After dry summer, colorful fall foliage a welcome sight | AspenTimes.com

After dry summer, colorful fall foliage a welcome sight

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

It’s been another stunning autumn in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Despite fears sparked by the summer’s extensive drought, area aspen trees have produced a brilliant array of fall colors. Highway 82, from Interstate 70 to the dazzling spread of Independence Pass, has been clogged with camera-wielding visitors and locals alike trying to capture the reds and golds at the height of their brilliance.

And to think that this annual foliage festival was almost jeopardized by a lengthy dry season.

But Kent Welner, an assistant ranger with the Sopris Ranger District, said it’s difficult for local U.S. Forest Service officials to spot the difference between this autumn’s offering and last year’s display. In most spots, the colors seem to be just as bright as they’ve always been.

“As far as how bright they are, it’s a mixed bag,” he said. “Some areas are pretty bright and pretty good ? we were just up in Marble today, and the upper Crystal River Valley is quite gorgeous.”

Unfortunately, the drought’s effects might be visible as autumn winds down in the next few weeks, Welner said. Weakened trees might not be able to hold their leaves as long as usual.

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“I think what you’re seeing is, maybe the colors aren’t quite as brilliant as usual,” he said. “I think what the drought has done is shortened up how long things are colorful.”

The changing colors, Welner reported, are the result of the interaction between temperature, length of day and moisture ? and the last element has been hard to come by this year. So how long will local aspens be able to keep their photogenic foliage?

“Have they peaked? Well, it’s a good time to get out and look,” Welner said.

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