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Stay or Drive

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Conway Summit, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lundy Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

June Lake, Mono County (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Lower Yosemite Fall, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

Merced River, Yosemite National Park (10/21/18) Clayton Peoples

There are two types of color spotters: one Stays at a location and works it, the other Drives to many locations, seeing fall color across a broad area.

There’s something to be said for both approaches.

The Stay approach allows time for hiking, relaxing, taking in the color and being at a select spot longer providing for better opportunities to see and photograph it at its best.

The Drive approach provides the experience of enjoying driving along boulevards of fall color, of seeing many places, of appreciating the variety of color to be seen and exploring the forests and towns where fall color is best.

This past weekend, color spotter Clayton Peoples drove a large Sierra loop to the Eastern Sierra and back to the Western Sierra, demonstrating the advantages of the Drive approach.

He reports, “Conway Summit is still just patchy. There’s lots of green among the aspen groves, but there are some stands that are turning. A good zoom lens is best at the moment, which allows one to focus in on groves that are turning and/or mixed.

“Lundy Canyon is at peak. The groves around Lundy Lake are in full color, as are the groves along the dirt road to the trailhead and beside the Lundy Canyon Trail. It is mostly brilliant yellow with a bit of light orange mixed in. Definitely worth a trip!

“The June Lake Loop has reached peak color. Aspen along the Loop and surrounding its pristine lakes have all turned and range from vivid golden yellow to orange. Good color will likely last here another week or so … I recommend that folks “GO NOW” before the best is in the past.

“Yosemite National Park is patchy. The few aspen groves at higher elevations are at full peak, but trees at lower elevations are just beginning to turn. That said, some of the black oak along the Merced River are already sporting bright yellow leaves, and brush ranges from green to yellow to red, so progress toward “near peak” status is not far away,” Clayton reported. 

  • Conway Summit, Mono County – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! (While Clayton rated Conway as Patchy, that’s the nature of the groves, which turn sequentially. The area evolves through successive Patchy, Near Peak and Peak ratings.)
  • Lundy Canyon, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lake Loop, Mono County – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Tioga Road, Yosemite National Park, Tuolumne County – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Mariposa County – Near Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! Again, our assessment varies from Clayton’s, as Yosemite has rolling peaks. Because of this, it is easily mis-classified. After the small amount of fall color has peaked along the Tioga Road, Pacific dogwood begin to turn rose to pink and red, then bigleaf maple turn yellow, then cottonwood gold and finally black oak turn orange. Though one specie may be patchy, another may be past peak or peaking. Knowing this helps determine when to visit Yosemite. Yosemite’s famous pioneer sugar maple (planted a century ago near the Yosemite Chapel) peaked in the past two weeks. Now, bigleaf maple are peaking and cottonwood and black oak are approaching peak.

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Time to be Outside on the Eastside

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Whoa, if ever there were a weekend to get Outside on the Eastside, this is it in Mono County.

Peak color can be found anywhere you go and whichever direction you drive. We’ll be posting an update on Lake Tahoe and the Hope Valley, after returning to scout those locations (Oct. 12) and fully expect the color to be great, just as it is in Mono and Inyo Counties right now.

Part of the reason this autumn is so good is why it is so confusing. On the exact same day for the same location we’ve received conflicting reports stating, “It’s gone” or “it’s spectacular” or “not yet there.”

What’s happening is that the aspen forest, for the first time in anyone’s memory, is turning by grove. Stands of aspen are different genetically, and they’re demonstrating their individuality this autumn. In past years, the genetic differences between the groves seemed to make little difference, as the trees at least acted as if they were on the same clock. Not this year.

What that means for fall color viewing is that the show is lasting longer, but not as uniformly at any given location.

The big change this past week occurred at the highest elevations, which for the most part went Past Peak. Places like Upper Rock Creek (10,300′), Tioga Pass (9,943′) and Sagehen Meadows (8,139′ – High Desert, so it’s drier there) are now Past Peak.  Though, that’s not universally true. Some of the groves at “you’ll-get-winded walking there” heights are still green.

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Some spotters began declaring calamity after seeing stripped stands at some locations, posting on Facebook and elsewhere that high winds had stripped the color. So, I called Mono County fall color guru Jeff Simpson (Yes, you’ve now achieved guru status in your life, Jeff).

Jeff lives on the eastside and has been reporting autumn color for years. He seemed to be offended by the suggestion that fall had ended, saying, “in no way have all the leaves blown off.”

OK, Jeff, OK. I believe you, especially since you’re now a guru and after seeing your photos, taken as late as yesterday.

So, count on it.

This weekend, there’ll be lots of gorgeous color to be seen at: Twin Lakes Bridgeport, Lundy Canyon, Convict Lake, Rock Creek Road, McGee Creek Canyon, Conway Summit, Summers Meadow Road, Lobdell Lake Road, Lee Vining Canyon, Monitor Pass and the June Lake Loop, even if a few leaves have fallen, as seen at right.

Here’s a detailed report from Mono County, a go-to destination for great fall color this week:

WALKER / COLEVILLE / TOPAZ

Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Peak (75-100%) – Aspen on the summit are perfect, right now. Look for the large grove of trees on the east side of the summit to have the best display of color. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Road (8,600′) – Peak (75-100%) – This area has never looked as good. Lots of peaking trees with deep reds and yellows. Get here fast, as some stands are past peak or will not last much longer.  Note: Burcham Flat Road to Lobdell lake Road are dirt roads – AWD or 4WD vehicles are recommended. GO NOW!

Lobdell Lake Rd. (10/10/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

Walker Canyon (5,200′)- Patchy (10-50%) – Walker canyon has slowed since last reported. There are stands with great yellows and lime greens while others are just getting started. Give it a week and it’ll be rating “Go Now!”, but not just yet.

Towns of Walker & Coleville – Just Starting (0-10%) – A few cottonwoods have started to turn but this is traditionally the last place to peak in Mono County. Look to go here in the 3rd or 4th week in October. Nevertheless, there are spots where the tall cottonwood are crowned with yellow in the midday sun.

Sonora Pass (9,623′)- Peak (75-100%) – It’s a fall color inversion here, as colors are looking nice around Leavitt Meadows Pack station and the lower sections of Sonora Pass, whereas aspen near the summit never seemed to get going. You’ll find peak to past peak groves along the road and is still worth the trip this weekend. See our earlier report about Obsidian Campground – glorious! GO NOW!

Twin Lakes, Bridgeport (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

BRIDGEPORT / VIRGINIA LAKES

Twin Lakes (7,000′) -Peak (75-100%) – The biggest change in Mono County this week has occurred at Twin Lakes near Bridgeport. Wonderful color has appeared along the upper and lower lakes, and up the mountainside toward Horse Creek. GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes (9,819’) –Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak – The leaves never got going at Virginia Lakes, this year. Though, there’s still some great color along Lower Virginia Lakes Road. GO NOW! as You’re About to Miss It.

Conway Summit (8,143′)- Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lot’s of great color at Conway Summit right now. A few stands are a little green while most of the mountainside is at full peak. Tip: visit in the late afternoon, as shadows make this difficult to photograph in morning light. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow (7,200′) – Peak (75-100%) – – Simply spectacular. Entire groves of peaking aspens make this location a must stop.  NOTE: The Summers Meadow bridge sustained significant damage during the spring runoff. The bridge has been reduced to one lane traffic but is currently open to visitors traveling to Summers Meadow. GO NOW!

Conway Summit (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

LEE VINING 

Tioga Pass & Lee Vining Canyon (9,943′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is great color to be found in Lee Vining Canyon, especially along Log Cabin Mine Road. Higher up, Tioga Pass and Saddlebag Lake are past peak. GO NOW!

Lundy Lake & Canyon (7,858′)- Peak (75-100%) – Be prepared for brilliant color up Lee Vining Canyon at the first set of waterfalls. Color along the road and campground is our peak as Peak of the Week. GO NOW!

BENTON & 120 EAST 

Sagehen Summit (8,139’) – Past Peak (You Missed It.)

JUNE LAKE LOOP

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/11/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

June Lake Loop/Hwy 158 (7,654′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – There is lots of bright lime, yellow and orange in the aspen around the June Lake Loop. There are peak trees just about everywhere. And yet, the June Lake Loop will last another week or two. We do not recommend delaying, but if you only can visit in two weeks, you should still find spots of good color. GO NOW!

Parker Lake (8,000′) – 50-100% Go Now!  – Wow. From Parker Bench to Parker Lake be prepared to drop your jaw. You will find a mix of color from Patchy to Near Peak, to Peaking, to Past Peak, but overall it’s lovely. GO NOW!

MAMMOTH LAKES

Mammoth Lakes Basin (8,996′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Mammoth has come into its own, with good color along Mammoth Creek Road and Sherwin Creek Road and among bright orange willows at the Mammoth Lakes Basin. GO NOW!

Summers Meadow Rd. (10/9/17) Jeff Simpson | Mono County Tourism

CROWLEY LAKE/McGEE CREEK/CONVICT LAKE

McGee Creek Canyon (8,600’) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – – McGee Creek Canyon is at full peak and has wonderful color right now while the road is still a bit patchy. GO NOW!

Around Crowley Community (6,781′) – Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) – Poke around the community and you’ll find bright color there and along the hillsides beside U.S. 395. Take the “old US 395” road from McGee Creek to Tom’s Place for great views of the color change that’s occurring up the mountain. GO NOW!

Convict Lake (7850′) – Peak (75-100%) – Convict Lake is a “must” stop this week. Colors are at their peak along the lake and up Convict Canyon. Take the 2.5 mile “Convict Lake Loop Trail” around the lake for a close up view of the leaves and different angles of Mt. Morrison. GO NOW!

ROCK CREEK CANYON

Rock Creek Road (9,600’) –Near Peak to Peak (50-100%) –  – Wonderful color along the lower section of Rock Creek Road from Tom’s Place. There are sections of great Yellows and Oranges while other areas above the lake may be past peak. GO NOW!

Lower Rock Creek Road(7,087′) – Patchy (10-50%)

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Lundy Canyon – 50/50

Lundy Lake (9/30/17) Kimberly Kolafa

Lundy Canyon (9/30/17) Kimberly Kolafa

Color spotter Kimberly Kolafa visited Lundy Canyon last Saturday and found lots of patchy color with it at about “50/50 gold/green” around the lake.

She wrote, “If I were choosing a trail to day hike this weekend, the one up Lundy Canyon would be my pick.”

Lundy Canyon (7,858′) – Patchy (10-50%)
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Postcard: Mono County at its Best – GO NOW!

Convict Lake (10/25/15) Alena Nicholas

Convict Lake (10/23/15) Alena Nicholas

Alena Nicholas traveled to Fern Creek Lodge on the June Lake Loop, this past weekend.  Alena mentioned, when submitting these photos, that Jon – the 1927 resort’s owner – recently underwent surgery.

She hoped that mentioning his rustic and modern cabins – one of which is named after Ansel Adams – might lift Jon’s spirits.

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Well, seeing Alena’s photographs certainly lifted ours, so much so that we’ve packaged the best and most representative of her shots in this postcard collection, providing several inspirational reasons to stay at Fern Creek Lodge.

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Gull Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Canyon (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Canyon (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Canyon (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Canyon (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

Lundy Lake (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

They include images taken at Convict Lake, Gull Lake, June Lake Loop, Lundy Canyon and Lundy Lake.

We expected Alena to find peak color in Mono County, but didn’t expect how good it would be.

What is seen is that higher areas (Lundy Canyon) have been losing leaves, though a lot of color remains.

How long that will continue depends on whether wind strips the trees.

Along the June Lake Loop, many aspen are still patchy, with lots of green and lime yet to turn yellow and orange.

Spent leaves cover the forest floor, providing a colorful carpet near streams.

We have only two words for those who’d like to see such color… GO NOW!

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – June Lake, Convict Lake, Lundy Lake, Lundy Canyon

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

June Lake Loop (10/24/15) Alena Nicholas

 

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Eastern Sierra Moves From Fall to Winter

Convict Lake (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Convict Lake (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

June Lake Loop (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

June Lake Loop (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lundy Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Lundy Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Silver Lake (11/1)14) Nicholas Barnhart

Silver Lake (11/1)14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mono Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mono Lake (11/1/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mammoth Lakes (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mammoth Lakes (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Owens Valley (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Owens Valley (11/2/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Great fall color photographers are patient.  They’re willing to wait past sunset for the alpenglow or get up early for the morning light.  They don’t quit when everyone else says peak has passed. They go to unexpected places and find glory.

Great fall color photographers are methodical. They plan their shots, considering the calendar and locations they discovered previously and have banked away as worth returning to another day.

Great fall color photographers capture scenes others will never get.

Snow blanketed higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra this past weekend.  Most fall color photographers packed away their cameras when it had peaked a couple of weeks before, but not Nick and Alena Barnhart.  They’re great fall color photographers.

This past week, Nick called to say he and Alena were making one last trip to the Eastern Sierra, and if possible, cross over Tioga Pass to Yosemite.  That wasn’t possible, as the pass closed for winter, but they did bring back images few others got. Here’s what they found in Mono County and the Owens Valley as fall and winter collided.

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“Pockets of Resistance” in the Eastern Sierra

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

Pockets of Resistance along the June Lake Loop (10/26/14) Alena Barnhart

We’ve reported that this is the autumn that just won’t die and that’s seen in these photographs taken by Alena Barnhart along US 395.  Color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart term the areas where color persists as “pockets of resistance.”

Alena Barnhart 4

Lundy Pond (10/26/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop  (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

June Lake Loop (10/25/14) Alena Barnhart

That means, even though “crazy” wind should have stripped trees of leaves (as occurred last Friday and Saturday) there are areas where the trees “resisted” the elements.

Now, we all know trees can’t resist the wind.  Probably, they were in a spot where swirling winds missed the groves or the trees were still early enough in their change that their leaves had enough strength to stay attached.  Whatever the reason, the result is that a different type of scene develops, one mixed with stripped and unstripped trees, which is lovely in its own right.

So, even though we’re now classifying many areas in the Eastern Sierra as “peak to past peak” or fully past peak, there still are “pockets of resistance” to be appreciated.

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June Lake is Jumping – Go Now!

Despite the warning, Greg Newbry shot this at June Lake, anyway (10/19/14) Greg Newbry

Despite the warning, Greg Newbry shot this near June Lake anyway (10/19/14) Greg Newbry

June Lake Loop (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

June Lake Loop (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

June Lake Loop (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

June Lake Loop (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

June Lake Loop (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

June Lake Loop (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

Lee Vining Canyon (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

Lee Vining Canyon (10/21/14) Steve Wolfe

Mono County color spotter Alicia Vennos reports that fall color continues to explode in Mono County and predicts it should hold for at least another weekend, barring storms or high winds.

Today, Eastern Sierra color spotter Steve Wolfe left Bishop Creek Canyon to drive north along U.S. 395.  He confirmed what Alicia’s been saying, that aspen up Lundy Canyon, along the June Lake Loop and in Lee Vining Canyon are, surprisingly, still full in many places, with at- or past-peak, “Go Now!” colors.

Steve predicted that “with weather due to warm up about 10 degrees for the next few days, the color should continue to hold at least until the end of the week.  The color north of Bridgeport and south of Walker River is at- or past-peak, too, with yellow, orange and the occasional red.”

He wrote that “Lundy Canyon, while not as spectacular as June Lake Loop in its variety and intensity of color, is still uniformly yellow, with some green hanging in there. Lee Vining also has brilliant, full aspen stands.”

Lower Rock Creek Road (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) The lower trail is finally turning and should be close to peak this weekend.

Convict Lake (Peak to Past Peak) – “Ambush at the Lake” the Convict Lake Resort’s annual fall fishing derby is running now through Nov. 15, with cash and resort prizes.  Morrison’s Bonus Derby Weekend is Oct. 31 – Nov. 2, 2014.  For more about these events, contact Convict Lake Resort at 800-992-2260 or www.ConvictLake.comGO NOW!

Mammoth Lakes (Peak to Past Peak) – GO NOW!

June Lake Loop (10/19/14) Greg Newbry

June Lake Loop (10/19/14) Greg Newbry

June Lake Loop (Peak – 75 – 100%) – The June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158 is particularly beautiful from Gull Lake, “down canyon” to Grant Lake.  GO NOW!

Little Walker Lake (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

Little Walker Lake (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

Walker Lake (Peak – 75 – 100%) From the north end of the June Lake Loop/Hwy. 158, Little Walker Lake (Walker Lake on the Google Map) is peaking at lake level, and should hold through the weekend. Alicia Vennos provides this advice on how to get there: the trailhead is the only public access (you cannot drive to the lake on Walker Lake Rd. as that end of the lake is private).  Find the trailhead at the end of Sawmill Canyon Rd.  On the Fall Color Map, it doesn’t look that close to the lake but you just walk up a short incline from the parking lot, and you can look right down on the lake. GO NOW!

Lower Tioga Road (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

Lower Tioga Road (10/19/14) Alicia Vennos

Lee Vining Canyon (Peak – 75 – 100%) – Groves at the base of Tioga Pass Rd./Hwy. 120 just north of the US 395 junction in Lee Vining Canyon are just turning now while along Poole Plant Road, the color is peaking and again should be amazing this weekend, as well. GO NOW!

Lower Lundy Lake Road (Peak – 75 – 100%) Lower Lundy Lake Rd. is rich in color — definitely peaking. GO NOW!

Sonora Pass (Peak to Past Peak) Sonora Pass and Leavitt Meadows are also glowing, with some areas and stands past peak.  Autumn rides through the trees are still available at the Leavitt Meadows Pack Station: text (preferred) or leave a message at (775) 450-0014GO NOW!

Walker River (Patchy – 10 – 50%) – The drive along the West Walker River in north county is becoming golden as the trees and willows along the shore get increasingly brighter.

Walker, Coleville, Topaz  (Patchy – 10 – 50%) – Spots of bright yellow and lime are seen among the Antelope Valley’s stands of black cottonwood.

Monitor Pass (Past Peak) – YOU MISSED IT!

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