High Points: “The Rockies just seem to have their moment in September” | AspenTimes.com

High Points: “The Rockies just seem to have their moment in September”

Paul E. Anna
High Points
Previous fall foliage up Independence Pass.
File photo

Well, that happened fast. 

It’s the second of September, and summer has come and gone. Buh-bye. Once this Labor Day weekend ends, it will be time to bask in the throes of what many folks, including your’s truly, consider to be the most beautiful month of the year around here.

September is when the nights get a little colder, and the days get a little — actually a lot — shorter. It’s when the tenor of the times change, and we start looking forward to winter instead of back at summer.

It’s a good time of year. You can tell we are on the cusp of change just by looking around at the surrounding hillsides. The scrub oak is beginning to glow with those red and orange hues, and, high up in the aspens and cottonwoods, the green is giving way to gold. There are few yellow leaves that have already fallen, letting you know that fall, the actual autumnal equinox, is just three weeks away. The weather is beginning to change, as well. A look at the forecast shows exact highs of 81 degrees and lows of 48 degrees for each of the next seven days here in Snowmass. That’s a difference of 33 degrees from day to night, or what they call the diurnal shift.

The changes in temperatures coupled with diminished sunlight during the daytime hours are what makes the leaves change color. As the trees get less light in the fall and cool down in the evenings, they produce less chlorophyll than they do in the middle of summer. The lack of chlorophyll, which gives the leaves their summer green, reveals the yellow and orange pigments that are already a part of the leaves. This transformation takes place from the last days of August into October … or until storms or high winds signal an end to the leaf-peeping season. 

But, the Rockies just seem to have their moment in September. I think it is the light; the angle of the sun this time of year seems to highlight the colors. It is as if someone, or something, reached out and created the perfect hues for the season. Sure, spring greens are lush, and summer can be spectacular, and, of course, we all came for winter … but, the fall here is just so spectacular. 

And, it’s not just me. Head out into the hills or on the trails, and everyone is just agog as they take in the colors. People struggle to come up with just the right adjective to describe how extraordinary it is, but words fail. I think you have to see it up close and personal to really get how beautiful it is.

Even iPhone photos don’t do it justice. The best colors are produced when the weather is sunny, cool and dry, and it looks like that is exactly what we are in for the next few weeks, according to the official NOAA fall forecast, which was released just this past week. If all goes as planned, we should have a full month of the aspen trees becoming more vivid on a daily basis, with a peak right around the end of the month. It could be an especially good year for color. 

Have a happy Labor Day. And, don’t work too hard.

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