Monday, October 13, 2008

Hope Valley

In a bit of irony, the operators of Sorensen's Resort couldn't have engineered a better display of fall colors. I found the most colorful aspen trees as we turned the corner on Highway 88 at the roadside cabin resort this afternoon.

As we climbed Carson Pass from the west, it was obvious that we'd missed the peak of the fall colors in the Sierra Nevada Range. Many aspens in the surrounding area had turned brown. And a number were already bare.

Our descent into Hope Valley -- a picturesque photo spot in its own right -- nearly confirmed my suspicion. But halfway down the grade, I spotted a few isolated aspen groves that were ticked against the mountain.

The vibrant colors of Hope Valley seemed to turn from bright auburn to spotted brown in a week. A motel deadline kept us from stopping on our recent trip through the area. A quite day with my wife was reason enough to return to the valley.

"A few weeks ago was better," said our young waitress at Sorensen's Cafe. "It's been coming and going really fast."

"We've seen better seasons," she added as she shuttled off to attend to other diners.

She's right. The colors in the valley were certainly past their prime today.

But there's hope for Hope Valley. As we drove up Highway 89 toward Luther Pass, I noticed a band of soft green aspens at the 6,500-foot level. The highway cut right through the large grove at the abandoned Dangberg Ranch.

Given the right conditions of cold, frosty nights, the valley -- long known for an annual color show -- could yet ramp up its display.

The most vibrant groves hug the base Waterhouse Peak and the Willow Creek drainage this year. While we may still see some colors along Willow Creek this season, we may have to wait.

Your best bet is to tour the south end of Hope Valley for the best fall colors, right along Highway 88 as it climbs up to Carson Pass.

Many groves and individual stands still quake in the afternoon breeze. Fall colors abound. You'll enjoy the yellow, brown and green hues.

The warm slopes of the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada Range will enlighten you as it warms your body and colors the image in your lens.

You'd better act fast. This weekend may be too late.

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