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Colorado Autumn Brings Aspen Gold

Aspens below Wilson Peak near Telluride, Colorado.
A blanket of golden aspens spread below Wilson Peak and Sunshine Peak in the San Miguel Mountains in southwestern Colorado. Photograph by Stewart M. Green

This is the bittersweet season of the aspen gold, that gaudy curtain that showers Rocky Mountain slopes with an applause track and chorus of oohs and aahs.

The autumn aspen is the last gasp of summer warmth, of life and growth and greenery, a chance for us mortals to make merry like the carefree grasshopper, to gather in the fruits and vegetables, to rejoice in a rich harvest.

And now in mid-October, the ephemeral color is fast fading. Shiny gold leaves carpet the forest floor and float on alpine tarns. Arctic storms sweep across the high country, leaving a dusting of white. In the heights, life is already in full retreat. Pikas and marmots feather their underground nests with dry grass for winter meals. Winter coats fluff out on ptarmigans and mountain goats.

Out there, away from the highway buzz and city lights, is a world in change, bathed in a mellow glow of sunlight. I go and look and see the changing of the season, the swing of the pendulum toward cold, cloud, and gloom. Afternoon light floods across hillsides. Morning breezes ruffle dry grasses and chill my hands. And night brings a star-swept sky fringed by an outline of inky firs and spruces beyond the haloed light of my candle lantern.

Carry my bestselling book SCENIC DRIVING COLORADO for details, directions, and descriptions to Colorado's best autumn driving adventures.


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