October 22, around Ridgway, southwest Colorado. The fall colors of the aspen forests of the high country were past their peak colors. But not done with them. Just after the peak, I love how the remaining stands of aspen with their gold leaves stand out so brilliantly amongst their bare, straight, silvery trunked neighbors. It’s as if they enjoy providing the last hurrah.
I began south of Ridgway at that big pullout along Highway 62. I don’t know what the locals call it, if anything. It should be called something like “Photographers’ Overlook”. It looks up across vast draws of Gambel oak and aspen stands, up to the high peaks of the Mount Sneffels Wilderness.
Next, it was time to get closer to those peaks. So up Dallas Creek Road I went. I’d been meaning to check it out for a while, and apparently now was that time.
And what a fine drive it was. Kind of rough if you have a sedan, which I saw a few of driving down while I was driving up. But do-able. As usual in the Colorado mountains, the valleys are privately owned, so you learn to take heed of the “National Forest Access: …[name of road]” signs that direct you to public right of ways like this. Otherwise you might soon find yourself down a private lane, with a gate at the end. And quite likely signs posted that could make you feel very unwelcome.
Ridgway, Colorado is not all that high, in that valley, for that part of the state. Just under 7,000 feet. Big high country meadows for livestock. Just above that grows Gambel oak (“oak brush”), which is great wildlife cover. Also some Pinyon pine. And cottonwood down along the stream banks.
Climbing higher above the valleys you’re soon into some Ponderosa pine. And aspen stands. Then Douglas-fir and Colorado blue spruce mixed in. Up into mountain man country.
I stopped at the end of the road, parked alongside the stream, and had lunch. The soothing rippling waters of a mountain stream. I saw a couple of mayflies hatch out of the water, and that comical bird called the Water Ouzel (or “Dipper”) bob for insects beneath the cold riffles.
I considered staying the night. It was tempting. But I’d also heard the weather report. The snow level was forecast to drop to 10,000 feet during the night. Well above where I was at present. And well below treeline.
That meant it would snow at Lizard Head Pass for the first time of the season. Somebody had to be there when it did. I chose myself.
So somewhat reluctantly I drove back down the Creek, and up the San Miguel River canyon, past Telluride. Back up to Lizard Head Pass to see what would happen during the night.
Photo location: Ouray County, southwest Colorado. As always, click on any image to see a much larger version.
Next: The perfect end to the high country autumn.
© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg