The Happy Wanderer: Sierra fall colors

HILLS NEWSPAPERS  September 4, 2009

LOTS OF SONGS have been written about September. There was the bouncy little ditty by The Happenings called “See you In September” — and the somber song by Sinatra that likened autumn to the final chapter of a long, fruitful life.

I prefer the bouncy little ditty.

Fall should be a happy time of year. It’s certainly the most colorful — even in California, where our seasons are less pronounced than in the north. But if you want to see spectacular autumn foliage without the long travel time, September is the month to take a drive to the Eastern Sierra.

Mentioned on many lists of the top 10 places to see fall color in America, the Eastern Sierra becomes brilliant in fall. Leaves turn bright yellow in the picturesque passes of the high Sierra — complemented by canyons that flutter with yellow, red, orange, pink, auburn and chartreuse. The palate is so pleasing that people can’t help but celebrate.

And party, they do — with everything from the Millpond Music Festival in Bishop Sept. 18-20, to the Deer Hunter Barbecue in Walker on Oct. 3.

But just as the Eastern Sierra turns brilliant in fall, so do some other California locales. I’ve listed my favorites below:

  • Highway 49 through Nevada City: Appropriately named “Gold Country,” the dogwoods and maples, aspens and poplars are breathtaking in fall. Stroll through the old Victorian neighborhoods of historic Nevada City and you’ll feel like you’re part of a painting framed by century-old Oaks and red Maples.Highway 88 through the Hope Valley — glorious in autumn with vast stands of quaking aspen in a magnificent alpine valley. The spectrum of gold is complemented by the sparkling blue waters of several popular lakes in the area. One of my favorite picnic and hiking sites is at Kirkwood Lake.
  • And even closer to home — many neighborhoods in Piedmont and Moraga have delicious fall colors. You have only to drive along the golf course (Moraga Country Club) in Moraga to see an idyllic autumn scene. You’ll have to be patient, however. Warm weather usually delays this brilliant show — until late in the fall. Think of it as a cornucopia of color, in time for Thanksgiving.Other resources: For updated information about color in our national forests, call 800-354-4595.

    The Eastern Sierra has a free guide to fall color viewing areas. To order a copy, call 800-845-7922.

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