Thursday, October 6, 2011

Colorado in the Fall

My mother and I spent the last week of September in Boulder, Colorado, house sitting for friends and taking care of their darling schnauzer, Cloe. It was the height of the turning aspens, reddening oaks, and ripening golden grasses. We had unusually warm weather, between 75 and 95 degrees F almost every day. The air was still, the aspens barely quaked, and of course held onto their leaves for everyone to enjoy.

Reflections and underwater grasses

On Monday we headed up to Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. I think it's been about 15 or 20 years since I last visited Bear Lake and saw the Keyboard of the Winds formation. It has been one of my favorites since I drew a coloring book for the park back in the 70's. These days, they have an in-park Park-N-Ride. We left the van and took a nice big-windowed bus up the road to the lake. What a nice addition that is! I got to look around and see the scenery instead of being entirely focused on NOT driving off the road. They delivered us right to the trail head and we hopped off for the mile long walk around the lake. My mother, at 80, easily made the hike. She's in great shape but she has trouble with depth perception. The aspen were at their peak and since it was a week day there were no heavy crowds.

Bear Lake is pristine water with an occasional jumping trout. It was mostly still and reflective of the building cumulus clouds.

Bear Lake

There is a highway, a broad, sometimes three and four lane road, from Estes Park to Nederland, called the Peak to Peak Highway. It is one of the most spectacular drives in the country any time of year, but especially in late September. Once in a while an early snowstorm will just blanket the "fourteeners" and leave the aspen untouched making for spectacular photos. But this year we settled for a lovely drive.

Scene along the Peak to Peak Highway.

Aspen around Bear Lake

My friend Claudia came to Boulder on Wednesday. We went on a longer hike north and west of Nederland in a large open space that used to be a ranch. At one time the ranch was owned by Graham Nash, of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He'd built a lovely "old" barn that actually housed a first class recording studio. There is a farmhouse on the property, down in an open valley, which has been featured in numerous movies.

The Ranch

Lone Aspen

On Friday morning, I got up well before dawn, donned my warmest clothes, stopped at McDonald's for some coffee and headed to Chautauqua Park in Boulder to take photos of the Flatirons illuminated by the rising sun. It was cool and the parking lot filled rapidly with cars of early morning joggers and young men with climbing gear. The Flatirons are hugely popular among rock climbers. After a bit of tromping through the stiff grasses and rocks, I found a perfect place to take some  photos of the formation. There were high clouds in the east that filtered the normally bright pink light, but the rocks showed well.  Outside of the Tetons, the Flatirons of Boulder must surely be the most photographed rock formation in the country. The light kept changing as shadows from trees retreated and the sky got bluer. By 8:00 the trails were crowded with people and the light began to flatten. A lovely morning spent in a lovely town. I do love Boulder. It would be nice to move back, but it would be too much like life-reversal. I lived there for 17 years. The future is elsewhere. 

Earliest morning light on the Flatirons

Late morning shot

Pretty asters in the
morning light.

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