Autumn Coming On

gothic mountain, autumn aspen
Aspen Sunstar : Prints Available

Just before dipping behind Gothic Mountain, the setting sun illuminates a stand of red-tipped autumn aspen. Aspen trees are colonial and colors vary greatly, from typical gold to oranges, reds, even purple. The range of color and contrast is on full display in Colorado’s high country, beginning in mid-September, with the transition moving south into early October. 

Hiking with my friend/web guru/mountain photographer Jack Brauer, Jack asks “what do you think it is that makes aspens so brilliant in fall?” Jack has studied aspens as much as anyone I know, so I figured his query was rhetorical. But we launched into a discussion about leaves, mountain light, and complimentary colors that lasted about a half mile, everything leading to the same place – translucence holds light while letting it pass through, giving aspens a luminescence unlike anything else in our part of the natural world. Autumn is an ephemeral miracle. While we’re still gobbling up the last of Palisade peaches, aspen trees are changing to gold, orange, and deep red. Some aspen colonies (aspens are a colonial species sprouting from the same source) are withering with fungus, their leaves dropping early by our human calendar, adding a smell of pungent loam to forest walks. Songbirds are gone and we await the arrival of winter raptors and diving ducks. I look up each day, hoping for a glimpse of sandhill cranes headed south on a migration course, riding thermals to their southern home at Bosque Del Apache NWR in New Mexico. It’s a remarkable time of year alright; so predictable, yet each day holds a promise to awaken our senses, all of them.

aspen, maroon bells - snowmass wilderness
Elk Mountains Autumn : Prints Available

A glade of gold and orange aspen trees at peak autumn brilliance leads to layers of more colorful aspen near the town of Gothic and the stony Elk Mountains in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area. 


Mountain goats are shedding their summer coat as their woolly double winter coat comes in, enabling them to survive a harsh winter above timberline. Mount Evans Wilderness, CO


Alpine tundra changes to a burnt red dotted with golden willow. Mount Evans Wilderness, CO.

One thought on “Autumn Coming On

  1. Beautiful! Your images always intrigue, and your comments always illuminate. I am glad you are enjoying the fall.

    Just spent a week in Yellowstone and the Tetons. Probably my last visit. TDMP.

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