Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fall Colors and First Snow, Colorado

Aspen fall colors and first snow, from Highway 145, San Miguel County, Colorado. (Click image for larger.)

Fantastic aspen fall colors, and the first snow above on the high peaks above treeline. Perfect. A perfect October. 

It doesn't happen like this often. Deciduous trees such as quaking aspen have their own needs. Their leaves are out in the spring and summer to manufacture food, courtesy of the sun's power, and the Earth's nutrients. 

Then, come autumn, the leaves are shed in order to ride out the winter in comfortably wrapped-tight dormancy. 

When the leaves are shed tells the tale. If it's a harsh end to summer, with a hard frost or early snow, our tree friends pretty much just dump their foliage. See you in the spring. But if it happens to be a nice, gentle fall, with cool nights -- not freezing hard yet -- and clear sunny days, then the trees aren't in such a hurry to close the shutters. They slowly back off on their supply of green chlorophyll to their leaves, with its green color that has been masking other colors all along. Like yellows, golds, reds. 

Thus autumn is a kind of forest-weather courtship. A quick breakup, or a love for the ages. It's weather that decides how the date goes.

Which brings us to this year -- 2015 -- in the Four Corners region of southwest Colorado, southeast Utah, and northern Arizona and northwest New Mexico. 

And what an autumn it has been here. Slow and easy, gradual with some rain and snow up on the highest southwest Colorado peaks. But not down lower. Not down in the aspen-spruce-fir forests. 

Fortunately I have been able to experience it myself. In the San Juan mountain range between Rico and Ridgway, Colorado. Of the may photographs I made last week there, this is one of my favorites. The marriage of mountains and forests in autumn in Colorado.

Photo location: San Miguel County, Colorado.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg