Welcome to Sacbee.com's 2012 coverage of the fall foliage in the Sierra.
This is my 33rd year photographing the beautiful autumn colors in the Eastern Sierra. You might think it would be easy to forecast the season by now, but nature doesn't often follow a schedule. Every year the leaves start to turn and brilliant colors appear at different times.
This year, we're off to an early start. Yellows, oranges and reds are appearing sooner than average.
The color is early in the Bishop Creek area and right on schedule for the northern end of our coverage area. See our interactive map for details.
Check back weekly at www.sacbee.com/leaves for updates on where to find the best fall colors along the route. We'll have new photos and photography tips each week as well, and advice for specific stops so you can capture your own fall leaf photos.
Last year, the colors were later than usual. Leaf color was almost peaking in the Bishop Creek area on Oct. 6, 2011. Then a big snowstorm hit on Oct. 7. That made for great variety for photographing fall colors but also shortened the season.
My guess is that this year the full-color areas of red on the map will hold until the first weekend of October.
Our color trail goes from Meyers in South Lake Tahoe to Bishop. These 22 stops are among the best for beautiful fall color. Explore the areas around each stop and take some of the side roads to discover a hidden treasure of color.
If you take some nice fall color photos, be sure to add them to our reader gallery.
Best Bets for color this weekend
The best bet for color this weekend is in the Bishop Creek and Rock Creek areas. All other areas are still too early. Next weekend will see significant expansion of color in most stops on our map.
Things to do
This weekend, the Eastern Sierra hosts a number of events.
Lee Vining has the Ghost of the Sagebrush Tour sponsored by the Mono Basin Historical Society. There is a dinner Friday night ($25) and a walking tour of historic Lee Vining on Saturday (restaurant lunch included with $25 ticket). Details and ticket information here.
Bishop is hosting two events this weekend, which makes hotel rooms scarce.
The first event is the Indian Days Celebration & Pabanamina Pow Wow, Friday through Sunday. Details here.
The second is the Everest Challenge Stage Race, two days of cycling that covers 208 miles and 29,035 feet of climbing. If you're driving, be aware of bicyclists on these small mountain roads. Let's keep everyone safe. Details here.
If you're into high school football (it's big news here), the Coleville Wolves are playing at home Saturday at 1 pm. The Bishop Broncos are away this weekend. Details here.
On the road
There are significant road construction delays worth mentioning.
On US Highway 50, there are two delay areas toward South Lake Tahoe.
Highway 395 at Topaz Lake is down to one lane because of new bridge construction, so expect 20-minute delays if you're going to Topaz Lake Casino for gas.
Highway 395 north of Bridgeport has 20-minute delays due to construction.
And southbound Highway 395 between June Lake and Mammoth Lake is one lane.
Check the CalTrans website or toll-free phone number (800) 427-7623 for road conditions before you leave.
Travel tip: If you drive before 7 am weekdays, you should beat the construction start time.
Gas prices are slightly higher than last autumn by about 25 cents per gallon. I always fill up at Topaz Lake Casino, which is three miles north of where Highways 89 and 395 meet. I paid $4.17. Then I fill up in Bishop. Gas along Highway 395 from Walker to Bishop averages $5 to $5.20 per gallon. Gas in Bishop at the Giggle Springs, Arco and Paiute Casino stations is in the $4.02 range.
The forecast for Bishop this weekend calls for high temperatures in the high 80s and lows of 50 or below. Lee Vining is a bit cooler, with highs in the low- to mid-70s and lows in the mid-40s.
Get weather updates, see radar and satellite images at www.sacbee.com/weather
Try these websites for hotels and motels in the Eastern Sierra.
Now's the time to brush up on your photographic skills. See our Tips and Techniques section, geared especially for fall leaves photographers.
I hope you enjoy your photography and get some nice shots. If you have any questions, feel free to email me at email@example.com.