A fall where Aspen’s colors get better by the day
Leaf-peepers think they have died and gone to heaven this fall.
The Colorado mountains saved their best for last in a year of wacky weather. A decent winter transformed overnight into an epic one during the first week of March. Spring was wet and wild. Summer was late to arrive and punctuated with a brilliant wildflower season. Late summer and early fall brought a return to super dry conditions.
And now Mother Nature is putting on a show. Each day brings more vibrant colors than the last and there’s no sign of it letting up. I was ecstatic during a mountain bike ride Saturday on the Smuggler/Hunter Creek/Hummingbird/Upper Plunge route on Saturday. While the colors were already outstanding from the aspen groves on the back of Smuggler Mountain to the scrub oak on the Hummingbird Trail, it was mind-boggling to see more than 50% of the leaves still green.
As good as it was on our side of Independence Pass, Twin Lakes was even more awe-inspiring Sunday. I enlisted my daughter and her boyfriend on yet another quest to try to find a played-out mine in the steep hillsides west of Twin Lakes. I’ve checked out a handful of mines in that vicinity over the past decade — some with tough luck monikers like the Last Chance and Golden Fleece and others that hinted more promise — the White Star and Little Joe. Sunday we were off to find the Fidelity, somewhere above timberline.
We missed our spur trail to the mine but nobody complained. After leaning into incredibly steep stretches of trail, we would emerge into flatter ground covered in vast aspen stands glowing yellow with a few hints of rust. In some places the yellow leaves of the “Quakies” were intermingled with the deep green of spruce and fir. Ground vegetation was lit up in a burnt red, making it look like the forest floor was covered in spot fires. The blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds created a visual smorgasbord.
The Twin Lakes or east side of the Pass is typically a week or so ahead of the Aspen side for hitting peak. That will probably hold true again this year, but it was incredible how many aspen leaves remain green over there, as well.
Fall almost never fails to please in Colorado. This October will be a special one to remember.
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Mountain Rescue Aspen is expanding its education efforts to try to keep people safe in the backcountry during winters and summers. It will host a workshop on Dec. 8 titled, “How to Plan a Backcountry Tour.”