“Dude, autumn happens here, too.”
With that statement the Eastern Sierra stakes its claim to having enough bountiful, bright fall foliage to compete with fall color hot spots such as New England and the Rocky Mountains.
Inyo County and the Inyo National Forest are where Californians and out-of-state visitors find the state’s first burst of explosive fall colors, according to John Poimiroo, who edits California Fall Color, a blog and website (www.californiafallcolor.com) that provides weekly (often daily) reports on where to find fall color in California. The website also informs “dudes” that autumn in all its glory can be just as much a part of the California experience as hitting the beach.
The information and photos on the blog comes from volunteer “color spotters” who send in photos and reports about the status of the fall color coverage in their area. For instance, in Inyo County, “color spotters” keep an eye on popular leaf-peeping spots as Bishop Creek, South Lake and Sabrina, and Aspendale. That kind of “local knowledge” means California Fall Color has up-to-date information describing how quickly or slowly colors are turning in an area, and also provides insights and tips about where the best color-viewing areas are located.
The website already has posted some early season reports, and those updates will continue to past Thanksgiving Day, though reports are often posted as late as December. Inyo County helps sponsor the California Fall Color effort, along with other counties and fall color destinations across the state.
What makes autumn so long-lasting in California is the state’s topography, which varies from foliage at 10,000 ft. in elevation down to sea level. “In New England, the color shows by latitude, descending from Canada through the northeast. Whereas in California, it drops by elevation,” Poimiroo explained.
The first signs of autumn are seen at the higher elevations in the Eastern Sierra. Poimiroo noted that this year the color is coming early to Inyo and Mono counties, with trees already starting to turn in Rock Creek and the Bishop Creek drainage.
Typically, ground cover turns crimson in early September. Then, above 9,000 ft. in elevation, quaking aspen begin to show color, turning from green to lime to yellow to orange and fiery red along the grey, granitic slopes of the Eastern Sierra, he said. This quivering, flaming show is getting started at North, South and Sabrina lakes west of Bishop, and in June Lake and the Sherwins, in Mono County, color spotters have reported.
Helping bolster the claim to fall color fame is the Inyo National Forest, which stretches the length of the Eastern Sierra. The Inyo beat out national forests in New England, the Allegheny and Green Mountains in a listing of the top ten fall forests evaluated for The Weather Channel, by GORP.com, a national outdoor recreation website. What they saw is what Poimiroo and his legion of California color spotters report each autumn … the state’s combination of stunning vistas and delicate color that continues for weeks on end.
California Fall Color got started in 2005 when Poimiroo was assigned to publicize Mono County in eastern California. “I soon found that autumn occurred across September and October and into November on the eastern side of the state. I then became aware of reports from other parts of California which established for me how widespread and long lasting our autumn is.”
“That isn’t what most Californians or its visitors think,” Poimiroo says. “They see California as without seasons, as along the coasts and throughout the vast central valley, there isn’t much color, but California is huge (780 miles long and 350 miles wide) and within it are large pockets of fall color that are truly breathtaking to behold. You just have to know where to see it and when to go. That’s why we created California Fall Color.”
To see the latest fall color reports, or to find out how to become a “color spotter,” visit www.californiafallcolor.com.