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First Report: Tuolumne Grove

Pacific dogwood, Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia, Yosemite National Park (10/23/18) Thomas Haraikawa

Pacific dogwood, Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia (10/24/18) Thomas Haraikawa

The Western Sierra follows its Eastern Sierra neighbors in peaking, because its most-profuse deciduous foliage grows at lower elevations.

Presently, Pacific dogwood, bigleaf maple, Frémont cottonwood and black oak are presenting a palette of pink, crimson, yellow, gold and orange colors in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Valley’s famous sugar maple peaked in mid October, though dogwood, maple, cottonwood and oak continue to carry bright color.

Favorite areas to shoot fall color in Yosemite’s fall color are: the Yosemite Chapel (mid Oct.), Fern Spring (mid to late Oct.), Bridalveil Fall, El Capitan Meadow, Lower Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, Photographer’s Bridge and the Valley’s other eight historic stone bridges (late Oct. to mid Nov.).

Thomas Haraikawa scores a First Report for his visit to the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia. This grove is often overlooked by Yosemite photographers who are attracted to the valley, but as Thomas’ photographs show, it has iridescent and irresistible fall color.

Located near the intersection of the Big Oak Flat and Tioga Road (CA-120), the Tuolumne Grove is now a riot of hot pink, red, orange, yellow and lime colors.

Bigleaf maple and black oak, Southside Drive, Yosemite Valley (10/24/18) Thomas Haraikawa

Late October to mid November is when the Valley’s black oaks are best. Yosemite Valley likely has the most impressive stands of black oak in California, due to their juxtaposition to such impressive granite monoliths as Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, El Capitan) and Yosemite’s many towering waterfalls which get replenished by autumn rains.

We call black oak the Halloween tree, both because it peaks near Halloween and because its black trunks and branches contrast so boldly with the tree’s fully peaked orange leaves.

Yosemite’s fall color is truly a treat to the eye. 

  • Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoia, Yosemite National Park (6,200′)- Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
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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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Over The Top

Log Cabin Rd., Mono County (10/13/18) Gene Miller

Tioga Pass (CA-120E), Yosemite National Park (10/13/18) Gene Miller

June Lake Camp, June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Gene Miller

On a whim, this past weekend, color spotter Gene Miller crossed the Sierra Nevada to the East Side and found “over the top” color.

Gene is a midwest transplant who misses autumn there, though has  “come to appreciate the Fall Colors … here.”
He said that getting there, was fraught with stops along the Tioga Road (CA-120E) where the trees were “mostly ‘At Peak’ or a little ‘past peak’,” depending on elevation, though when he descended Tioga Pass to Log Cabin Road, he found it “At Peak and brilliant!”

Log Cabin Rd., Mono County (10/13/18) Gene Miller

Log Cabin Rd., Mono County (10/13/18) Gene Miller

Sherwin Creek Campground, Mono County (10/14/18) Gene Miller

Sherwin Creek Campground, Mono County (10/14/18) Gene Miller

Spent aspen, June Lake Loop (10/13/18) Gene Miller

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Gene Miller

June Lake (10/14/18) Gene Miller

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Gene Miller

June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Gene Miller

Silver Lake, June Lake Loop (10/14/18) Gene Miller

On Sunday, he was impressed by color along the June Lake Loop and at Silver Lake, but realized areas like Sherwin Creek Campground at Mammoth Lakes were Past Peak and loosing leaves. 

  • Tioga Pass (9,943′) – Past Peak, YOU MISSED IT!
  • Log Cabin Rd. (7,545′)- Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • June Lake Loop(7,654′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!
  • Sherwin Creek Campground, Mammoth Lakes (7,600′) – Peak to Past Peak, YOU ALMOST MISSED IT!

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Blonds or Redheads?

Dunderberg Rd., Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Sagehen Summit, Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Virginia Lakes, Mono County (9/29/18) Bruce Wendler

Do gentlemen prefer blonds or redheads?

When it comes to deciding between red or yellow autumn leaves, it’s a toss-up.

Bruce Wendler visited Sagehen Summit, the Virginia Lakes and Dunderberg Road, finding beautiful blonds, redheads and even  trendy orange-frosted trees.

Though, he cautions, Sagehen is now almost Past Peak, the same at Virginia Lakes.  Though still peaking, go immediately or you’ll miss it.

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

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

Douglas Van Kirk found the “fiery” redheads climbing the slope beyond North Lake to be “Absolutely beautiful.” While, their blond relations at lake level were “just starting.”

North Lake appears to be about what it did last year, getting hot upstairs while still warming downstairs.

On his return (Sunday), Bruce found Tioga Pass still open (it often remains open until November) with more red to be seen along the west shore of Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park. 

Dunderberg Rd (7,500′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Sagehen Summit (8,139′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Virginia Lakes (9,770′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (8,150′) – Peak  (75-100%) GO NOW! – Shrubs and ground covers are at peak.

North Lake (9/28/18) Larry Salmi

North Lake (9/30/18) Bruce Wendler

Tenaya Lake, Yosemite National Park (9/30/18) Bruce Wendler

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Ellery Lake – Tioga Pass

Ellery Lake, Tioga Pass (9/22/18) David Olden

Scattered aspen groves survive at windswept elevations just east of the Yosemite boundary on CA-120E.

David Olden found them backlit by light, most turning yellow with some bright lime green remaining on Saturday. Numerous colorful shrubs and ground covers beside Tioga Pass, provide for a beautiful scene.
“Tioga Pass, itself, has scattered yellow through much of the high country,” Olden reports. 
Tioga Pass (9,9,43′) – Near Peak (50-75%) GO NOW!
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Fall Color Detectives

Poison Oak, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

I just love “Who Done Its.” Though, in fall color’s case, it’s more “Where Is It?”

Today, I received reports from Lance Pifer and Darrell Sano who uncovered more evidence that fall is approaching.

1000 Island Lakes, Pacific Crest Trail (9/1/18) Lance Pifer

North Lake, Bishop Creek Canyon (9/1/18) Lance Pifer

Lance visited the Eastern Sierra where he found spots of fall color lighting up the Pacific Crest Trail near 1000 Island Lake and at North Lake in Bishop Creek Canyon, where aspen remain  green and lake grasses are highlighted lightly with gold.

Darrell was a road warrior, exploring far and wide. On Friday (as previously reported) he drove across Sonora Pass, returning via Tioga Pass. About three to four miles after entering Yosemite National Park’s east entrance, he stopped to investigate “a scene that looks like it was planned, meaning so perfect–layered trees, leaves from pink to golden yellow, colors receding into the background, such depth. And it’s peaceful, quiet.” He continued that this area was severely damaged by fire, with at least half of it changed.

The following day, he drove north from the Bay Area to Cloverdale, then along CA 128 to the coast. As expected, there was no color to be seen other than a little in low shrubs, though reminds us that by driving the route he was reminded about how stunning Mendocino county is.

Poison Oak, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

On Labor Day, he stayed near home, taking “a long hike in Briones Regional Park (one of the great East Bay Regional Parks – some of the best managed and most beautiful in California), hiking nine miles while criss-crossing trails. Along his route, he passed “vile poison oak” in toxic profusion, recalling the many times he’s suffered after having been covered in its sap, but noted, “When you see beds of its brilliant red in filtered light, you know 1) don’t go in there 2) enjoy the color from a distance.”

Darrell’s detective work included observing the afternoon light which due to skies, still tinted with wildfire haze, cast a yellow ochre tint that was accented by the lower angle of sunlight, dramatizing the shadows, and noted the dryness of the landscape, observing that despite their parched appearance, thistles and grasses remained beautiful remnants of summer. 

Dry thistles and grasses, Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

Briones Regional Park (9/4/18) Darrell Sano

Just Starting (0-10%) – Tioga Pass

Just Starting (0-10%) – 1000 Islands Lake
Just Starting (0-10%) – North Lake
Just Starting (0-10%) – CA 128 (Cloverdale to the Coast)
Just Starting (0-10%) – Briones Regional Park, SF Bay Area
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More Photographic Perspectives

Black oak, bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Fridays are a quiet day to catch up on posting photographs that arrived too late to be included in a timely fall color report. The first selection is of photographs taken by Laura Jean near Hayfork along CA-3, two weeks ago.

The color seen in these images has long since fallen, though her shots provide perspective about what it was like to drive the Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway in late October. Click on photo to enlarge.

Hayfork, Trinity Heritage Scenic Byway (CA-3) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black oak, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

California ash, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Bigleaf maple, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

Dogwood, Hayfork (10/21/17) Laura Jean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, here is a selection of images contributed by Dona Montuori-Whitaker in mid October. They arrived too late to be posted in a timely fashion, but are now in order to show additional views of Plumas County.

What is particularly striking about the Shasta Cascade region are the number of old wooden bridges, barns and cabins that have aged beautifully and contrast so emotionally with fall color.

Plumas County – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Maple, Quincy (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Genesee Valley (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Indian rhubarb, Keddie (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Long Valley Creek Bridge, Sloat (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shed, Indian Falls (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

Taylorsville School (10/16/17) Dona Montuori-Whitaker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fallen maple, cottonwood and dogwood leaves, Yosemite National Park (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

As reported here on the day Tracy Zhou took these photos, peak color has shifted from bigleaf maple, dogwood and cottonwood to black oak in Yosemite National Park.

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

Black oak, Yosemite Valley (11/1/17) Tracy Zhou

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Wawona – Vibrant Yellows, Amazing Reds

Gates of the Valley, Yosemite National Park (10/28/17) Mohan Ram

Wawona Road, Yosemite National Park (10/29/17) Mohan Ram

Yosemite National Park is at the last of its peak. The dogwood, bigleaf maple and cottonwood are past peak, though black oak and willows continue to dazzle.

Mohan Ram describes the Valley’s oaks as “glowing in the sunlight,” though the best show is seen at Wawona along CA-41 that Mohan describes as “stunning throughout the entire stretch from vibrant yellows to amazing reds. Not to be missed!”

Wawona Rd. – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Yosemite Valley (4,000’) – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It.

Bigleaf maple, dogwood, Yosemite Valley (10/28/17) Mohan Ram

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Yosemite – No Reason To Wait. Just Do It.

Yosemite Valley (10/22/17) David Olden

Yosemite Valley (10/22/17) David Olden

After visiting Yosemite Valley this past weekend, David Olden wrote, “I can’t see any reason to wait.” He added, “Go now. Just do it.”

He found “most of the valley floor to be 75% to past peak, with small areas still in the 50-75% range. Low elevation dogwoods mostly yellow with some green and red just starting. (higher elevation dogwoods are peaking or gone).”

Olden reported that black oak on the valley floor are “in full glory as well as the bigleaf maple. Most meadows are showing golden grasses and even the ferns are showing their more subtle Fall yellow.”

Yosemite Valley (4,000′) – Peak to Past Peak – You Almost Missed It. GO NOW! JUST DO IT!

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Hazelgreen Dip Glows in Yosemite NP

Hazelgreen Dip, CA-120, Yosemite NP (10/14/17) Simon Lau

Two miles south of the Big Oak Flat entrance station (northwest entrance, Yosemite National Park), CA-120 (called the Big Oak Flat Road inside the national park) dips near Hazelgreen. There,  dogwood, ferns, willows and bigleaf maple are putting on an irridescent show of pink, rose, yellow, gold and lime. Simon Lau scores a First Report for this area, which has long been a favorite of Yosemite color watchers.

Down in Yosemite Valley, bigleaf maple and dogwood are peaking, as well. By the end of the month, however, they’ll have dropped their leaves and the black oaks will have turned deep orange in contrast to their black branches and trunks.

By this time in Autumn, until the late 1800s, native Ahwahneechee, the band of Miwok Indians who called Yosemite Valley their home, would have burned off the Valley’s grasses, to make it easier to collect black oak acorns, a principal food and trading item.

Tioga Lake, Yosemite National Park (10/15/17) Gene Miller

On his return from the Eastern Sierra, color spotter Gene Miller passed over Tioga Pass, capturing this shot of Tioga Lake with a touch of gold surviving at 9,638′, scoring another First Report, then traveled into Yosemite Valley to get a shot of the pioneer sugar maple planted near the Yosemite Chapel nearing the end of its peak.

Hazelgreen Dip, near Big Oak Flat Entrance Station, CA-120, Yosemite National Park (4,400′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW!

Tioga Pass, Yosemite National Park (9,943′) – Past Peak – You Missed It.

Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park (4,000′) – Peak (75-100%) GO NOW! – Dogwood, cottonwood and bigleaf maple are peaking. Black oak will peak at the end of October.

Sugar Maple, Yosemite Valley (10/15/17) Gene Miller