Above Ridgway, Colorado with the Fall Colors

It had been a full weekend (in mid week) in the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado, chasing the fall colors, incredibly accented by the first snows up high. It was the afternoon of the last day before returning home, to sleep in my own bed before going back to work.

Sensibility urged me to point the front wheels of the truck toward home. To get there in late afternoon, cook a nice supper, relax through the evening and then surrender my body onto the mattress for a good night’s sleep.

My gut urged me in the opposite direction. This is your last great day of an awesome fall foliage season; next week will probably be too late! While you’ve made some delicious photos already…what else is out there? Out there for the experiencing in the next several hours before dark?

Talk about tempting. Comfort versus more adventure, photography style, in one of the most beautiful places on Earth in the prime season of the year.

On the road up to Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest.

On the road up to Owl Creek Pass, Uncompahgre National Forest.

Well, of course I pointed the truck wheels toward another afternoon of adventure. Did you have any doubt? If you did, I’m glad you weren’t riding shotgun in my truck, because I was wishy-washy enough all by myself.

So let’s do this. I had been aching to return to the mountains northeast of Ridgway, so that’s where I went. I wasn’t disappointed. In fact, I felt sheepish that I’d even considered heading home reasonably early.

The clouds lifted on the way up to Owl Creek Pass.

The clouds lifted on the way up to Owl Creek Pass.

Up to Owl Creek Pass. What an area. Incredible forests, and stony crags hovering over them all from a spiny backbone like ridge.

Owl Creek Pass road aspen colors.

Owl Creek Pass road aspen colors.

The soft light from the overcast skies was an advantage. Either that, or I’m just so used to adjusting my tactics to the conditions. I loved the light, the calmness of the aspen forests. It was a very still, breezeless afternoon.

Aspen forest fall colors, Owl Pass Road, Colorado.

Aspen forest fall colors, Owl Pass Road, Colorado.

I went down the other side from the Pass. Some rain. Some hail. Sunshine. Even some thunder booming in the distance. Dang, I thought, this day has just about all the weather in one.

Fallen aspen leaves.

Fallen aspen leaves, sparkled by October rain.

The light rain offered another gift: raindrops on fallen aspen leaves, for closeup photos.

Aspen colors and spruce-fir forests, near Silver Jack Reservoir.

Aspen colors and spruce-fir forests, near Silver Jack Reservoir.

Finally I came out to Highway 550 about  20 miles east of Montrose. Still plenty of afternoon light left. But a long way left to go. West into Montrose, then back south to Ridgway, quite a big loop drive.

At the overlook of the mountain peaks south of Ridgway, I stopped for a few more shots. Then onto Last Dollar Road for an alternate way back down to Sawpit.

Scenic fall colors panorama above Ridgway, Colorado.

Scenic fall colors panorama above Ridgway, Colorado.

Finally I was back outside Telluride again. I was actually relieved that the light was too flat at some of the better overlooks to keep me from pulling over. I wanted to keep going.

Late afternoon autumn colors along the Last Dollar Road.

Late afternoon autumn colors along the Last Dollar Road.

Not long thereafter I was back at Trout Lake. I wanted to keep going. No, stop. Just get out and relish this scene one more time.

Trout Lake at dusk in early October.

Trout Lake at dusk in early October.

I just had one more photographic obstacle to cross before it was dark. It was only a few miles away, back up at Lizard Head Pass. And I almost missed it.

© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg

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