In New England there are entire companies built around the annual changing of the foliage.
“Leaf peepers” – the people that make deliberate trips to places like Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont or New Hampshire just to see the changing leaves – provide a huge influx of funding to the area during a time of year that wouldn’t otherwise attract visitors.
And while you aren’t going to see buses of people paying money to come to the Central Valley for the sole purpose of looking at the changing foliage, that doesn’t mean that you still can’t make your own mini-New England trip with your friends or family to see some of the most beautiful places that the region has to offer.
Take, for example, the oak grove that the City of Ripon keeps open for the public at the corner of Stockton Avenue and Doak Boulevard.
From the road there really isn’t anything outside of treetops that are visible to those passing by, but a short walk from the dirt parking lot down the trail and over the levee leads to dozens of acres of slow-growth oak trees that have been a local inside secret for decades.
Because of its location in the flood plain the city doesn’t have any immediate plans to offer anything in terms of development – there was some talk about concrete benches that wouldn’t float away or get damaged if under water – but funding wiped out any hint of that plan.
If standing of a middle of a grove of trees isn’t your scene, outside view of a similar environment – offered from a different perspective – is your best bet.
Unfortunately getting the full experience by driving out to the McHenry Recreation Area isn’t going give you an up-close opportunity – the Federal shutdown cut the Army Corps of Engineers budget and the park will be closed indefinitely at midnight on Saturday.
Finding something out near the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, however – after the Stanislaus empties into the mighty San Joaquin and it takes one step closer to meeting with the saltwater estuaries northwest of its location – is a little bit easier.
If you’re willing to take the time.
The majority of the changing leaves are going to be located around bodies of water – at least in the concentration that will make them worth seeking out – so keeping along the path of the San Joaquin River will probably be a good start.
Manthey Road – which starts near Tracy, runs through Lathrop and French Camp and ends up in Stockton – offers plenty of opportunities and access points to areas out near the river itself.
Dos Reis Road, which was once the primary access point to Lathrop High School, will not only give you access to the levee that runs along the river but also a park built to give people a chance to enjoy the riparian habitat that the river provides.
Other places worth checking out:
•Highway 12 – With easy access from I-5, this major throughway – which people use to access a portion of the Bay Area that isn’t easy to get to otherwise – will take you all through the Delta and show a bunch of different environments you aren’t likely to see other places. It’s great for a Sunday drive, and provides access to some pretty cool spots that you won’t find otherwise.
•Mossdale Crossing Regional Park – This used to be the gateway to the levees of the Stewart Tract and the recreational opportunities that it provided. The River Islands development ended that access, but that doesn’t mean that you still can’t find a good place to see some of California’s fall foliage. Look around for places and access points and be prepared to walk, but also be respectful of private property