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Good time to fall in love with foothills
The intensely red leaves of a tree in the parking lot of a hotel near Phoenix Lake in Sonora are reflected on the windshield and hood of this parked truck. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

SONORA – New England does not have the monopoly when it comes to dramatic and colorful fall foliage at this time of the year.

The same visual feast is within an hour’s-drive reach from Manteca, and this is as good a time as any to view Mother Nature’s array of glistening gold, orange, yellow and vivid red leaves. This annual free outdoor extravaganza usually lasts from somewhere in September through December, so there’s still ample time to catch the middle if not the late show. The accompanying pictures were taken in Sonora and surrounding areas just late last week.

The red maple tree in front of the historic and famous red church in downtown Sonora has not yet begun to transform itself for fall gazers like me, I was disappointed to find out. At least, the photographer in me was disappointed. But on the bright side, that afforded a good reason for another photo safari to the Sierra Nevada foothills sometime soon.

One destination to target for a full-color fall show is the area around picturesque Phoenix Lake just outside downtown Sonora where many of these photographs were taken. This reservoir for Sonora residents’ drinking water is a magnet for migratory birds and other avian visitors, creating a perfect backdrop for photographing the foothills’ other golden wealth – the vibrant colors of autumn leaves.

If you venture farther in the high country in the next few days, you may still be able to catch some showy fall colors. Last year in early November, up in Kirkwood and beyond along Highway 88, there were still showy stands of quaking aspens with flaming leaves gleaming against the golden sun and blue skies. We were that lucky. Stands of aspen around Ebbets Pass on Highway 49 also provided plenty of photographic opportunities.

Whether you are planning a trip to the lower elevations or the high country to view the fiery red and golden colors of autumn, there is no better time to do it than these last days of October.

To contact Rose Albano Risso, e-mail or call (209) 249-3536.