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Discovering pockets of fall colors
Autumn ready to pop up in Manteca, Ripon
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This was the fall scene last year during the first annual BookFest Festival held in this photogenic area of the Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. This is the water feature located between Bass Pro Shops and the movie theater. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The 209

When it comes to fall colors, Manteca and Ripon – or the South San Joaquin County area – is not Vermont or Maine, or even the Sierra foothills and surroundings by any stretch of the imagination.

There are no vivid cacophony of colors everywhere you turn. No tree-lined walkways carpeted with crisp, crunchy and multi-hued foliage drenched with dew on chilly mornings.

Still, there are precious pockets of autumn colors that can be gleaned in this area that is a bread basket in its own right though admittedly a bit fall-color challenged. You just have to know where they are which might require a bit of hunting. But then, sometimes the thrill is in the hunt itself, with the joy multiplied even more so once you eventually find the leafy palette of gold at the end of fall’s version of a rainbow.

But here are a few to jumpstart your fall-color viewing pleasure either via a windshield tour or by a more leisurely pace pounding the pavement. If I might add, have a handy digital camera or camcorder if you have the desire to preserve the colorful visual feast to later compare and contrast with the fresh colors of spring.

In Manteca:

•The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley shopping center – This is a large commercial area just south of the 120 Bypass on South Union Road. But you can cut to the chase and head straight to the water feature between Bass Pro Shops and the movie theater. The manmade undulating pond with spouting fountains is photogenic enough by itself at any time of the year, but come autumn, the trees along the edges of the water molt from their lush green raiment into more colorful garb transforming the surface of the water into something akin to Joseph’s cloak of many colors.

•Mission Ridge Drive from South Main Street to Cotta Park – This main city thoroughfare is lined on both sides with nearly mature gingko, also known as maidenhair, trees that erupts into a generous golden yellow color in the fall. From Cotta Park on to South Union Road, a number of liquidambar trees in front of many of the residential homes offers a different change of fall colors.

•Downtown Manteca – There are plenty of benches in the Library Park where you can sit down and feast your eyes at gingko trees with lush foliage. The most spectacular of all is the gigantic towering gingko tree in the rose garden next to the dental office kitty corner from the back of the Post Office. From the Library Park, walk over to the public garden area next to the Rotary International mural on the east side of Maple Street. Sit a spell on a bench next to the fountain and enjoy being physically engulfed by more golden gingko trees and a smattering of liquidambars around you. If you’re lucky, a hummingbird or other types of feathered friends might decide to keep you company as they quench their thirst at the whispering water fountain.

•The golden pride of Lincoln Avenue – From this downtown garden, amble a few steps to the east via Main Street and keep to the right. Two blocks from Center is Lincoln. Turn right and you’ll run smack dab into Manteca’s most robust and largest – maybe even oldest – gingko tree with its massive short trunk. This picture-perfect fall scene is further enhanced by the pristine beauty of a circa- 1920 plantation-like home with smooth architectural columns lining the front porch. As autumn gradually yields to the icy clutches of winter, the gingko’s golden leaves form a thick carpet on the ground as though to protect the front lawn from the chill.

•Powers and East North streets – The once stately liquidambars that enclosed St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on the sides of these streets are gone. They were removed by city mandate due to safety issues. The roots were pushing the concrete sidewalks. But the Chinese pistache that were planted in their stead, and further away from the sidewalks, are also a beauty to behold in their autumn raiment.

In Ripon:

•Caswell Memorial State Park – Fall colors come courtesy of the wild grape vines that grow in profusion in this secluded gem where a slice of how the valley and its thick stand of valley oaks looked like before the age of urban sprawl. Some of the grape leaves turn into vivid yellows, the foliage cascading down from the tops of the giant oaks while others simply crawl on top of the fading rose bushes now filled with rose hips. Other grape leaves turn into bright pink and red hues.

•Downtown Ripon – Simply take a windshield tour on the streets connecting the two arches that delineate the historic downtown area and enjoy the fall view from the comfort of your vehicle. For more fall vistas, turn into the tree-lined numeric-named streets and get the same visual treat.

These fall-color destination is just for starters. What usually happens is that one discovery leads to another. There are more pockets of fall colors to be found, yes, even in this rich agricultural area of the San Joaquin Valley.