The Alabama Hills, in the shadow of Mt. Whitney in California’s southern Eastern Sierra, are a fabled landscape.

Lone Pine Creek, Alabama Hills, Mt Whitney (11/25/18) Clayton Peoples

Virtually hundreds of films and television episodes were filmed there including such epic productions as Gunga Din and The Charge of the Light Brigade, though the Alabama Hills’ rounded and weathered rocks are visually synonymous with classic “Westerns.”

John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, Clint Eastwood, William Boyd (Hopalong Cassidy), Roy Rogers, Will Rogers, Clayton Moore (the Lone Ranger), Jimmy Stewart, Hoot Gibson and countless other Hollywood cowboys were ambushed among its rocks, draws and arches.

The hills were named by Confederate sympathizers after they heard news of the Confederate States Ship Alabama’s successes in raiding U.S. ships during the Civil War. The miners named many of their claims after the CSS Alabama and the name came to be applied to the entire range.

The Bureau of Land Management now manages the Alabama Hills which is a popular place for hiking, off-road touring, amateur astronomy (due to its clear skies), motion picture history and photography.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples visited on Sunday. He said, “I was delighted to find that fall color was still hanging on in the Alabama Hills. In fact, it was still what I would consider Peak and was some of some of the finest color I’ve ever encountered there.”

This is not unusual for the Alabama Hills. Photographs of the tree have been published here the past two Januarys, certifying California’s five-month display of peak fall color.

Clayton found the cottonwood “bearing a full coat of golden-yellow leaves.” And, in true ‘Westerns’ narrative style, continued, “Meanwhile, along Lone Pine Creek the variety of trees and shrubs that line its banks were sporting full color, ranging from yellow to orange to brown.”

Randolph Scott would be proud. 

  • Alabama Hills – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!



All The Leaves Are Brown …

North Lake, (10/7/18) Jerry Sy

Sabrina Approach (10/7/18) Jerry Sy

As The Mamas & The Papas sang, “All the leaves are brown” above 8,500′ in Bishop Creek Canyon, “though the skies aren’t gray.”

This autumn, weather conditions were never better for viewing color in the Eastern Sierra. That resulted in a vibrant, long-lasting display.

However, if you delayed visiting South Lake, Lake Sabrina or North Lake, YOU MISSED IT and will have to do some California Dreamin’ to imagine them at Peak again.

That does not mean that you missed seeing peak fall color everywhere in California. It will continue to descend to lower elevations, well into December.

There’s also a lot of Peak color yet to be seen in Inyo County. Presently, Bishop Creek Canyon is peaking between 8,000 and 8,500′. That means you’ll see Peak aspen at the Mist Falls (8,350′), Aspendell (8,400′) and Four Jeffreys (8,000′) this week. Thereafter, Pine Creek Canyon (northwest of Bishop) and the Owens Valley will peak.

Though, the fall color captured by Jerry Sy in these pictures more than a week ago, can now only be imagined by “getting down on your knees and pretending to pray.” 

Markleeville, Alpine County (10/7/18) Jerry Sy

Sonora Pass, Mono County (10/7/18) Jerry Sy

  • Markleeville, Alpine County (5,531′) – Peak (75-100%) – GO NOW!
  • Sonora Pass (9,623′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sabrina Approach (9,100′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • North Lake (9,225′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Aspendell (8,400′) – Peak (75-100%) – GO NOW!

Aspendell (10/7/18) Jerry Sy


Cadmium Yellow Canyon

Rabbitbrush, Pine Creek Canyon (10/7/18) Gigi de Jong

Pine Creek Canyon (10/7/18) Gigi de Jong

“Pine Creek Canyon” would be more accurately described, were it renamed “Cadmium Yellow Canyon,” during autumn.

The combination of crystal-clear air, blue skies, bright sunlight and blooming rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), golden grasses and emerging yellow-leaved black cottonwood (Populus balsamifera) make it appear as if cadmium sulfide was sprinkled across the canyon.

The cottonwood are well short of nearing peak, though once they do, Pine Creek Canyon has the greatest show of peaking cottonwood in California.

This is a must-see destination at peak, for those who stop visiting Bishop Canyon after it has peaked. 

Pine Creek Canyon (7,400′) – Patchy (10-50%)

Millpond, Pine Creek Canyon (10/7/18) Gigi de Jong

Pine Creek Trail, Pine Creek Canyon (10/7/18) Gigi de Jong


Near Peak – Upper Bishop Creek At Peak – Upper Rock Creek

Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

Color spotter Alena Nicholas planned a trip to Bishop Creek Canyon on the day of the autumnal equinox, texting these mobile phone shots of color from Lake Sabrina, Weir Pond and the upper S. Fork where fall color is Near Peak.

Lake Sabrina is demonstrating the family nature of aspen with some stands still green and lime-colored, while others are at full peak in glorious tones of red, orange and yellow. Float fishermen drift across the lake’s wind-brushed surface.

At Weir Pond, between Parcher’s Resort and South Lake and along upper S. Fork, Bishop Creek, aspen now vary from Near Peak to full Peak. A rocky hillside of stunted aspen that forms a backdrop to the shaded pond is a mix of brightly lit yellow and lime. Fly fishing anglers cast for wary trout upon the pond’s still water. (Click photos to enlarge)

Clayton Peoples agreed with Alena Nicholas that Upper Bishop Creek is Near Peak, at least at the highest reaches. He stated, “It all depends on elevation.” On Saturday, he found the color Lake Sabrina and along the road to North Lake. But other areas–including North Lake–have yet to display much color.”

That means Bishop Creek “should remain a great color destination for at least the coming week or two as color works its way down,” Clayton concluded.

He also visited Upper Rock Creek and the trails to Hilton Creek and the Little Lakes Valley, to declare them at full peak and absolutely stunning.

Change happens quickly in the Eastern Sierra and that’s happened within half a week at the highest elevations of these two canyons.

Within a few days, Upper Rock Creek has evolved from Patchy to Peak. While the two areas should continue to improve, you’ve got two weeks at most to see the high areas of these two canyons at peak.

Lake Sabrina is a day or two from being at Peak, and Rock Creek Lake is already there. If these two areas are on your must see at peak list, GO NOW! 

Bishop Creek Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Rock Creek Lake, Hilton Creek and Little Lakes Valley Trail – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Weir Pond, S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/22/18) Alena Nicholas

Lake Sabrina, Sunrise (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

North Lake Rd. (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

Upper Rock Creek (9/22/18) Clayton Peoples

Aspen, Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi

Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi

Lake Sabrina (9/22/18) Toru Takahashi












Hike of the Week: Rock Creek Lake

Rock Creek Lake (9/13/18) Josh Wray/Mammoth Lakes Tourism

For the most developed color, the loop around Rock Creek Lake in southern Mono County (Eastern Sierra) gets this week’s nod as Hike of the Week. A photograph taken earlier in the week shows some of the beauty to be seen this weekend.

Though, there are plenty of other inviting trails to explore, as depicted by Will Ridgeway who hiked several trails to Lake Sherwin, at Convict Lake and at Lake Sabrina last weekend, returning with this compact portfolio of developing color. (Click photos to enlarge)  

Sherwin Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Sherwin Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Convict Lake (9/15/18) Will Ridgeway

Sabrina Approach (9/16/18) Will Ridgeway

Lake Sabrina (9/16/18) Will Ridgeway




Bishop Creek Is Up and Running, but Slowly

Groves Above Cardinal Village, M. Fork Bishop Creek, (9/17/18) Jared Smith

Willow Campground, S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/17/18) Jared Smith

Surveyor’s Meadow, S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/17/18) Jared Smith

Table Mountain, S. Fork Bishop Creek (9/17/18) Jared Smith

North Lake Rd., N. Fork Bishop Creek, (9/17/18) Jared Smith

North Lake Rd, N. Fork Bishop Creek, (9/17/18) Jared Smith

Spotty color is being seen at and above 9,000′ in Inyo County’s Bishop Creek Canyon, where Jared Smith of Parcher’s Resort near South Lake says, “the best of it is at Lake Sabrina along North Lake Rd and along the back side of South Lake.”

Fall color should improve rapidly in upper Bishop Creek Canyon in the coming week, with possible movement from Patchy to Near Peak by next weekend. Though what seems to be holding back quicker change, Jared observes, is that, “It still feels very much like summer up here.”

CaliforniaFallColor predicts that will change quickly, as colder nighttime temperatures have arrived (now sub freezing). Days remain warm (60s and 70s), meaning that the show will soon be awesome. 

South Fork, Bishop Creek

  • South Lake (9,768′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Wier Pond (9,650′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Parcher’s Resort (9,260′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Willow Campground (9,000′)  – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Table Mountain Camp (8,900′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Surveyor’s Meadow (8,975′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Mist Falls and the Groves Above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Aspendell (8,400′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Middle Fork, Bishop Creek

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Sabrina Approach (9,100′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Groves Above Cardinal Village (8,550′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Four Jeffries (8,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Intake II (8,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

North Fork, Bishop Creek

  • North Lake (9,225′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • North Lake Rd (9,000′) – Just Starting (0-10%)













Lake Sabrina, M. Fork Bishop Creek (9/18/18) Kathy Smith

North Lake Rd., N. Fork Bishop Creek (9/18/18) Kathy Smith

North Lake Rd., N. Fork Bishop Creek (9/18/18) Kathy Smith

North Lake Rd., N. Fork Bishop Creek (9/18/18) Kathy Smith

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Inyo County Releases New Visitors Guides

11th Visitors Guide to Inyo County

11th Visitors Guide to Death Valley

If you plan to search for California’s first and finest fall color, you’ll be driving along US 395 through Inyo County.

Two guides that should be uploaded to any fall color spotter’s mobile device are the 11th Edition Visitors Guides to Inyo County and Death Valley.

These just-released travel guides are chock full of great tips, fascinating stories and all sorts of invaluable travel planning info. Follow these links to see them:

Guide to Inyo County

Guide to Death Valley