Sep 282014
Aspen grove at Conway Summit, US Hwy 395.

Aspen grove at Conway Summit, US Hwy 395 on 9/28/14.

For the past couple of days, I’ve been traveling south from north central California to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, with an eye out for fall color. Starting from Mount Shasta, I drove southeast on California Hwy 89, through Lassen Volcanic National Park, down to Lake Tahoe and then continuing over Monitor Pass to the eastern Sierras. I continued south on US Hwy 395, arriving at Mammoth Lakes this afternoon.

While I have seen a bit of fall color, there hasn’t been much that compelled me to stop for photographs of golden leaves. It’s still a little bit early, but there are signs that the good stuff is coming soon.

From Shasta to Lake Tahoe, there was just the occasional aspen tree showing a hint of yellow, but just below Monitor Pass there is a nice grove that is looking good. I assumed I’d soon see a lot more, so I blew on by. Wrong choice.

The cottonwoods bordering the highway between Topaz and Walker haven’t started to turn yet, and there wasn’t much but green on the road up towards Twin Lakes out of Bridgeport.

As you can see from the photo above, the big grove of aspen seen from the viewpoint at Conway Summit has a little color, but it has a ways to go yet. I’m guessing that by next weekend it will look quite nice.

Heading up to Virginia Lakes from Conway Summit, there are few scattered aspen with some color, but they are mostly small trees. It snowed last night up at Virginia Lakes, and the frosting on the pines was lovely. Surprisingly, the leaves have almost all fallen off of the little aspen trees up at the lakes.

I ventured up Tioga Pass Road, Hwy 120, just a few miles and saw that the aspen groves near the lower campgrounds along Lee Vining Creek were still solid green. Not even a hint of fall color there yet.

On the June Lake Loop, there are some aspen along the road near Silver Lake that are looking nice, but the groves on the hillsides are just barely starting to turn. Looking high up the slopes, there are some nice bright yellow areas, and I think the color will move down within a week or so.

The good news is that for the past 2-3 days the Sierras have received some very much needed rain, and the upper reaches got some snow the past couple of nights. More snow is predicted tonight, and with clear skies predicted for the next several days, the mountains should look great. The cold snap should also help get the fall color going, and I’m guessing it’s going to be looking very, very nice in the eastern Sierras by the end of this week or very soon thereafter.

During the next couple of days I’ll continue south, checking out the McGee Creek, Rock Creek and Bishop Creek drainages. Reports from and Michael Frye’s blog indicate that the color is already very good in the upper Bishop Creek area.

Have you been in the Sierras photographing recently?  If so, share what you’ve found in the comments below.

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