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Mineral King Gets Royal

Mineral King (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park (10/1/16) Leor Pantilat

The Southern Sierra have been hit hard by drought. 60 million conifers have died from bark beetles. As, in a drought, the trees are less able to defend themselves by pushing sap to block infestation by the beetles.

We received a report today that, as a result of the drought, many aspen are so dry at 7,000′ that “they simply shed their leaves.”

And yet, fall color survives. At Sequoia National Park, this past weekend, color spotter Leor Pantilat found a stand of aspen at the base of the mountain that was at peak with brilliant orange mixed in.

He reports that while the aspen are probably past peak by now, cottonwood will peak this week or next, meaning that fall color at Sequoia National Park continues.

California Fall Color is a proponent of looking down, not just up. Leor confirmed that dictum, by noting that the High Sierra was carpeted with red and yellow ground cover.

So, look down as well as up when hiking Mineral King.

Mineral King, Sequoia National Park – Peak (75-100%) to Past Peak GO NOW!

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Yosemite Sugar Maple Peaks

Sugar Maple, Yosemite Valley (10/13/15) Elliot McGucken

Sugar Maple, Yosemite Valley (10/13/15) Elliot McGucken

GO NOW! If you want to see Yosemite Valley’s historic sugar maple peaking, as it doesn’t last long.  The exotic tree will probably be past peak by the weekend.

Peak GO NOW! – Yosemite Valley – One tree peaks first in Yosemite Valley each year, an eastern sugar maple planted near the Yosemite Chapel over a hundred years ago. Because these trees lose their color quickly, when we receive a report that it’s peaking, pack up and leave for the valley.  You might get lucky and see it as Elliot McGucken did. Or, just admire Elliot’s photo, while biting your lip and promising to get there next year.

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Peak of the Week: Yosemite – GO NOW!

Sentinel Bridge (11/11/14)  Nicholas Barnhart

Sentinel Bridge (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Bigleaf maple (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Bigleaf maple (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Fern Spring (11/11/14)  Nicholas Barnhart

Fern Spring (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

North Side Drive (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

North Side Drive (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Merced River (11/11/14)  Nicholas Barnhart

Merced River (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mule Deer (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Mule Deer (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

Coyote, Merced River (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Coyote, Merced River (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Big Oak Flat Road, Yosemite NP (11/9/14) Anson Davalos

Big Oak Flat Road, Yosemite NP (11/9/14) Anson Davalos

Yosemite Chapel (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Yosemite Chapel (11/11/14) Alena Barnhart

Black Oak (11/11/14)  Nicholas Barnhart

Black Oak (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

El Capitan (11/11/14)  Nicholas Barnhart

El Capitan (11/11/14) Nicholas Barnhart

San Bernardino Mountain color spotters Nick and Alena Barnhart headed north to Yosemite this past weekend and found the Valley at full peak.

From the Yosemite Chapel shot, it’s easy to see that Yosemite’s trees have been dropping their leaves for a couple of weeks. Nick delayed his trip a week with hopes rain would occur and the waterfalls would be flowing again.

However, very little rain or snow has yet reached the high country, keeping the waterfalls nearly dry.

Nick said the leaves were showering the valley floor as they departed (note to self: recruit more spotters to check out Yosemite Valley in late October each year), though he imagines the color will continue for another week and will probably be near past peak by Thanksgiving Day. It is surprising to me that we don’t receive more photo submissions from Yosemite, considering it’s probably the most photographed location in California.

Presently, fall color is mostly limited to Yosemite Valley, though Wawona also has good color and areas opened up by wildfires in the past 25 years have become repopulated with colorful bigleaf maple, black oak, dogwood and shrubbery.

Temperatures have chilled significantly across the Sierra Nevada this past week. Considering we’ve had clear skies, that would normally lead to more intense color, but in Yosemite’s case the color is unlikely to improve, as the trees have already peaked.

One special aspect of autumn in the national park is wildlife photography. As leaves drop, the forest opens up leaving the wildlife little to hide behind.  Also, they’re often backgrounded by warm color, as seen in Nick’s shot of the mule deer.

The animals most easily photographed are bear, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, ground squirrels and birds. The deer and coyotes are particularly visible and mostly ignore people.

Santa Clara Valley (most of you know it as Silicon Valley) color spotter Anson Davalos provides a view of the Big Oak Flat Road (North Entrance – Hwy 120) as it descends toward Yosemite Valley above Foresta. This area was grey with cinder and ash following the park’s 1989 fire.

Today, young aspen, dogwood and oaks now paint the hillside with yellow, rose and orange fall color.  Given the present beauty of this area, it should improve to being one of the most spectacular displays of fall color in the national park in coming years.

Yosemite National Park (Peak 75-100%) – All areas in the national park are at peak or past peak.  Yosemite Valley and Wawona have a week, perhaps two (depending on wind) of peak color left to go.  GO NOW!

American River Near Peak

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

S Fork, American River (10/26/14) Kimberly Kofala

South Fork, American River (US 50) (Near Peak – 50 – 75%) — Color spotter Kimberly Kofala reports that points along the American River above Pollock Pines is now approaching peak with “oaks, golden willows and grasses are cloaked in gold.  While probably not quite at peak yet, all the trees and shrubbery are turning; the display is colorful and won’t be disappointing.”  GO NOW!

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Yosemite Valley at Peak

Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley (File Photo) © 2006 John Poimiroo

Fern Spring, Yosemite Valley (File Photo) © 2006 John Poimiroo

Color spotters visiting Yosemite Valley have been reporting black oaks at peak, with cottonwoods, bigleaf maple and dogwoods slightly past peak.

The reflections of bright yellow and orange in the near-still Merced River (seen posted on the national park’s Facebook page) have been lovely.  Fern spring has been cluttered with fallen bigleaf maple leaves as autumn peaks in the national park.

The National Park Service posted in late October that “Bears eat as many as 10,000 to 20,000 calories every day at this time of year as they fatten up for hibernation. Acorns are probably the best food source right now, but a bear would have to eat several hundred if not a few thousand acorns every day to meet this requirement. Luckily, black oaks are producing lots of acorns this year.”  The NPS advises that because oaks are attracting bears, deer and other animals in search of acorns, please be mindful of the speed limit (35 mph in the park) and be observant while driving on park roads.

GO NOW! 75 – 100% – Yosemite Valley (5,000′) – This is likely the last weekend to see fall color at peak in Yosemite Valley, as a storm will arrive on Monday.

Yosemite Fall Color Update

Excerpted from the Yosemite National Park Daily Report: “Summer-deciduous California buckeyes always let their leaves wither and brown by late summer, even as their seeds continue to develop. Dogbane over the higher elevations seems to be changing color normally this season, typically a month ahead of the trees. Bigleaf maples on driest sites often start to show some yellow or brown along veins and margins as early as August, but leaves in moister locations can still peak with good color in November.  Best weather for fall color is always dry, with short, warm days, and cool, but not freezing nights. For more information go to: http://www.nps.gov/yose/naturescience/fall-color.htm

Yosemite Valley Past Peak

Reflections along the Merced River, Yosemite National Park © 2011 Michael Frye

Michael Frye reports this week that last Thursday’s light dusting of snow provided both beautiful images of color peeking through the dusting and the last of the peak in Yosemite Valley.  Here’s a report taken from his blog:

Past Peak – Yosemite Valley – “The next question is… what did the storms do to the fall color? While the rain and snow Thursday night knocked some leaves down, things were still in pretty good shape on Friday. But it got colder Friday night, and then there was another storm, and more cold temperatures Sunday night and last night. I spoke with Ansel Adams Gallery staff photographers Evan and Kirk, and it seems that the trees that were already turning, particularly the big-leaf maples in many spots, lost most of their leaves. There’s still some good color around Fern Spring, and Valley View, and some oaks and dogwoods in the eastern end of the Valley are still partially green. It’s been a long, slow-changing autumn in Yosemite, with no real peak. The best color is probably over, but some spots could have good color for awhile longer.”

In our experience, some of the loveliest color can be found with the first snowfall on the last fall color.  Black oak can be covered with snow or frost, well into early winter for moody photographs, so consider visiting Yosemite in November to capture these kinds of photographs and for the special solitude that occurs during this quiet time in the national park.

Yosemite Valley Still Colorful

Bigleaf Maple, Yosemite Valley (11/2/11) © 2011 Michael Frye

75 – 100% – Yosemite Valley – Outdoor photographer Michael Frye took this shot during one of his camera workshops.  He reports, “The yellow big-leaf maples are past peak in a couple of early-changing spots, and just getting there in other places (like around Fern Spring), but overall they look great. The dogwoods are becoming more colorful every day. Most are still partially green, but you can find beautiful specimens around Valley View and between the old dam (Highway 120/140 junction) and Pohono Bridge. The higher-elevation dogwoods along Highways 41 and 120, and in the Tuolumne Grove, should be prime, though I haven’t checked them out personally.”

 
As mentioned in previous posts on his blog (seen at left) “most of the cottonwoods leaves just turned brown and dropped off, and the same thing happened to some of the black oaks. But the oaks around Cook’s Meadow seem to have avoided this problem, and are still in good shape, though they’ve only just started to change color. The elm in the middle of Cook’s Meadow looked great two days ago, but will probably lose most of its leaves soon.”

A weak but cold storm came through the Sierra this week and Michael blogged “that could change everything. The snow level might drop as low as 3,500 feet. Since Yosemite Valley is at 4,000 feet that means a dusting of snow could coat the trees and those yellow leaves—a highly photogenic combination if it happens. But the wind, precipitation, and sudden dip in temperature might also cause many trees to drop their leaves abruptly, or make partially-green trees, like the oaks, turn brown. It’s impossible to predict how these things will play out, but autumn could end abruptly in Yosemite Valley. On the other hand, snow-covered trees and clearing storms can look great also!”

For more of Michael’s great reports and photos, consult his blog in the Blogroll at left.

California Fall Color is reporting this week and much of next from New Zealand, where spring has just ended and summer is beginning.  So, we’re at a temporary disadvantage in not being able to see the color, though will post as we receive reports from California color spotters.  In the meantime, do as we’re doing and explore the great outdoors!

At peak on Hwy 88, 89, 4 loop

75 – 100% – Hope Valley – Patty Brisenden of Sorensen’s Resort reports she traveled Sorensen’s in the Hope Valley “east on Hwy. 88 where the colors are still pretty. Down Hwy 89 to Markleeville and then on Hwy 4 back over the Sierra to Murphys and Angels Camp.  Gorgeous route and beautiful colors for now.  Snow may be heading our way… so not sure how long it will last.  Hwy. 4 is a spectacular route, slow but lovely.”

Tahoe Gold

The downward march of fall color in California was made apparent by driving U.S. 50 from El Dorado Hills to South Lake Tahoe on Saturday.  This route, once part of America’s first transcontinental highway- the Lincoln Highway, shows the change of color by elevation from the early turn of non-native trees in suburbia to the yellow glow of bigleaf maple (the first to change), to dogwood, black oak and aspen.

50 – 75% – U.S. 50 – The western slope of the Lincoln Highway between 3,000 and 4,000 feet in elevation is dressed in bright yellow bigleaf maple with pockets of color seen along the American River.  Further up the canyon (5,000′) dogwood are pink and green, and black oaks are beautifully tinged with orange leaves in time for Halloween.

75 – 100% – South Lake Tahoe – A brilliant stand of yellow aspen is seen at 7,000 ft in elevation on the Lake Tahoe side of Echo Summit.  Yellow bigleaf maple, orange willows and rust ferns dress the edges of forests and meadows at South Lake Tahoe.