Lafayette, CA

Simmer Down, East Coast, We Have Foliage Too

Thomas Smith
Original photo by the author

It's Autumn, and that means we're fast approaching the season when smug East Coasters start to post photos of their resplendent Fall foliage--in dramatic shades of crimson and yellow--and made snide comments about how California doesn't have seasons, or that our trees are boring and green all year round.

My opinion? It's mostly sour grapes.

With our Mediterranian climate, the Bay Area does indeed lack the traditional American seasons of the East Coast, where Spring slowly thaws into Summer, things get muggy and gross before cooling off into a brief, pleasant Autumn (complete with the aforementioned foliage), and then snow falls and everything becomes suddenly gross, sodden, frigid and dark for far too many Winter months before the cycle begins anew.

Our seasons are a bit different. We go from "really nice weather" for about 9 months of the year, to "nice weather, but it can be a bit nippy, so wear layers!" for the other 3 months. At the start of that second period, our weather is quite similar to that of the East Coast (I lived there for decades, so I know), but then it plateaus into Winter, and fast.

During that steep dropoff, there's a solid period beginning in mid-October where Bay Area residents are still flitting about outdoors in short sleeves, in beautiful sunshine, posting photos of our merry lives on Instagram while our East Coast friends are starting to scrape caked ice off their windshields and buy large bags of rock salt. It's during that period that the braggy foliage posts start to appear.

If it's mid-October and you're already in a Winter jacket, the thinking probably goes, at least you can take a retaliatory shot back at California by posting some lovely, taunting shots of trees with dramatic colors.

Well, I have good news for you. California does indeed have color-changing foliage, both on native trees and on the many non-native deciduous trees that have been carted in en-masse to beautify our roads, alleyways, parks and backyards.

Yes, you might need to look a bit harder here to find them than in New York. And yes, they're not quite as dramatic as the seas of shining color that grace New England during foliage season. But they're still very much present, and still quite beautiful. Get a nice close-up shot, and you might just convince your East Coast friends that you took a spontaneous weekend trip to Vermont.

Where are the best places to see Fall foliage in the Bay Area? Start by looking anywhere where you'll find lots of maples, which are present in many California parks and have dramatic, color-changing leaves. The California Department of Parks and Recreation has a list of parks Golden State parks that feature dramatic foliage, including two in Sonoma County.

Failing that, take a look at any place where people have planted non-native trees. Parking lots, sidewalks, shopping centers, and the like are all likely places to find a tree with dramatic foliage. I recently found a beautiful stand of trees at the Lafayette Reservoir that were displaying deep ambers, yellows, and reds as their leaves changed and fell.

An added bonus? Our trees aren't about to be covered with a sheen of newly-fallen snow. You can also reasonably picnic under them in tennis shorts and short sleeves well into October and be totally comfortable, unlike your Instagramming East Coast contacts.

Maybe instead of posts about trees, East Costs should take to Instagram to tout their much, much lower cost of living. Pretty leaves won't phase us Californians. But a pic of your rent bill on Instagram? That might really sting.

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Award-winning entrepreneur, and the co-founder and CEO of Gado Images. Thomas writes, speaks and consults about artificial intelligence, privacy, food, photography, tech, and the San Francisco Bay Area. As a professional photographer, Thomas' photographic work regularly appears in publications worldwide. Pitches/news tips:

Lafayette, CA

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