San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, September 16, 2016

Colorado In The Fall

I suppose it is basic human nature to become infatuated with the place in which we live.  Senior Amerikans, known as Native Amerikans to the politically correct, constantly talk about how every place they have ever built a campfire is sacred to them.  Although I reject the religious claims of animism, there is something to be said about how spending a lot of time in a particular geographic area brings about a sense of ownership and appreciation for that area.  How else can I explain the fact that Cajuns really seem to appreciate the bayou?  Why anyone would want to spend more than a minute or two in a snake and mosquito infested swamp is a mystery to me.  Yet those folks seem to truly love where they live.  Good for them.
I live in Colorado.  Colorado is famous for its mountains.  Most people visit Colorado in the summertime while on family vacations.  Most people visit the government controlled parks found within the state and then pronounce themselves properly impressed by the natural beauty that can be found here.  The second most popular time for people to visit the state in which I reside is the winter.  Then people come in droves to enjoy the opportunities to fly rapidly downhill on a pair of skis or a snowboard.  I gave up downhill skiing years ago as I grew increasingly tired of constantly having to watch out for other skiers on the crowded slopes.  I also grew tired of waiting in long lines of traffic just to get to the local ski areas.  I guess that is what happens as one ages.  Things that seemed like minor inconveniences become major obstacles.
Fall is one of the best times to visit the Colorado mountains, although it seems like only the local residents appreciate that fact.  I suspect it is difficult for all but a handful of hunters to pack up the family car and make the trip to Colorado just to drive around for a day or two enjoying the fall colors.  I also suspect that most folks who live in other parts of the country consider their fall display of colors to be at least equal to that found in Colorado.  Indeed, I can see how the argument can be made that the mixed forests of the eastern part of the Socialist Democracy of Amerika present a far more varied and beautiful fall display than the monochrome aspen displays found in my state.  To each his own, I guess.
Today I am going to share some of my favorite fall photographs with you.  I may have put some of these up on the blog previously so bear with me if I am repeating myself here.  I took each of these photos.  All of these photographs were taken in the month of September, usually during the third or fourth week of the month. They have been assembled over the decades as I have had opportunity to get out into the mountains during the fall.  I hope you enjoy seeing them at least partially as much as I enjoyed being there to take them.
One of the greatest pleasures to be found in the fall is simply walking through an aspen forest in the midst of high mountains covered in new fallen snow.   This shot was taken near Lake City, on a climb of several unnamed high 13,000 foot peaks.  It is looking up towards a ridge leading to one of the peaks I had been on top of a few hours earlier. 


Also near Lake City is Handies Peak.  While climbing it one fall day I snapped this shot of a couple of unnamed 13,000 foot peaks across the valley to the NE.  I had the pleasure of running the ridge seen below on an early summer climb a couple of years earlier. 

No photo essay of Colorado is complete without a shot of the iconic Maroon Bells.  I have been on and around them many times in the fall.  Here is a shot of the Bells taken from a 13,000 peak on the ridge north of them.  The mountain in the middle foreground is called Sleeping Sexton.  The two high points in the back, on the right and left of the Sexton, are the Maroon Bells as seen from the north.  As you can see, snow comes early to the high country.

Here is the more typical photo of the Bells, taken on that same trip.  The fellow in the photo was my climbing partner that day and, yes, that is infamous Aspen socialite Barbie Benton with him.  We ran into her at the trail head and she kindly agreed to pose with him for a picture with the classic view of the Bells in the background.  By the way, the ridge going right from North Maroon is the Sleeping Sexton of the previous photo.  I have examined the profile of the Sexton many times over the years and still don't see him in repose.  The peak we climbed that day is just out of view to the right in the photo.

The next day we climbed another peak in the Aspen area and were treated to this trail on the descent.  On this day we ran into another famous group from Aspen.  Several members of the Aspen Gay Men's Chorus were out on a hike.  They praised me profusely for the shirt I was wearing, which was pink.  I was glad to get past them as quickly as possible.  You never know who you are going to run into when hiking in the Aspen area.

Occasionally we run into some wild critters on our adventures.  This irascible moose, with her young ones out of the picture, was foraging up in the high country near the tiny town of Creede.  We didn't stick around long to introduce ourselves after this shot was taken as she did not seem very pleased about our being there.

This shot is one of my all time favorites.  It is of Rolling Mountain, near Silverton, with the Bandera mine in the foreground.  We were attempting to climb a peak on the ridge to the right of Rolling Mountain.  We failed in our attempt that day due to icy conditions on steep rock.  After dislodging a bowling ball sized rock that whizzed past my jumping wife we decided to call it a day. 

Another all time favorite photo was taken a year later, also near Silverton.  This shot was taken above Red Mountain pass, looking east over an alpine tarn towards the mountains that give the pass its name.  My wife and I were descending from a peak back to the pass and had just seen a black bear running through the forest minutes before I took this photo. 

My wife and I climbed Uncompahgre Peak a couple of years ago in September.  The conditions were perfect for some monochromatic photographs of the area, with low hanging clouds and fresh snow on the ground.  Here is a shot looking north to El Punto, the thumb on the left side of the shot, from the trail to Uncompahgre.

We made the summit of Uncompahgre that day, and had it all to ourselves the entire way up and down.  Here is my wife on the summit.

I will leave you with another classic moment in the Colorado mountains in the fall.  Maybe we will meet on the trail some day and share one of these moments together.

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