Escapes: Falling for fall in the Sierra

Morning at South Fork of Bishop Creek, not far from Parchers Resort, in California.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Falling in love with fall in California is easier than you think. Autumn does arrive in the Golden State, and if you don’t believe that, I’m going to hold my breath until the leaves turn color. Fortunately, I don’t have to.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. When I moved here in the early 1990s, I brought to the Golden State the preconceived notions that autumn pales here by comparison. Thank you to the California Fall Color website and the reporting and photography from our staff for opening my eyes.

That is, after all, the point of travel: to see things with a different clarity. This week, we’ll open the door to a beautiful Arizona oasis, eight courses in Hawaii where a round of golf won’t break the bank, an Amtrak sale that will save you scads of money, a relaxing Pacific Northwest weekend escape and California wine country bargains, plus the inside scoop on the new ride-hail and taxi pickup spot at LAX and the best time to book holiday airfares. Let’s get going before the leaves fall from the figurative tree.

Peak of perfection

The Eastern Sierra is ablaze with color right now. Mary Forgione and Sara Lessley report on the phenomenon, with their words surrounded by beautiful photos taken by Francine Orr. Revel in the changing of the chlorophyll guard in Bishop and at Mammoth and June lakes.


In the steps of Steinbeck

There’s a different kind of beauty at Aravaipa Canyon in Arizona, as David Kelly shows us. His road trip takes us to and through peaks and dunes of the Southwest and winds up across the border. It’s a gentle trip that lets us meander in the footsteps of John Steinbeck’s “Sea of Cortez.”

The new ride-hail rules at LAX

Starting Oct. 29, you won’t be allowed to walk out of your terminal at LAX and jump into an Uber or Lyft; you’ll have go to a new waiting lot by Terminal 1. The move is designed to help alleviate the seemingly unending traffic jams at the airport.

Travel staff writer Christopher Reynolds shows you how to navigate, literally and figuratively, the new requirements. There’s even a video showing how easy it is if you’re at Terminal 1 — and how far if you’re at Terminal 4.

When should I buy holiday airfare?

Right now. Having spoken with those who analyze the airline industry and its effect on ticket prices, I offer the reassuring reason that airfares won’t continue to spike after the attack on Saudi oil facilities, despite what you might see at the gas pump.

The downside: Airlines have done such a good job making air travel accessible because of fare wars that demand will be up. It’s the law of supply and demand that may push those ticket totals higher than we’ve seen in a while, and as seats get scarcer, the prices generally don’t go down. Even if the December holidays seem distant, it’s probably time to start your research and hit the button, I write in “On the Spot.”


Of Bend, beef and nature’s bounty

If it’s the great outdoors your crave, Bend, Ore., may be the weekend escape that will satisfy your nature fever dreams, Ken Van Vechten writes. It’s why people live in this town of 95,000 southeast of Portland. And don’t forget your appetite, he notes, heaping praise on a “steakery” that promises incomparable beef.

Speaking of bounty

October is usually the month of the grape crush in California, a great time to visit our wineries from southern (Temecula) to central (Buellton) to northern (Sonoma), Terry Gardner writes. She includes the 4-1-1 on room deals and packages that give you extra bang for your buck.

Great trains

Big Boy 4014, the historic steam locomotive that will make trips this weekend to Barstow from Colton and back, will be on display before those trips from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursday (today!) and 9 a.m. to noon Friday, both times in Bloomington, our updated story reports.

Meanwhile, Mary Forgione reports on a two-for-one sleeper room sale on Amtrak’s long-haul trains, and that includes the Coast Starlight and the Southwest Chief. The sale ends Oct. 14 and is good from Nov. 11 to April 8, excluding blackout dates.

Setting a course for savings on Hawaii golf

A round of golf in Hawaii can cost as much and in some cases more than a night in a hotel room. But Ken Van Vechten has a guide to eight places in the islands where you can play a round without spending your children’s inheritance. Here’s a guide to links for less.

What we’re reading

Vacation can help you leave behind a kind of pollution that might not register on your conscious radar: noise. Writing for the Atlantic, Bianca Bosker reports about how insidious noise can be and how it affects our health. Her piece speaks briefly about Quiet Parks International and Ecuador’s Zabalo River, the first Wilderness Quiet Park. You’ll learn more about noise problems than you will about travel, but the article may also have you thinking about places that speak to you for reasons you may not have understood before, whether it’s a spa, the ocean or the Great Plains.

Besides quiet, what place makes you happy? Writing for Afar magazine, Katherine LaGrave reveals the happiest state, according to a WalletHub survey. It considers weather, of course, and 30 other measures, including commute. The winner: Hawaii. Well, no kidding, you’re saying, but consider that California was No. 4 — even factoring in commute times. What surprised me were the bottom five. Have a look and see whether you agree.

If you wonder what in the world would turn people into #signspotters, consider this: With development, iconic signs are often lost to the mists of history. California has more than a few people interested-slash-obsessed with the signs of our times, Jody Amable writes for Atlas Obscura. Weird? Definitely unusual, but these accidental historians capture our history — one makes miniature models, others paint — in an interesting and sometimes creepy way. (Circus Liquor in North Hollywood, anyone?)

What you’re reading

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End paper

No one would ever accuse California of being subtle, except maybe when it comes to fall. If you’re from big red leaf country, you don’t have to look very far (like out the nearest window) to see the autumnal show.

Most of the time, we don’t have to work hard to find spectacular examples of nature here, which is why I thought our fall was one of Mother Nature’s true fails. It took me years to realize that my disappointment was based on a need for replication.

California is never going to be the Virginia or the upstate New York of my youth, and why should I demand that and consider what I see lesser? Why not appreciate that it’s October, and that I’m sitting in my dining room with the windows open and hearing sweet birdsong that plays like nature’s greatest hits? (I wish this newsletter had an audio component, and I’d play some for you. It’s remarkable living in a big city and being treated to this.)

We give differences a hall pass, even a hug, when we travel. After all, that’s why we go, isn’t it? I’m hoping to extend the same courtesy to my everyday environs so that every day will feel like a vacation. There may be no place like home, but who’s to say there can’t be more than one place you will always call home, even if it’s across the country?

Travel safely and well and remember, we’ll be here to welcome you home, no matter where that happens to be.