High Points: Peepers and Jeepers as fall colors set in around Aspen

Paul E. Anna
High Points
The Maroon Bells shown behind autumn trees in October 2021.
File photo

This is the time of year when we get a different breed of tourist in the high country. They are not the same as the well-heeled, well-dressed, summer and winter crowds.

This is the time when we get the peepers, who come to see the vibrant colors, and the Jeepers, who take to the back roads in their heavy-metal, four-wheel drive vehicles, ostensibly doing the same. 

Personally, I prefer the peepers. They are a gentler and kinder crowd who come to the mountains with no other agenda than to just gaze at the beauty of fall colors as they burst in the September sun. They may not spend as much, and they may be a little slower (especially on the roads) than the average Aspen tourist, but that is OK with me. Their aim is true, as they are only here to revel in the burnt oranges, the rustic reds and the golden yellows of the leaves.

These are the folks who plan ahead and reserve their place in line for the bus to the Bells. They bring, not just their phones, but actual cameras to record their time amongst the changing aspens. They are maybe a little older crowd, but they are genuine in their love of nature. 

Then, there are the Jeepers. They tend to travel in packs and do so with great alacrity. Some may actually drive Jeeps, but I use the term as a collective reference to all the different motorized machines that stir up the dust on the dirt tracks from Cortez to Craig and along the spine of the Colorado Rockies.

Most are well-behaved and respectful, but there is a more aggressive, and  younger, vibe amongst the Jeepers than the peepers. They like to get after it. Not that there is anything wrong with that, as long as they practice the tried-and-true, back-country etiquette of “leave it better than you found it.” 

Both groups cruise through Aspen in September, gawking at the sights, hoping to spot celebrities and going agog over the high prices. The town is almost a walking cliché that lives up to all the things that people say about it. My favorites are those who are both peepers and Jeepers. Last year, I found myself sitting in the J-Bar next to couple from Germany dressed in full road bike leathers. They had come from Bavaria to ride the Rockies and “experience the leafs,” as they put it. They had flown into Phoenix, picked up a massive, just released BMW R-18 Transcontinental touring motorcycle, donned their leathers and hit the road up through Monument Valley, then on Highway 550 into Telluride before heading into Aspen.

They were having the time of their lives, and it was easy to live vicariously through the pair who were seeing fall in the Rockies for the very first time. They combined both the purity of the peepers with the off-road ethos of the Jeepers. They liked it here best. Just before it started to rain here this week, on Thursday, the seasons officially changed from summer to autumn when we hit the autumnal equinox. The peepers and Jeepers will be out in force for the next month or so. 

Let’s welcome them both. 


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