Fall Arrives in the Sacramento Mountains, 2020 Edition

Even though most of the trails are around 9,000 feet in the southern Sacramento Mountains, the lingering daylight at this latitude means that the change of colors arrives late, with most aspen leaves only beginning the metamorphosis to their trademark yellow in the last days of September. Still, great variation between stands meant I was able to find a few trees already glowing with golden light, a fact that made me incredibly happy.

Only a week later however I found between a quarter and a third of the aspen stands near peak color, making an already-wonderful day exploring with Abby damn near perfect. Actually, the only thing not perfect about the day was Abby locating an elk carcass and then proceeding to vomit a bunch of semi-digested animal parts soon after. But at least she refrained from doing it in the backseat this time.

In the White Mountain Wilderness to the north the maples and oaks began their colorful transitions right about the same time as the aspen while the grasses of the high country ridges began yellowing in their march toward winter dormancy. Dabs of red and yellow could be observed on the canyon walls between the conifers while on my September ascents though most of the trailside foliage was just beginning to tinge by the end of the month. Walking along the top of the range rust colored spots could be also observed on the mountainsides, pockets of color interrupting the carpet of deep green. Excitement for my favorite time of year was heightened by many of these reveals of maple and oak, hitherto unknown to me.

Returning a few weeks later I found the remainder of the trees positively vibrant, spanning the color spectrum from soft peach to fire orange and from magenta to deep red. Though fir and pine dominate the canyons that serve as gateways to the spine of the range, the variety and saturation of color of the maple and oak scattered in between transformed these trails into an autumn wonderland.