Outside with Charlie: Fall colors

By From page A8 | October 17, 2012

Right about now, every year, the same question pops up. Are the aspens in Hope Valley changing yet? The annual question is much like the one about the wildflower blooms around Carson Pass in spring.

The color show is a rolling one. Hope Valley, as of recently, is starting to look pretty good. There is a palette from Pickett’s Junction, the intersection of Highways 89 and 88, up to Carson Pass, that covers quite a spectrum.

Heading up Highway 89 from Meyers to Luther Pass, just above Hope Valley, the aspens vary from green to yellow green to yellow. As you approach, the colors are pretty good. Once the summit is topped, headed down toward Hope Valley, the aspens are really thinking hard about putting on the yellows and gold’s, but they haven’t done it just yet.

If this is the route you take, Highway 50 to Highway 89 and over to 88, you’ll find that right across from the junction there are some colorful aspens at the back end of the meadow that are worth a short walk.

Head towards Sorensen’s and the colors are magnificent. On the mountain behind Sorensen’s there is a rich mix of yellows to keep you busy for a bit. John and Patty Brissenden, owners of Sorensen’s, quietly preserve the beauty of this place and welcome visitors who are enthralled with the carpet of color throughout this wonderful slice of nature.

Along Highway 88 heading toward Carson Pass, the color conditions are somewhat speckled. Up on the side of the mountain, the aspens are a gray green, while different spots in the valley are quite vibrant. These are mixed in with the yellow green that means there’s more color to come. The willows along the Carson River are a fantastic reddish yellowish color, and the grasses are golden brown.

Deeper into Hope Valley, as the road climbs to Carson Pass, the color scheme remains mostly muted gray green. At Forestdale Creek, the aspens are about to turn to the gold and yellow side, but will wait a few more days.

Over the pass and down towards Woods and Caples Lake the colors change again. The yellows and gold’s at the old corral on the Woods Lake road are spectacular.

As you continue to drive past Caples Lake toward Silver Lake, the color explosion is yet to come.

The long and short of it is that the color show is likely to be a constantly shifting one this year. What triggers all of this riotous color, in case you were wondering, is that in the fall the days grow shorter and the nights grow longer. Less sunlight means that the trees start getting ready to shut down for the long winters sleep. The green color, chlorophyll, gives way to the colors underneath. The cooler nights play a part too.

So, when’s a good time to go? Now, and anytime over the next couple of weeks. Get outside!

Charlie Ferris

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