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Sagehen Meadows – You Missed It.

Quaking Aspen, Sagehen Meadows (10/9/17) Mark Harding

The moment has arrived when enough Peak color has fallen at a given location to classify the location as Past Peak. When that happens, we report, “You Missed It.”

That’s occurred at Sagehen Meadows Road in Mono County (13 mi. east of US 395, south of Mono Lake on CA-120), where this past week the color was gloriously rich and textured. Today, most of it is on the ground.

Yet, for the die-hard color spotter, like Mark Harding, there is beauty to be seen in the last weathered leaves of autumn. And, if you still visit Sagehen, you’ll find lovely glimpses of it, as he did.

Sagehen Meadows, Mono County – Past Peak (You Missed It.)

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It All Begins at 1:02 p.m. Today

Autumn begins throughout California at 1:02 p.m.

That’s when the autumnal equinox occurs, starting a new astronomical season. At that moment, the sun’s rays are almost equally divided between the northern and southern hemisphere.

Thereafter and continuing to the winter solstice on Dec. 21, days get shorter and colder, as the amount of sunlight reaching the northern hemisphere declines.

Less light results in less chlorophyll being produced in deciduous plants. As the green chlorophyl subsides underlying brown, red, orange and yellow colors are seen. Colder temperatures also intensify red, orange and yellow colors. Though, eventually, the leaves weaken and fall.

Autumn is the only season with two names: Autumn and Fall. It gets the latter from those falling leaves.

Many believe California’s best weather occurs in autumn. Days remain clement, but nights are cooler. There’s a crispness in the air, but also a soothing envelopment that almost feels as if you’re being embraced by the season.

Why is it that there is such celebration when pumpkin-spiced lattes return to cafe menus in autumn?  Is it their taste, or the recollections of this gathering season that they inspire?

Autumn is the season of harvest, reunion, tailgating, wine making, costume parties, sweaters and thanksgiving. Though it would not be what it is, without Fall.

Over the past couple of days, snow has fallen in the High Sierra. Several of you have asked what effect the early snow might have on autumn color. The answer is: “Little to No Effect.”

Snow usually only damages the change of color on leaves that have turned color or have nearly turned color. Leaves that are vibrant and still producing chlorophyl shake off a little snow with no effect on the color. However, were the same to occur at an elevation that was near peak to peak, leaves in the process of turning would either be spotted or blown from their branches.

Rock Creek Canyon (9/22/17) Will Ridgeway

Rock Creek Canyon (9/22/17) Will Ridgeway

Will Ridgeway took these photographs near Rock Creek Pack Station yesterday morning.

He writes that “The snow on green Aspen leaves makes it look like we’re going straight from Summer to Winter, though that’s temporary.

“That said, there was a good amount of colour above Lake Sabrina this morning, roughly equal parts green, yellow and orange depending on the location of each grove.” he describes.

Lake Sabrina – Near Peak (75-100%) – Will Ridgeway rates the upper groves high above Sabrina Lake near 10,000′ in elevation as nearing peak. GO NOW!

Sagehen Meadow, Mono County (9/22/17) Bruce Wendler

Sagehen Meadow, Mono County – Patchy (10-50%) – Color spotter Bruce Wendler found “the first fire of autumn” lighting the hills around Sagehen Meadow, south of Mono Lake. Frigid temperatures are stimulating vibrant color change in high areas of Mono County.

Unidentified exotic tree, Downtown LA near Fig Plaza (9/21/17) Mohammad Delwar

Los Angeles – Just Starting (0-10%) – Often what appears to be autumnal change is not exactly the same thing. Del Hossain saw this blooming tree in downtown Los Angeles yesterday and had the presence of mind to photograph it and ask if it might be fall color.

This is one of the myriad of non-native (or exotic) trees that have been planted in our urban forests. It has a flower or seed pod (similar to a Bougainvillea bloom) that Del described as “a splash of pinks, reds,or orangish”.

What is most important is that Del turned a break while working in the heart of Los Angeles (Downtown Magnets High School – Go Suns!) into an inspirational fall color sojourn.  Fall color creds to anyone who can identify the tree, and to Del for sharing.

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Sagehen Meadows Peaks – GO NOW!

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Meadows leads the Eastern Sierra with a peak rating for its brightly colored groves of auburn, orange, gold, yellow and lime aspen.  For its singular position, Sagehen Meadow earns this week’s selection as “Hike of the Week.”

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Sagehen Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes Road (9/19/16) Mono County Tourism

Virginia Lakes Road (9/19/16) Mono County Tourism

Dunderberg Meadow Road (9/19/16) Mono County Tourism

Dunderberg Meadow Road (9/19/16) Mono County Tourism

Conway Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Conway Summit (9/20/16) Mono County Tourism

Aurora Canyon (9/16/16) Mono County Tourism

Aurora Canyon (9/16/16) Mono County Tourism

To get there, head to Mono County. Then take CA-120 east from U.S. 395 toward Old Benton. Between Navy Beach at Mono Lake and Old Benton is Sagehen Meadows, an area famous for its aspen. Views of Banner Peak, the Mono Craters, Mono Lake and the Eastern Sierra entertain you on the drive to and from Sagehen Meadows Road.

Other locations with Near Peak color in Mono County are Virginia Lakes and Upper Rock Creek.

Here’s a rundown on what fall color can be seen in Mono County.

Sagehen Meadow: Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – If the sprawling groves of brilliant orange aspens weren’t enough reason to go, the views of Banner Peak and the Sierra Nevada, as well as Mono Lake, are well worth the drive! Stop at the Mono Mills Historic Site on the way out or back for a picnic, and, of course, the South Tufa Reserve to walk the out-of-this-world shores of Mono Lake.

Rock Creek & Virginia Lakes Road: Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW! – These high elevation areas are filling in with brilliant yellows and a few oranges. Swing by the Virginia Lakes Resort or Rock Creek Lake Resort (closed this weekend for a wedding) for breakfast or lunch after you enjoy the colorful drive.

Convict Lake, Conway Summit, Green Creek & Summers Meadow: Patchy (10-50%) – Start planning now so you don’t miss the colors in these areas! Although they are lime-green now, it should only be another week or two before colors are peaking.

June Lake Loop, Lee Vining Canyon, Lundy Lake, Walker/Coleville, Monitor Pass, Mammoth Lakes : Just Starting (0-10%) – While there is a little bit of activity up high, for the most part these areas are still mostly green with the occasional lime green or small patch of yellow. Likely a few weeks from significant color change. Stay tuned, and start planning for some time in October.

View the fall colors by horseback with one of the pack stations (please call for availability), soar over the colors with Skytime Helicopter Tours (fall & winter flight promotion: over 30% off 40-minute flights, additional discounts for groups of 4 or more), take the wheel on a High Sierra Jeep Adventure to access the secret, OHV-only fall color locations, or stick to smoother roads and enjoy fall color stops between beer tastings on with Eastern Sierra Brewery Tours!

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