Thursday, October 01, 2009

Eastern Sierra Fall Colors September 29/30, 2009

My second marathon (to be) chasing the Eastern Sierra Fall colors started at 2AM on Tuesday September 29, 2009. The Old Priest Grade was still closed, so I had to take the longer way up Hwy 120. It was very lonely driving east on the Tioga Pass road, except for a few deer. I trucked along with my high beams on and about a mile before Olmstead Point during a left curve I saw a black shadow moving on the dark side of the road. I thought to myself, what is this guy doing in the pitch dark on the road and hit the brakes….my car came to a stop, the shadow jumped and came into my sights, and it was a black bear using the road for travel. I passed him with my heart still pounding. A fast and short encounter I will remember for a long time. We both are lucky; the only thing that happened was we both were scared. I don't drive fast around the curves anyway, because you are so blind, and I am glad I saw the movement in the corner of my eye. Hitting the bear would have been disaster for the two of us. Wow in all my years driving along the Tioga pass at night I have seen deer and coyote’s but never a bear. There is always a first and Tuesday morning was it. I think I am going to avoid driving the Tioga Pass in the dark for now.
There was not much wind along the western slopes, but as soon as I got to the steep section of the pass the wind was howling. I had to evade a couple of bigger rocks that were littering the road on my way down. It took 4 hours and 15 minutes to get to Lee Vining; the Tioga Gas Mart was still closed. I pressed on to Lake Sabrina, where Kahlee and I were planning on meeting at 8AM. Unfortunately she was not up to the task after that nasty fall she took the day before at North Lake, and I shall meet her next week. The wind was fierce at the lake, and in the late afternoon it started to snow a little. I did not drive back home that day; I spend the night at my favorite motel. The thought of being on the road in the dark, tired and in possible snow just did not appeal to me. Instead of talking about Bishop Creek Canyon again, I will report first on other places I visited on Tuesday and Wednesday. My decision was made to come home over the Carson Pass (Hwy 88), checking on the Monitor Pass and Hope Valley.

McGee Creek Canyon:
There was some brutal wind on Tuesday ripping off green leaves up there. The trees by the bridge are green. The Aspens by the campground are still green; color by the trail parking lot is mostly green with some trees showing change. A view into the canyon showed yellow, orange and green. Not sure how the leaves survived the dusting of snow and the wind.


A Stormy View into the McGee Creek Canyon – September 29, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

June Lake Loop:
The Parker Mountain side is a mix of orange, yellow and lime green. The Aspens along Grant Lake are still mostly green with small yellow patches. The grove at Aerie Crag is mostly lime green with a little yellow. Hwy 158 between Grant Lake and Silver Lake is green/lime green. Silver Lake has mostly green trees with a few yellow patches. I saw some trees that have gone from green to black leaves. The trees at June Lake are lime green, yellow and some have already brown leaves. I took no images along the June Lake Loop this time around.

Along US 395 south:
The Mammoth Creek area looks mostly green. The Aspen “River” coming down from Laurel Canyon has some orange, but is mostly green/lime green. The Aspens at Sherwin Creek are lime green and yellow as well as orange higher up. Day temps along US 395 stayed around 50F on 9/30.

Virginia Lakes Road:
At the Jordan basin the trees are yellow, orange, lime green, brown and bare. By the creek there is a mix of lime green, green, yellow and some orange. Drove only as far as the heliport and the slopes with the Dunderberg Peak showing in the background are a mix of lime green, yellow and orange.

Conway Summit:
As has been reported before the big groves are still green, with a few Aspens showing some change. The groves on the slopes in the back country are a mix of lime green, yellow and orange. This could suggest that the Dunderberg Meadow is approaching full fall color. With the wind and cold there is no guarantee that the Aspens are going to make it much longer up there.

Monitor Pass & the Carson River Valley:
From the junction of Hwy 4 to the top of the pass mostly lime green and a few bare trees. Top of the pass mostly green with some yellow. A little bit further east a mix of lime green, yellow and orange and again some bare trees. The Carson River Valley is still green/lime green and I would expect this in late September.


Top of Monitor Pass – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

Hope Valley:
This area has some nice colors by the cabins, but otherwise still a lot of green. Some areas in Hope Valley have small yellow patches. Hwy 88/89 between the Pickett's Junction turn-off and Sorensen’s show some colors, but the resort is still mostly green. I was fighting direct sun at 5PM when I took the image below. The western slopes of Hwy 88 are still mostly green.


Cabin at Hope Valley – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

O.K. this is it for new places I checked out and now I am back to Bishop Creek Canyon, because here is where the color was. So if you are tired reading about fall colors at Bishop Creek Canyon you can stop now. I did not make to Rock Creek so no further reports from there.

I made it to Lake Sabrina on 9/29 by 7:30AM and it was very very windy here. I was going to try a pano regardless, so off I went to the dam. Some of the groves around the lake looked bare, but I saw some green trees holding on. I found still a lot of color along the middle fork, but also some trees with black leaves. The trees below the Lake Sabrina dam are coming into color; they are orange/red, yellow and green. The big grove above Aspendell is half bare and the trees around Cardinal Village are still mostly lime green with a small patch of yellow/orange.


Road to Lake Sabrina – September 29, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

Along the South Lake Road between Willow camp and the South Lake parking lot the trees are yellow/orange and bare, there is still some green mixed in. The slopes above Weir Pond are mostly bare. The area around Table Mountain is at peak with some bare trees and still some green ones. At 2PM I returned to Bishop for some food and when I returned to Bishop Creek, the mountain range was enshrouded in one big moist cloud. In the late afternoon it started to snow lightly above 8700 feet and the temps had dropped to 42F by 5PM. The snow did not stick where I was, but I checked out North Lake road and it had a lot of red, yellow and orange.
I went back on 9/30 to see what damage the wind/snow had done. At 8AM the skies were blue, almost wind still and the temp at North Lake was 22F. To my delight the damage from the day before was not as bad as I feared. The grove behind the lake is about 1/3 bare and the rest is yellow/orange and green. The slopes above are brown/orange and bare. Just as I was packing up my gear to come down a hill by North Lake when I saw a familiar face, it was Phil Radlick I met last year at a photog meet. We swapped a few fall color findings and I was on my way. There is a lot of red and yellow along the road as well as a little green. Some leaves have developed those ugly brown spots.


North Lake after the wind and snow – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .


Color along North Lake Road – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

I did see more brown/black leaves around the higher elevations at Bishop Creek and it appeared to me as the sun started to hit the yellow/red leaves they were turning brown. I left the area around noon and the temps stayed below 30F, so I am not sure if more trees turned brown.
The lower elevations such as around the Bishop Creek Lodge, before Aspendell and Intake II are still mostly green. The small Aspens on the slopes above Intake II are orange, yellow and bare.


Color along a Trail in the Sabrina Basin – September 30, 2009. © Copyright Inge Fernau .

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