Who says you have to go to New England to enjoy fall foliage?
October 18, 2007
As a youngster growing up in Ohio, fall meant school and raking up the leaves from our maples, all of which seemed to be the most fertile in the town of West Milton.
Jumping into a pile of leaves was pure joy. Stowing them in bags wasn’t a job. But then there were the bonfires, which sent towers of smoke and a delightful scent into the air.
Well, I don’t do any of those things now. Today I’m happy to get in the car and drive to Hope Valley or Spooner Lake. At Spooner is as big a forest of quaking aspens as anywhere, and the walk is mostly level through that extended family of aspens.
Perhaps more pleasant is driving up to Pickett’s Junction where Highways 88 and 89 meet and taking Burnside Lake Road up the mountain. Down low, some of the trees haven’t turned yet, but as you make your way up the six miles to the 8,100-foot level and the lake, everything explodes in yellows and reds amid the still-green pines.
Last time, I drove this road I met a bear cub that thought he owned the road. He stared at me insolently before getting up and wandering into the trees, where he sat and kept a watch on me. Can’t promise you that if you try Burnside now.
A bit farther up 88 toward Kirkwood Mountain Resort, you drive through Kit Carson Pass and the many trails that dead-end there. The hike here borders on the serious, but mixed in with the pines are more stands of aspens, and it’s still mild enough to pack a hiker’s lunch and maybe a bottle of something sparkling to quench the thirst.
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Farther along Highway 88 is the turnoff for Round Lake, with a very short hike to his calm and quiet lake that is the jumping-off place for so many lakes and forests. If you’re really determined, you can go all the way to Fourth of July Lake. You can look down on it from a lofty overhanging rock, and then check to the right for Elephant Hill. Not a whole lot of fall colors there, but the green has its own virtues.
On to Caples Lake, where there’s a trail around the shoreline. Little inlets dot the lake along it, more places to whip out the lunch pack and gaze on the facing mountains.
A last stop should be at the trailhead for Thunder Mountain along 88. A nice parking lot is a good place to start a hike along a moderate trail up to the top of the backside lift tower. Fewer trees, but all the more beautiful.
Of course, if you’ve been in Tahoe for a few years, you know all of this and probably a lot more.
For as we all know, the fall colors are everywhere around Carson, especially around the Carson River, even in my back yard, although most of the Japanese red maple leaves have falls. But knock on my door, and I’ll show you some that I have saved.