Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Dogwood Leaves Near South Lake

SouthLakeDogwood2006|10|01: Dogwood Leaves. South Lake, California. October 1, 2006. © Copyright "G Dan Mitchell".    keywords: dogwood leaves autumn fall color red granite south lake california color photograph

Dogwood Leaves. South Lake, California. October 1, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.


October 5, 2006 Posted by | Green World | Comments Off on Dogwood Leaves Near South Lake

Rock, Grass, and Aspens

RockGrassAspens2006|10|01: Rock, Grass, and Aspens. Near North Lake, California. October 1, 2006. © Copyright "G Dan Mitchell".    keywords: aspen trees rock grass north lake sabrina basin autumn fall color sierra nevada california color photograph

Rock, Grass, and Aspens. Near North Lake, California. October 1, 2006. © Copyright G Dan Mitchell.


October 5, 2006 Posted by | Sierra Nevada | Comments Off on Rock, Grass, and Aspens

Where to Find Aspens and Stay Warm?

“Karen” – who apparently shares my interest in Sierra autumn aspen colors – wrote to ask:

“Do you have any advice for where to go to both see Fall colors and where it is not so cold? We would like to head out for one last backpacking trip next weekend . We were in Yosemite two weeks ago at elevations of about 10K and it got really cold (19 degrees) at night! We’d like to go someplace, probably at a lower elevation, where it will be warmer.”

Not only does it get cold this time of year, but the darn sun sets way too early! :-)

Sierra weather this time of year can be unpredictable and “interesting.” It is not uncommon to get nighttime temperatures in the low 20 degree range at the elevations you mentioned – or even a bit colder – but it isn’t always that cold. I think you may have hit one of the colder nights. (See the Tuolumne Meadows link in the Weather section in the sidebar to get an idea of current temperatures.)

I think the best places to see fall colors are generally east of the Sierra crest, especially if you are looking for aspens. I have to admit that I have never combined a pack trip with my aspen searches, so I don’t think I can suggest a specific pack trip that will take you to colorful aspens. I suspect that a number of the trips that start at east side trailheads would include aspen colors, but it may be a bit late above 9,000′ or so.

However, I can say some things about timing and your prospects for this year. In fact, I posted a lengthy report earlier this week at G Dan Mitchell | Photography describing last weekend’s “aspen adventure.”

As I went higher and farther south on the east side last weekend, I found that the aspen colors were peaking (or, in a few cases, past their prime) at around 9,000′ – particularly in the Bishop Creek area where I spent most of my time. They also appeared to be near peak in the Carson Pass/Hope Valley area, though not as close to being done as in Bishop Creek.

One of my favorite aspen views is at Conway Summit on Hiway 395 just north of Mono Lake. Here there were impressive colors last week, but there were also still quite a few green trees, some of which were just beginning to show color. This area should be looking good this weekend – and, in fact, I’m hoping to be there to take photos late in the afternoon on Sunday.

Lee Vining Canyon (along the road to Tioga Pass from Lee Vining) is filled with aspens – but they were pretty green last weekend, suggesting that you might see some better color there this weekend or perhaps (but only perhaps) the following week.

It is my impression that the middle of October (as in the weekend after the upcoming weekend) is getting pretty late for reliable Sierra aspen displays. You can probably find some, but many of the stands will have peaked and dropped a lot of their leaves by then.

Besides aspens, there are a lot of other plants changing colors this time of year in the Sierra. I’m afraid that I’m not particularly a Namer of Plants – I tend to remember plants very specifically in terms of appearance and location, but not recall their names – but there are wonderful red, brown, and yellow plants of all types up high this time of year, even above timberline.

Regarding cold… I’m afraid that cold tends to go hand in hand with autumn aspen color. So if you backpack this time of year – and I think it may be the most beautiful backpacking season – you need to be ready for the possibility of cold. It can be warm and sunny, but it can also be cold and sunny, cold and cloudy, or even snowy.

It might be a good time for a slightly lower pack trip, perhaps further north in the Sierra. I backpacked in the Tahoe region a few weeks back – which I normally don’t do in the summer – and we had beautiful conditions. Now that I think of it, it might even be a good time to do a short trip in the Carson Pass area! Personally, I’m very fond of the Tuolumne Meadows vicinity this time of year, but I can’t say that it is a good place to look for big aspen displays. (Though perhaps someone else will write and set me straight on this.)

(I have a short pack trip planned this weekend myself – more about that in a few days. :-)

By the way, I recommend Calphoto as an excellent source of reports on current conditions for beautiful things such as aspens and wildflowers around the state of California.

October 5, 2006 Posted by | Commentary | 4 Comments


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