On the Trail: Fall colors in an unexpected spot | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: Fall colors in an unexpected spot

As spectacular as the aspen trees have been in the high country and as radiant as the cottonwoods are becoming along the waterways, my most colorful leaf-peeping moment came in an unexpected location Sunday.

I was on a road-bike ride crossing from the Spring Valley area to Missouri Heights (not really sure where one ends and the other begins) when I came to a pinched valley along Upper Cattle Creek. A one-mile downhill stretch was ablaze with color. It was like cruising along a roadway with the hillsides on fire.

The terrain was high enough in elevation that the scrub oak, serviceberry and various other shrubbery were in full fall mode thanks to the cold nights and dry days we’ve had recently. The reds, yellows, tans and variations between were enough to make me stop to soak in the sight.

Adding to the savory sight were the aspen trees on the high peaks far in the background. Upper Cattle Creek lends itself to a fantastic panorama view from the Four Mile area outside Glenwood Springs to Aspen. Mount Sopris wore a yellow hula dress in the form of a huge clump of yellow aspens. Way off in the distance, Capitol Peak was more gorgeous than ever with foliage decorating its distinctive dome.

The eye candy was the icing for a super bike ride that I almost didn’t take. Chores and a dog walk absorbed my Sunday morning and I wanted to catch the Broncos game. On the other hand, I knew the route I had in mind would prove spectacular.

I rode the Rio Grande Trail from Hooks Bridge, through the scenic and soothing Rock Bottom Ranch section, past Carbondale and onto the warm flats west of Aspen Glen. I crossed Highway 82 at Thunder River Market and grunted through the unrelenting climb by the Spring Valley Campus of Colorado Mountain College.

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The steady climb gave way to more rolling terrain at Rivendell Sod and Tree Farm on Garfield County Road 114. I hooked into County Road 115 and rode past the old homestead and one-room school house at Coulter Creek. A short time later I arrived at the scenic stretch of Upper Cattle Creek and wound my way past Strang Ranch, along Fender Lane and ultimately the big hill descending into El Jebel.

Now I’m counting down the three weeks until a week-long cycling trip takes me to Utah and the changing of the cottonwoods there.