Posts

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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.

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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!
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Peak Flows Into Owens Valley Softly, Like a Poet’s Verse

Old and Young Cottonwood, Owens Valley (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Pine Creek Canyon, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Pine Creek Canyon, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Pine Creek Pass Trailhead, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Cottonwood, Owens Valley (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

“Peak fall color is tumbling down the mountains and spreading out across the Owens Valley,” Bishop color spotter Gigi de Jong describes poetically.

Bishop Canyon is now drained of its Peak color, which she says “seems to be flowing into
the lower creeks and canyons.”

California’s largest and finest display of peaking black cottonwood are at peak in Pine Creek Canyon, “with a beautiful display of yellow and umber … alongside the creek.”

While higher up the steep-sided canyon, Gigi writes, “Small knots of young aspen … are holding onto their color as tightly as they’re holding onto the mountainside.

As the canyon opens up to the valley below, cottonwoods cluster in groups and stand in
lines like partygoers dressed in their golden finery at an Autumn Harvest Ball.

Across the Owens Valley, Gigi continues, “Every open field, where water courses along canals or spreads out in marshy tracts, hosts these radiant trees. Every neighborhood street is glowing with color. They all seem adamant to outshine one another.

“On the east side of Bishop, in the wide-open spaces near the Owens River, are where the larger groups congregate. These groves are wild and wonderful and really show the passage time.

‘Younger trees stand shoulder to shoulder with mature trees, showing off their strength and
resilience. The big, old trunks that have lost their limbs and their shimmering coats, still play a part in the cycle of life out here.

‘There are signs and sounds of life everywhere. There are deer in the canyon and birds in the
trees,” she concluded that when you stand quietly, you can “feel the energy of life as is shifts from one season to the next.” 

  • Bishop Creek Canyon – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Pine Creek Canyon – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Owens Valley – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Bishop – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

 

Mule Deer, Pine Creek Canyon, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Red-tailed Hawk, Owens Valley (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Red-tailed Hawk, Owens Valley (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Owens Valley, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

Bishop, Inyo County (10/22/18) Gigi de Jong

 

 

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Mount Up and Ride

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/13/18) Gigi de Jong

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/13/18) Gigi de Jong

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/13/18) Gigi de Jong

Lower Rock Creek Trail (10/13/18) Gigi de Jong

“Mount up and ride,” encourages Bishop Area color spotter Gigi de Jong who describes the Lower Rock Creek Trail (at the top of Round Valley, north of Bishop – First Report) as the gold standard for mountain biking in the Eastern Sierra.

“This trail earns ‘gold’ for its superior ride, and fall is its ‘golden season’ due to mild days and the trail’s splendid color,” she explains.

Aspen near the top of the trail are just beginning to yellow. Parts of the trail appear luminous. Gigi writes, “The last rays of the setting sun drop like liquid gold through the canopy, leaving traces of iridescent color on the ripples of Rock Creek. Willow and birch stand out in hues of deep gold and burnt orange.”

Bishop Creek Canyon is now done peaking. Though the lowest sections of the canyon remain at peak, none of them compare to the spectacular scenes witnessed for the past three weeks, higher up. Now, the show in Inyo County is dropping to the lower canyons and valleys.

Bishop Country Club (10/15/18) Gigi de Jong

In the Owens Valley, a surprising place to be wowed by autumn is the Bishop Country Club (First Report) where, Gigi continues, “where the luscious green of the fairways meets the lustrous yellow of the trees. Soon the beautiful grounds of the country club will blend with the last colors of summer in a riotous collision with autumn. Then,” she exudes, “if we’re lucky, a blanket of white will soften everything into the monochromatic colors of winter. Get ready for the most beautiful round of golf, ah … apologies, gold – anywhere!”

 

 

Owens Valley (10/15/18) Gigi de Jong

Owens Valley (10/15/18) Gigi de Jong

Other Owen’s Valley developing areas include Buckley Ponds, Rawson Ponds and canals where landmark cottonwoods grow along their edges, adorned with yellow crowns.

“They are majestic and tower over the valley’s lowland landscape,” Gigi adds, “Also, abandoned grain silos rise like ghosts from a forgotten era, standing sentinel over fields of pure sunshine. California grasses mixed with still-blossoming yellow rabbitbrush and cottonwoods cloaked in gold are filled with the sounds of migrating songbirds and bees.” 

Owens Valley (10/15/18) Gigi de Jong

Owens Valley/Round Valley/Pine Creek

  • Lower Rock Creek Rd – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Round Valley – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Pine Creek Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Bishop Country Club – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Owens Valley – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Big Pine Creek – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Mt. Whitney Portal – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Chocolate Lakes Trail, Inyo County (10/13/18) Kirsten Liske

Bishop Creek Canyon

S. Fork Bishop Creek

  • South Lake – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Weir Pond – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Parcher’s Resort – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Willow Camp – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Surveyor’s Meadow – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Table Mountain Group Camp – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Stiny Loop/Mt Glen Camp – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Mist Falls – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Four Jeffrey Camp – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

M. Fork Bishop Creek

  • Sabrina Lake – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sabrina Approach – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Sabrina Campground – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Groves Above Cardinal Village – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Aspendell – Peak to Past Peak – GO NOW, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Intake II – – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Big Trees Camp – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

N. Fork Bishop Creek

  • North Lake – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • North Lake Rd. – – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!

 

 

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Though Difficult, Look Down

Onion Valley Rd., Independence (10/11/18) Ursula Esser

Onion Valley Rd., Independence (10/11/18) Ursula Esser

We often advise, “Look down, not just up.”

That’s a difficult thing to do when you’re in the Eastern Sierra, as the mountains draw your attention up to them.

However, if you only look up, you miss the beauty to be seen down upon the high desert floor.

Ursula Esser sends these images of Onion Valley Road in the Owens Valley, with rabbitbrush, shrubs and boulders creating a fall palette of yellow, orange, sage, grey and auburn near Independence. 

Independence (3,930′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Onion Valley Rd., Independence (10/11/18) Ursula Esser

Onion Valley Rd., Independence (10/11/18) Ursula Esser

Onion Valley Rd., Independence (10/11/18) Ursula Esser

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Owens Valley Still Crackling

Cottonwood, Owens Valley (11/10/17) Walt Gabler

Rabbitbrush, Owens Valley (11/10/17) Walt Gabler

The Owens Valley, from Bishop south, continues to carry crackling bright orange and yellow color, with cottonwood and rabbitbrush still at peak.

Mendocino County color spotter Walt Gabler passed through the Owens Valley on a trip down US 395 to the Imperial Valley.

He recommends the route as more scenic and satisfying than I-5 or CA-99, despite the added time, when driving to southeastern California.

Color spotter Clayton Peoples adds his endorsement of Walt’s report, stating he was traveling the eastside and “took a quick detour to the Alabama Hills (Whitney Portal Road just west of Lone Pine) and was not disappointed.”

The trees are still peaking along Lone Pine Creek, which weaves its way through the Alabama Hills. He sent his photo of his favorite cottonwood, “one that stands as a lone sentinel above the boulders near the painted rock.” Presently, it is “bursting with yellow.”

Cottonwood, Alabama Hills, Inyo County (11/10/17) Clayton Peoples

A bonus of visiting the Alabama Hills right now, Clayton writes, “is that one can include the highest peaks of the Sierra Nevada–including the tallest, Mt. Whitney–in fall foliage photos.”

Owens Valley – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

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Lime, Yellow, Orange and Gone

Table Mountain Group Camp, S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/3/17) John Poimiroo

Bishop Creek Canyon is a mix of every level of peak, from Just Starting, to Patchy, to Near Peak, to Peak, to Past Peak, some occurring at the same location.

North Lake is a puzzle. It’s lime, yellow, orange and gone, all at the same place.

Peak color is near the lake with green aspen far above. We rate it Near Peak, though it’s peaking in areas, nowhere close in others and past peak, too.

Sabrina is topsy turvey. The higher you go, the less consistent the color is. Intake II (at the lowest elevation) is Near Peak, while Sabrina Approach (higher up) is Patchy.

Aspen at the center of the Groves Above Cardinal Village were past peak and surrounded by a ring of patchy, though mostly green aspen. Aspendell has hardly any color, though that’s not unusual. It’s often the last to peak.

We were there to sort it out and ran into dozens of color spotters and photographers who were shrugging their shoulders in confusion. Seeing me trying to find some color along a stream at Sabrina Approach, one photographer turned and said, “I did the same thing, and came to the same conclusion… not yet there. Still, I’m glad to be here.”

Those of us who were there this week, were certainly glad to be in Bishop Creek Canyon searching for fall color, as there were moments of breathtaking wonder.

Travel writer/photographer Lee Foster and I found it in a dazzling display along the South Lake Road. From Parchers down to the Mist Falls at Mountain Glen the hillsides are lit with pink, orange, yellow and lime aspen.

While several of South Lake’s groves could technically be rated as “Patchy,” Oh!, how beautiful they are in the midday sun. No one photographing them was disappointed. That’s why it gets rated as peaking. GO NOW!

Southern Inyo County

  • Whitney Portal (8,374’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Onion Valley (9,600’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Big Pine Creek (7,660’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery (4,000’) – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Alabama Hills (4,534’) – Just Starting (0-10%)

South Lake

  • Weir Pond (9,650’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Parchers Resort(9,260′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Willow Campground (9,000’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Table Mountain Group Camp (8,900’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Surveyors Meadow (8,975’) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Mountain Glen (8,500′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Mist Falls and the groves above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Four Jeffrey Campground (8,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)

Sabrina Lake

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150′) – Patchy (10 – 50%) to Peak (75-100%)
  • Sabrina Approach (9,050′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000’) – Patchy (10 – 50%)
  • Groves above Cardinal Village (8,550’) – Patchy (10 – 50%) 
  • Aspendell (8,400’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)
  • Intake II (8,000’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800’) – Just Starting (0 – 10%)

North Lake 

  • North Lake Road – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • North Lake (9,255’) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Upper North Lake Road – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Round Valley/Pine Creek

  • Pine Creek Pack Station – Peak GO NOW! – A small grove of aspen is at peak near the trailhead and pack station.
  • Pine Creek Rd. – Patchy (10-50%) – The black and Frémont cottonwood along Pine Creek will be gorgeous when they peak.
  • Round Valley – Patchy (10-50%) – Landmark black cottonwood grow throughout the Round Valley, often near old weathered cabins. They are now crowned with yellow and will be beautiful at peak.
  • Lower Rock Creek Rd. – Patchy (10-50%)

Owens Valley/Bishop

  • Owens Valley – Just Starting (0-10%)
  • Bishop – Just Starting (0-10%)

Here’s a fun gallery of snaps taken at various unidentified Bishop Creek Canyon locations.

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

Bishop Creek Canyon (10/6/17) Dandy Candywolf

 

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Northern Owens Valley Burnished With Orange

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Color spotter Gigi deJong drove southeast of Bishop toward the Owens River and the Buckley Ponds in search of color, today.

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

A smattering of yellow decorates the Bishop Country Club which is otherwise “still beautifully green” and is likely a “late starter.” She predicts it will approach peak in a few days to a week, depending on how much wind lashes the East Side, this week. 

There are large and small cottonwood trees dotted all across the northern Owens Valley floor. Some are loners, others in groves. The smaller trees range from fully yellow with burnished orange tips to an overall bronzed orange.

She writes, “The larger trees are just beginning to turn yellow on the tops and edges. Deep red leaves on creeping vines appear as if on fire as they curl around gnarled old wood of dead trees alongside the creeks. 

“A high point along Eastside road that runs along the base of the White mountains provides a panoramic view of the Owens River valley and the Sierra Nevada beyond. Early morning and sunset are always beautiful out here. 

“The creek, marshes and ponds along Buckley Ponds road have abundant birdlife and the reeds are a shimmering copper color. 

“There are large individual trees in many spots in and around Bishop that are almost iridescent yellow. There’s a large grove almost directly opposite my cottage and I’ll go out early tomorrow morning and try and get a few good shots.” 

Owens Valley – Patchy (10-50%)

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Buckley Ponds, Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Owens Valley (10/12/16) Gigi deJong

Peak Moves Down to the Owens Valley

Vista Point, Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Vista Point, Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Color spotter Shuo Li, broke away from studies as an international student to visit the Eastern Sierra just before snow fell in the high country.

Several of the areas he photographed – Conway Summit, June Lake and Mammoth Lakes – have changed significantly since he photographed them late last week, though Crowley Lake and the Owens Valley are still peaking.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Owens Valley

The Green Church, Crowley Lake (10/28/15) Shuo Li

The Green Church, Crowley Lake (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley Vista (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley Vista (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley Vista (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley Vista (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

Owens Valley (10/28/15) Shuo Li

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Postcard: Owens River Rope Swing Memories

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Bishop color spotter Gary Young stopped by his old swimming hole, yesterday.

Owens Valley (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens Valley (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Owens River (11/1/15) Gary Young

Black oak, Owens Valley (11/1/15) Gary Young

Black oak, Owens Valley (11/1/15) Gary Young

He sent back these images and reflections of 35 years ago, when he’d spend summer days with barefoot buddies swinging on a rope into the Owens River.

With winter approaching, boys have stopped swinging out into Owens River’s chill waters.  Though, the old tree still stands where Gary remembers it, between East Line and Warm Springs Road.

Hanging from a gnarled branch, the rope swing is unmoved by the river’s still waters.

We’re glad Gary returned to that spot, just so he could share the scene and the memory of summers past.

Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Owens Valley