Crestone Eagle, September 2006:
Fall colors are coming;
get out and enjoy the show!
by Thomas Cleary
aspen, cottonwood trees and a variety of undergrowth are about
to do their color thing again. It is time to get out and explore
the sights, smells and sounds of the season.
As I mentioned in my article about aspen last year, I grew
up in Vermont: I still remember the wet musty smell of fall
leaves, the swishing sound they made nearly knee deep on the
trails, and the monstrous piles we had to rake; followed by
jumping in, getting buried, tunneling through etc.
These days I watch for the signs of change, and when the
trees are ripe, I grab the kids then head to the trailhead
for a hike. There are the yellows of the grasses, the red
of the rose hips, the blues of juniper berries, the greens
of the conifers, the gold of the aspen and the cottonwood
as the centerpiece; often a whole rainbow of colors will form
in the undergrowth below the shimmering aspens.
It looks like it could be a good year for aspens. It takes
the right balance of water, temperature, and, with a little
luck, the absence of winds and storms as the colors approach.
I have seen whole mountains of aspen have their leaves blown
off by wind, or pounded off by rain and snow, just as the
colors develop. Cross your fingers that the wonderfully wet
weather we’ve had will cooperate.
Colorado’s annual fall colors usually happen around
the middle of September through the first week of October.
Although, there are already some early signs of change and
it may come earlier this year. Go to www.parks.state.co.us
and click on the ‘search’ link in the left hand
column and then the ‘conditions’ link. This gives
the latest ‘fall colors’ conditions and the forecasts
for regions and state parks across the state.
You can view the aspen just about anywhere in Colorado between
7,000-10,000 feet above sea level. Local hikes include the
lower reaches of South Crestone Creek; the Willow Lake Trail
above Willow Park; up San Isabelle Creek accessed from Road
T; and Burnt Gulch, directly above town between North and
South Crestone Creek, which has a very large and colorful
grove on its south flank.
Go to http://9news.com/weather/facts/aspens.htm for a listing
of incredible auto routes. A few they missed are Kebler Pass
(west of Crested Butte towards Paonia), and our neighboring
small town of Bonanza (west of Villa Grove). The 9 News site
has other interesting info on aspens as well. Likewise, About.com
also has great articles on aspen at http://forestry.about.com/od/fallcolor/.
One website mentions a train ride on the Leadville, Colorado
and Southern Railroad (www.leadville-train.com). Other train
rides include the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad
(www.durangotrain.com); and don’t forget the Cumbres
and Toltec narrow-gauge railroad right here in the south part
of the Valley (cumbrestoltec.com).
While you are out on one of these adventures collect some
samples of colors, shapes, sizes, textures, etc. A great skill
for young children is sorting and grouping. Have them make
piles of like colors or shapes. Challenge them to sort textures
with their eyes closed or to make ‘opposite pairs’
of something dark and light, jagged and smooth curved, rough
and silky, etc. Elementary aged kids love to place leaves
under paper and do rubbings with a crayon to create their
own nature based artwork. Older kids and adults will enjoy
making framed leaf art by placing collections of leaves in
a glass frame for a great Colorado gift. The leaves can be
placed individually or in bunches, with a background or without,
pressed in a big book ahead of time or left with au natural
texture. The options are endless. Another version of this
is to place pressed leaves between two pieces of wax paper,
followed by the application gentle heat and pressure with
an electric iron (a lint free rag on top keeps the iron clean)
which will ‘laminate’ the leaves. This makes a
craft to hang in the window for the light to shine through.
Whether you are hiking, driving, riding a train, or making
crafts, revisit (or discover) the smells, textures, and colors
of Colorado’s fall foliage. Even better, rake them into
piles and jump, bury, tunnel, etc!
to the Eagle!