Lizard Head Pass, late October dawn.
It’s almost time to say goodbye to the fall colors for another year.
So to savor some of the best of the last, or the last of the best, I returned to the high country of southwest Colorado.
Autumn is the perfect season. A little bit winter, a little bit summer, a lot of fall. I have known people who have dreaded fall, despite her beauty. Why? Because to them it meant the doorstep of winter. Of snow and cold. And while I highly respect their opinion, they’re weenies.
Lizard Head Peak, from the Pass.
Because to me fall has always meant the climax of the year. It’s not the end of the calendar year, quite yet, but it’s the end of the growing season. Harvest time. Celebration. Preparation for winter, which used to be a kind of hibernation time even for humans, before our year-round climate control inside our buildings. Time to rest and dream and contemplate next year’s growing season.
To begin my latest sojourn I drove past sunset and into the night, back up to Lizard Head Pass in the San Juan Mountains. I knew exactly where I wanted to camp, just off a National Forest road that had good drainage. Because it had been raining. Another cold camp: no campfire. Too much trouble. And I don’t mean trouble starting them in the wetness, I’m good at that.
Night peace in the Rocky Mountains. A one-third full waxing moon playing with the clouds, until she set.
At dawn, heavy cold condensation on the windows. Fire up the engine, let’s get this this warmed up so we can see what’s out there this time. My campsite had the advantage of having a nice overlook of Lizard Head Peak and the high mountain meadows of the Pass. I quickly set camera on tripod to portray it.
Cottonwood tree in fall colors, Trout Lake, Colorado. Don’t park in front of it, it doesn’t like it.
Then down the other side a few miles to Trout Lake. A beautifully pensive sunrise: sun not yet over the high peaks and clouds to the east, a breeze riffling the lake’s surface. A cottonwood tree captivated me. Normally, with such flat overcast light I wouldn’t have known what to do with the scene. But I liked being there at that moment. The wet ground and fallen leaves, along with the bright yellow foliage yet to drop. And soon.
Cottonwood tree on Trout Lake, October.
I drove back the lane along the lake to see what else might present itself. Of all the vast expanse of mountains and lake and near-wintry sky, that lone cottonwood tree stood out. For a few moments the morning light lit it up there. But I couldn’t move fast enough to capture it like it still is in my mind’s eye.
I didn’t know whether to linger there or move on. Such an exquisite place and time. Who knows what might happen? I sure didn’t.
Late October morning light across Trout Lake.
The weather decided for me: clearly a snow squall was moving in from the south. Dark clouds, and not of the thunderstorm kind. Snow.
So I headed toward it. Back up to the Pass, to greet it, see if I could make a few photos that captured the stirring that I felt.
Snow squall on Lizard Head Pass.
It wasn’t a blizzard, it was merely a late fall kiss on the high country in the early morning of a late October day.
I was hungry. Desiring some hot food, I headed down the mountain into Telluride. The day was truly just beginning.
© Copyright 2015 Stephen J. Krieg