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Bishop Creek’s Over The Top

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Adam Potts

This has been a mind-boggling past week up Bishop Creek Canyon. You might say, “it was over the top!”

North Lake finally caught up with Lake Sabrina and South Lake, rushing from Patchy to Peak in a few days. Then, clouds, rain, snow, refreshing clear autumn air and rainbows filled the skies over Inyo County.

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/18) Douglas Van Kirk

All that action attracted so many photographers that local color spotter Gigi de Jong described them as leapfrogging over one another for “the sweet spot and that great shot.””

What they saw, she described, were “soft clouds” sweeping across the sky “as the cumulus built in the late afternoon heat, then dissipated as the cool winds scattered them about.

“As the shadows played over the landscape, the colors seem to change from within. Sunlight brightened the yellows and shade deepened the oranges and reds.

North Lake Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Tracy Zhou

Every vista had something magical about it,” Gigi said, causing observers to see things they hadn’t noticed before, like an old log cabin opposite Weir Pond and lovers as in love with the scene as they were with each other.

So many images arrived, that it’ll take days to post a representative selection, here. We’ll do our best, but there are many repeats and we like to show variety. In the meantime, we’re over the top over what we received.

As for the outlook, color has almost peaked at the highest elevations, but there’s still great color to be seen up Bishop Creek Canyon for another two weeks. Presently, the color is peaking under 9,000′, and the storm just made it better. 

Autumn Storm, US 395, Independence (10/3/18) Ursula Esser

South Fork, Bishop Creek

  • South Lake (9,768′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Wier Pond (9,650′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Parcher’s Resort (9,260′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!
  • Willow Campground (9,000′)  – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Surveyor’s Meadow (8,975′)  – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Table Mountain Camp (8,900′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Mist Falls and the Groves Above Bishop Creek Lodge (8,350′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Mountain Glen Campground (8,200′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Four Jeffreys (8,000′) – Patchy (10-50%)
  • Big Trees Campground (7,800′) – Just Starting (0-10%)

Middle Fork, Bishop Creek

  • Lake Sabrina (9,150′)- Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sabrina Approach (9,100′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sabrina Campground (9,000′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Groves Above Cardinal Village (8,550′)- Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Aspendell (8,400′) — Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Intake II (8,000′)  – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Bishop Park Group Campground (8,400′) – Patchy (10-50%)

North Fork, Bishop Creek

  • North Lake (9,225′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • North Lake Rd (9,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

Log Cabin, Weir Pond, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

Cardinal Village, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

Bishop Park Group Campground, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

North Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mountain Glen Campground, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

Grass Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Tracy Zhou

Grass Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Tracy Zhou

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Tracy Zhou

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Tracy Zhou

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sabrina Approach, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Gigi de Jong

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/18) Daniel Danzig

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/18) Daniel Danzig

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/30/18) Daniel Danzig

S. Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Adam Potts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/29/18) Douglas Van Kirk

S. Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Adam Potts

S. Fork Bishop Creek, Table Mountain Camp (10/1/18) Adam Potts

S. Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Adam Potts

S. Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (10/1/18) Adam Potts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Road Trip: The Big Loop

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Dunderberg Meadow, Mono County (9/30/18) Phillip Reedy

Fall color junkies will go to any length to satisfy their craving for color, even if it means driving for three days straight.

Phillip Reedy proved that this past weekend when he took a road trip that we’ll call “The Big Loop.”

He began by crossing Carson Pass (CA-88), then Monitor Pass (CA-89), before heading down US 395 as far south as Bishop Creek Canyon (with numerous stops along the route).

Phil reports, “Carson Pass to Red Lake Creek is bursting with colors right now, but it ranges from all green to nearly past peak. The meadow by Red lake is just starting to turn, but heading down 88 from there to Red Lake Creek and the cabin the colors are brilliant yellow and oranges. In another week those trees will likely be losing their leaves.”

He continued, “At the Carson bridge 1/2 mile west of the 88/89 intersection the grove right above the river is looking great with green, yellow and deep reds. But just across the valley to the north, the trees are nearly all green. From the 88/89/ intersection to Sorensen’s Resort there are great colors but some groves near Sorensen’ are losing leaves fast. In another week this area will be getting bare.

West Carson River (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

West Carson River (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Reedy continues that Monitor Pass has some nice yellow areas but still-green trees seem reluctant to change and estimates that in a week “this area will be looking nice.”

Mono County has been getting rave reviews so far this autumn, with Dunderberg Meadow southwest of Bridgeport “in full glory right now. Beautiful yellow, oranges and reds. Don’t wait for this one.”

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

Reedy was impressed by Bishop Creek Canyon, particularly South Lake, Lake Sabrina, and North Lakes as all looking great, as were the creeks near the lakes. North Lake is amazing right now. There are still some greens, but I would definitely go in the next week. Just downslope Aspendell is completely green so it will be a week or two before the colors look good there.”

Lake Sabrina (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

North Lake (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

Surveyor’s Meadow 10/1/18) Mike Caffrey

S. Fork Bishop Creek (10/1/18) Mike Caffrey

Mike Caffey also traveled a similar route this weekend, commenting that South Lake, Weir Pond and Parcher’s are nearly Past Peak. While there’s still color to be seen, it’ll be gone, soon. He was similarly pessimistic about how long peak would remain at North Lake and Lake Sabrina, though through the weekend it was “spectacular.”

I write this every autumn, but it never ceases to flabbergast me as to why people ask what they’ll see at North Lake in two weeks, when I’m reporting GO NOW! So, I answer, “bare branches.”

Remember, peak color lasts about two weeks. So, when you first see GO NOW! on a Near Peak destination, pack your bags. If you see it on a Peak destination, the car should be running and you should be heading out the door. If you don’t, YOU MISSED IT.

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (9/30/18) Mike Caffrey

Note that just because it’s Past Peak at one elevation, you haven’t missed it everywhere. If you’re truly in search of beauty, go to a lower elevation. For example, plan now to visit June Lake from Oct. 11 – 18. It should be gorgeous, then.  I can make no promises, however, how good June Lake will be on Oct. 20. 

  • Hope Valley (7,300′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – It’ll be great for maybe another week.
  • Monitor Pass (8,314′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
  • Dunderberg Meadows (8,609′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – This is a wow destination right now.
  • June Lake Loop (7,654′) – Just Starting to Patchy (0 – 50%) – Plan now to visit in mid October.
  • South Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,768′) – Peak to Past Peak (75-100%) GO NOW or YOU MISSED IT! – There will still be great color down the canyon, but it’s almost past peak at the highest elevations.
  • Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,150′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Are your bags packed?
  • North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Is your motor running?

Red Lake Creek Cabin, Hope Valley (10/2/18) Phillip Reedy

 

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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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Bishop Creek Yellowing Up

North Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (9/5/16) Jill Donald

North Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (9/5/16) Jill Donald

South Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (9/5/16) Jill Donald

South Lake Rd., Bishop Creek Canyon (9/5/16) Jill Donald

Color spotter Jill Donald camped in Bishop Creek this week, capturing these shots along South Lake and North Lake roads.

She reported, “A few aspen are yellowing; some willows are yellowing; and some leafy groundcover plant is turning vivid oranges and reds.”

Just Starting (0-10%) – Upper Bishop Creek Canyon

Fall Color Goes Live

Today, when I commented to color spotter Jared Smith of the Parcher’s Resort that a lot of lime must now be showing, Jared responded, “You’d be surprised.” Jared reports lots of lime, but also “a lot of yellow splashes” at the highest elevations above 9,000 ft. in the Eastern Sierra.

So, we’re officially calling this California’s first report of autumn.  If you’re planning to photograph the aspen at the highest elevations, plan to go during the next two weeks.  When the color turns from 9,000 to 10,000′, it turns quickly.  Tomorrow, we’ll be issuing a full report and (hopefully) will send photos to meteorologists across California.  In the meantime, here’s the first report:

0 – 15% – Upper Bishop Creek Canyon – lots of lime and splashes of yellow are now appearing at Sabrina, North and South Lakes in the upper Bishop Creek Canyon.  It could peak anytime within the next two weeks at that elevation.  Historically, the peak has been close to the first day of autumn, so consider visiting in the week before or after Sept. 22.  Bring camera.