The salmon run

It’s raining here today, the dark type of day that feels all too rare here because of our desperate need for rain. Whereas last year’s rainy season got off to a great start, this one has been slow so far. So I’m especially grateful for the rain and gray skies today.

Autumn means rain, and rain means clouds have come back, bringing more interesting sunrises and sunsets.

The sun sets along the river (with birds on a wire)

Fall trickled in here over the last few weeks, but this is the first week many of the trees decided to put on a show. Continue reading

The best of autumn in California

I’ve come to love the salmon run each fall here in California. It’s one of my favorite parts of the season. This October, when my husband and I visited Tahoe, we stopped along Taylor Creek because we had heard salmon were spawning there.

Red kokanee salmon in Taylor Creek

I was stunned to see such tiny fish compared to the huge chinook salmon that swim upriver from the ocean each fall to spawn. These little, red fish are kokanee salmon, landlocked in Lake Tahoe and surrounding tributaries such as Taylor Creek, where they go to spawn each autumn. Continue reading

The golden trees of fall

I couldn’t let autumn slip by without talking about trees, especially beautiful fall trees such as the aspens.

I didn’t grow up in the land of aspens, and so they’re not part of my mental image of fall. They are spectacular, though, and it’s hard to pass by them in the fall without pausing to admire them and listen to their leaves “quaking.”

Aspens in Nevada

While driving from the start to the finish of one of my husband’s recent races near Tahoe, I couldn’t resist a quick stop along this roadside. I lost more than an hour because of the stop (thanks, Nevada DOT, for mismanaging your construction zones so entirely that day, and by thanks, I mean the exact opposite of thanks). But as I look back at these pictures and remember the beauty of that morning, it’s hard for me to say I wouldn’t have stopped if I’d known the trouble that waited ahead in the construction zone. At least for all the aggravation, I had these moments of sheer beauty.

A showy autumn display

Other days brought an escape from the car, along with opportunities to see these beautiful trees up close.

The bark offers a spell-binding play of dark and light.

Leaves of gold

I’ve been reading about the growth patterns and habits of quaking aspens. They grow in groups called clones, where each “tree” isn’t so much an individual as it is part of an outgrowth of a single living root system.

They continue to grow through winter, too, an unusual characteristic for deciduous trees. You can read more about the layer right under their bark that allows this to happen.

Aspens even have the power to turn the water into gold. Well, not really. But the combination of aspens and sunlight adds an air of magic to whatever water happens to be nearby.

A heron wades among the golden reflection. (I’m not sure all of the gold reflection is from aspens.)

A blaze of aspen gold washes over salmon in Taylor Creek.

I hope these last two photos whet your appetite for what’s coming next week. The salmon are running, and we got to see a different sort of salmon spawning in Taylor Creek near Lake Tahoe. Next week, I’ll share some favorite shots of the salmon and the birds that hang out with them (sometimes to the detriment of the fish).

How is autumn shaping up where you live? We’re raking lots of leaves and enjoying at least a little fall color.

When your eyes are thirsty for clear, blue water

Are you a beach person? I used to be but am now firmly in the “mountain” camp. That doesn’t mean I don’t crave being near water, though. Sometimes, my eyes just need to drink in clear, blue water.

As my husband and I prepared for our recent trip to Tahoe, my dad wanted to know, “Is the water still deep blue?” He and Mom made an epic road trip out west almost five decades ago, and he still remembers Tahoe’s blueness.

So this post is mostly for him, and for any of the rest of you who wonder the same about Tahoe from time to time. And for those of you whose eyes ache from too much smoke or too much mud from too many natural disasters these last few months. It’s also for you if you simply need to sit and stare at beautiful blue water for a few minutes but can’t take the time for a road trip.

Emerald Bay early on a Saturday morning

Continue reading

A far-reaching cloud of smoke

I’ve spent very little time around Lake Tahoe, despite it being an easy drive (at least in fair weather) from where I live. This past weekend, my husband and I visited the area. It’s a beautiful place, but reminders of California’s raging fires were never very far away.

The far banks of Tahoe, veiled in smoke

As the temperatures warmed up each day, smoke dropped in, obscuring the far banks of the lake, and, several afternoons, filling the air with at least a hint of that too-familiar acrid smell. Continue reading