Enjoy the great outdoors

Trail Ridge Road

By Jim Kilpatrick

The Surveyor

It is hard to believe we have come to the end of another summer. School has started and the amount of daylight in each day is getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler. There’s still a lot of time left to enjoy all those outdoor activities like hiking, camping, swimming and fishing. It’s the beginning of the hunting season, so the mule deer bucks and the bull elk are now showing off their antlers, trying to impress the females, along with hunters and the wildlife photographers.

At this time nature puts on a beautiful show, with the changing colors of foliage, with our aspens turning golden yellow and orange, the willows and other brush coloring up as well. Colorado in all her beauty takes on the summer’s end of crowning glory in vibrant hues that transform to a magnificent spectacle. Back east the variety of shades of color may be greater, but against the Colorado blue skies our aspen gold is the epitome of beauty.

Peak fall foliage usually arrives in Colorado between mid-September in the High County and mid-October at lower elevations, varying by season and mostly depending on temperatures. Here is a list of the top three autumn foliage drives I suggest.

Trail Ridge Road

Trail Ridge Road winds high through the alpine countryside in Rocky Mountain National Park. Colors fill the hillsides and valleys nearly the whole way. 

Squaw Pass

Squaw Pass is west of Denver off Interstate 70 that begins at Idaho Springs, or you can take the Evergreen exit, via CO 103 and Squaw Pass Road. You’ll pass Echo Lake and Mount Evans road along it.

Guanella Pass

Guanella Pass is also west of Denver off I-70 that begins at Georgetown, or you can take US 285 west through Bailey to Grant. It peaks at 11,670 feet, where Mount Evans and Mount Bierstadt hover in the distance, and it is a freshly paved 22-mile road with some tight turns, but usually well maintained.

If you want a longer trip within our state, I suggest the loop from Carbondale to Marble to McClure Pass (8800 feet in elevation) which will take you by Paonia Reservoir through Hotchkiss to Delta. There is a great orchard called Big B’s Delicious Orchards, 39126 Highway 133, Hotchkiss, Colo. They make lovely fresh-squeezed apple cider and apple juice. We have not been to the Leroux Creek Inn and Vineyards, 12388 3100 Road, Hotchkiss, Colo., but we hear the owner is from France and his wine rivals French wines. We like to begin the loop from Delta, in reverse to Carbondale. There are huge stands of large aspens on top of McClure. Take a moment to stop and see these large aspen up close. There are few places you can get so close to aspen of this size. Kebler Pass (10,007 feet in elevation) turns off at Paonia Reservoir and goes to Crested Butte. Kebler is a favorite aspen viewing road but more remote.

So get out your DLS camera, smart phone, or tablet, and take some test photos. Figure out what are the best settings for bright-light, low-light, and back-lit situations. Sometimes you come upon a really great scenic area but the lighting is not at the right angle. Take several pictures on different settings, then when you get home and upload them onto your computer, seeing them on a bigger screen helps you decide which ones are the best to keep. Today social media is such a popular source to share photos on, like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Through them we are blessed to see way more than we ever could personally visit. I would encourage you to share some of your best photos. I always enjoy seeing the ones taken of the fall colors around our great nation.   

Check this out. The brown trout are taking on their spawning colors and will be busy propagating the species. The Cache la Poudre River in Poudre Canyon offers some great brown action this time of year. Keep your eyes open for moose if you got up toward Cameron Pass. We just saw our first cow and calf moose on the east side of Rocky Mountain Park along Fall River, grazing in the sheep ponds just last week. If you pass over Cameron and go a bit further to Gould just outside Walden you can visit the Moose Visitor Center and learn all you ever wanted to know about the moose population. Reintroduction began in 1978, and Colorado now has an estimated 3000 moose statewide. Our species runs 800 to 1200 pounds, our largest game animal, but is one of the smallest species of moose. Be safe and give them reasonable distance, because they aren’t the friendliest of Coloradans.

Tags: , , ,