First Snow and Fall Colors

We had our first snow of the season in Flagstaff, Arizona last week (although snow had occurred much earlier in the nearby mountains) and it was a chance to photograph fall colors against the new snow. First stop was a grove of gambel oaks I had been watching for the past several weeks.

I had hoped for a light dusting of snow so that the leaves would stand out against the snow. Instead, several inches of snow fell and all but covered the leaves.

Gambel oak and several inches of fresh snow near Flagstaff.
Gambel oak and several inches of fresh snow near Flagstaff.

The next stop was in Oak Creek Canyon. Snow cover was quickly diminishing at these lower elevations with only a partial covering remaining as I arrived at around 5500′ elevation.

Clouds swirl around the cliffs of Oak Creek Canyon as a light dusting of snow covers the canyon floor.
Clouds swirl around the cliffs of Oak Creek Canyon as a light dusting of snow covers the canyon floor.

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Fall Colors and Raccoons in Oak Creek

A few days ago I visited a small side canyon in Oak Creek Canyon to photograph the late stages of fall color in the canyon forest. The trees weren’t showing as much color as they had in previous years. Many of the maple leaves displayed small dark spots and this may be similar to the disease that is infecting the Quaking Aspen at the higher elevations. Other explanations include the abnormally wet spring we had this year. Because of the moisture, many plants leafed and blossomed early. The fall has been wet and warm as well. All of this has resulted in an extended season for hardwoods that could be a contributing factor.

Here are a few images taken in the same location but in different years. The bright red leaves were widespread in 2013 but rare in 2015. Instead, we had mainly yellow leaves that were pale in color.

Oak Creek Canyon (2013).
Oak Creek Canyon (2013).

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Fall leaf color season keeps on going and going…

It’s been a mild autumn so far with very few hard freezes. As a result, the fall color season continues even at the higher elevations. Last week we rode our mountain bikes on the Arizona Trail from FR418 south to Snowbowl Road. This is one of my favorite sections of the Arizona Trail because—among other reasons—it passes through several large stands of aspen trees.

Aspens typically grow in large clonal colonies derived from a single seedling. Thus, each stand or colony of aspen have a strong tendency for their leaves to change color at the same time, while a nearby stand may change either earlier or later.

Aspen leaves cover the Arizona Trail.
Aspen leaves cover the Arizona Trail.

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Spring snow and apple blossoms

A late season storm brought a bit of snow to Flagstaff a few days ago. Our crab apple tree had just burst forth with blossoms earlier in the week. For just a few hours there was a delightful juxtaposition of colorful blossoms and new snow.

What? Wait! I’ve already written this! Last year, same time we had a late season snow that covered the blossoms on the crab apple tree.

Spring snow on crab apple blossoms.
Spring snow on crab apple blossoms.

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As I said in that previous post, “Such is spring in northern Arizona. Warm and sunny days with occasional reminders of the departing winter.”

Mountain Biking through the Aspen

The aspen have been at their peak color for about a week now. In just a few more days the leaves will fall or be blown away and another fall leaf season will come to an end. We didn’t want to miss the show so we rode our mountain bikes up the Inner Basin Trail to the Waterline Road to enjoy the fabulous colors.

A few years ago the upper portions of the Inner Basin trail underwent some re-routing and the trail now twists and turns through a near surreal stand of aspen as it ascends from Lockett Meadow to the Waterline Road. The landscape has been described as a Monet-like scene when the leaves turn colors in the fall.

Here are a few photos from that day. It just doesn’t get any better than this: beautiful fall colors, mild temperatures, clear skies, and light winds.

Inner Basin Trail.
Inner Basin Trail.
Inner Basin Trail.
Inner Basin Trail.
Inner Basin Trail.
Inner Basin Trail.
Waterline Road near Bear Jaw Canyon.
Waterline Road near Bear Jaw Canyon.