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FOLIAGE FLAIR EASTERN SIERRA OFFERS PLENTY OF EAST COAST CHARM IN FALL.

Byline: Bill Becher Special to the Daily News

In Vermont the locals call them ``leaf peepers'' - the folks who drive up from New York and other foreign lands to watch Mother Nature's fall foliage show. But closer to home you can see colors that rival New England's down east in the Sierra.

Brilliant yellow cottonwoods and yellow- and orange-leafed quaking aspen headline the show. Currants, dwarf huckleberry, birch and alders add more colors to the mix. October is prime-time foliage viewing in the Eastern Sierra along Highway 395 from Bishop to Bridgeport.

``Every year is different,'' said Anne Halford, a botanist with the Bureau of Land Management in Bishop. ``But you can always find good patches of color wherever you go.''

Cottonwoods favor irrigated pastures, meadows and creeks. Aspens are found at higher elevations, often above 8,000 feet. Halford said creek dogwood add an ochre color to Sierra mountain streams.

Autumn colors are hidden all spring and summer under the green chlorophyll that plants use to manufacture food. When days get shorter, plants' photosynthesis factories slow down and the green recedes from the leaves, exposing the underlying colors.

Halford said leaf-color intensity is determined by temperature and moisture. Sunny days and cold nights, typical of Sierra fall, means trees produce sugar during the day that stays in the leaves because of nighttime cold. The sugar trapped in the leaves produces a red pigment called anthocyanin. Wet days and warm nights mean less-intense color.

Much of the color in the Sierra comes from quaking aspen (populus tremuloides). Aspen groves are among nature's largest and oldest living things, reaching several thousand years old, even though individual trees rarely live longer than 100 years.

Although they produce seeds, most aspen reproduce by sprouts growing up from roots. The new sprouts can appear up to 25 feet from the parent tree. Each ``tree'' might be the stem of a much-larger organism. One single aspen stand in Utah covers 106 acres.

Aspen bark contains salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin, and was used by Indians to treat fevers. Quaking describes the sight of thousands of aspen leaves trembling in a breeze.

The Eastern Sierra might not offer maple syrup, but there is enough fall color to satisfy the most dedicated leaf peeper.

MORE INFORMATION

The Bishop Chamber of Commerce has a guide to fall-foliage viewing in the Eastern Sierra produced with the Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau. Call (760) 873-8405 or e-mail at bishipca(at)mail.telis.org. The chamber can also help with suggestions for lodging, camping, or dining. Mammoth Lakes Visitors Bureau is at (888) 466-2666 or www.visitmammoth.com for similar information.

--The Inyo National Forest Web site has a map showing fall-color viewing areas at http://www.r5.fs.fed.us/inyo/vvc/fall.htm. Updates on current foliage viewing conditions are posted at www.r5.fs.fed.us/inyo/fall-colors.htm.

--Photographer Carol Leigh has an online message board where folks post foliage reports at www.calphoto.com/fall.htm.

--Bring warm clothing along with binoculars and a camera as conditions can change fast in the mountains.

--Ecological 4-Wheeling Adventures offer a yearly Eastern Sierra fall-foliage tour including gold mining history and ghost town exploring. Information at eco4wd.com or call (818) 352-9489.

WHERE TO PEEP

Some suggestions of where to see autumn in full bloom:

Large stands of cottonwood turn brilliant yellow in the valley floor near Bishop on Highway 395 and Highway 6. Drive West Line Street (Highway 168 west) along Bishop Creek toward South Lake and Lake Sabrina and you'll see quaking aspen and other trees and shrubs in their fall colors.

Lower Rock Creek color can be reached from 395 at the Pine Creek exit north of Bishop. Follow Old Highway 395 to Tom's Place. Rock Creek from Tom's Place to Rock Creek Lake is lined with aspens shimmering in the slightest breeze.

McGee Creek Canyon is 10 miles south of Mammoth off Highway 395. Park at the trail head at the end of the dirt road and hike the canyon to see Red and White Mountain and the fall foliage on McGee Creek.

Convict Lake, opposite the Mammoth Airport, has a great hiking trail that rims the lake where you can enjoy fall colors reflected in the lake's crystal-clear water.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, 2 boxes

Photo:

(1 -- color) A woman takes a walk through a grove of quaking aspen showing off its autumn plumage

(2 -- color) no caption (closeup of tree leaves in autumn color) Bill Becher/Staff Photographer/Special to the Daily News

Box:

(1) MORE INFORMATION (see text)

(2) WHERE TO PEEP (see text)
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 10, 2002
Words:772
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