Aspens, First Autumn Snow
Posted on 13 October 2013
Aspens, First Autumn Snow. Eastern Sierra Nevada, California. October 9, 2013. © Copyright 2013 G Dan Mitchell – all rights reserved.
An early season storm brings snow to eastern Sierra Nevada aspen groves.
We made it to the eastern Sierra Nevada last week for the annual pilgrimage to photograph aspen color. We drove over on the day when the first winter-like storm of the season came to the range, and our travel plans changed accordingly. Normally we would cross the Sierra via Tioga Pass through Yosemite National Park. Although the Republican government shutdown closed the park, the trans-Sierra highway 120 remained open… until the night before our trip when it was closed in preparation for the forecast storm. When this pass closes – as it can often do in October, when early season storms drop a few inches of snow on the road – I have to consider options to the north: Sonora, Ebbetts, or Carson Passes. When we started out, Sonora was still open, but I figured that Carson was a better bet, as it is an all-season route. So we headed over Carson in the morning, encountering the first snow flurries well before the pass. From this point on, with the exception of a few lower elevation sections of our drive over Monitor Pass and then down highway 395 to Bishop, we were either in or near light snow.
This has been a slightly different year for aspens – though, to be honest, no two years evolve exactly the same way when it comes to the color transition. The highest trees had mostly lost their leaves, but we saw excellent color in many places all along the route. This color transition marks, for me, the reality that the warm season is over and California’s rainy, snowy, and colder season is coming. Being among the aspens during one of the first early season snow storms amplifies that effect, and we remarked on how sudden the transition was. Only a few days earlier it had been in the low 90 degree range in parts of Central California… and here we were in snow. I photographed the scene in this photograph as we reached the top of Conway Summit, the high point on highway 395 just north of the town of Lee Vining. Here one of the largest and most accessible aspen groves can provide an astonishing amount and variety of color for a few days each year. However, on this day the colors were distinctly muted by the falling snow.
G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
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