Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fri, Sept 24 to Sun, Sept 26: "Butte"-iful Autumn

Sorry for the corny title, I couldn't help it. :)

Friday, September 24:

We set out this weekend in hopes that Crested Butte would be as beautiful in fall as I anticipated it would be when we visited in July. We loaded up the car with our bags and dogs, and I was really excited to have Kaylee with us on her first road trip!
The area around Kenosha Pass off 285 was actually slightly past its autumn glory, which was very surprising to me as I anticipated seeing a lot of trees still green or in the process of turning. We stopped at the top of the pass and I found myself drawn to the view down into the high prairie washed golden with sunset light peeking over the mountain tops.
I haven't visited the mountains for a while so it was somewhat of a surprise to see how much the leaves had changed already. The hills around Jefferson and Fairplay were dotted with aspen groves dressed in gold and orange.
In real life, the view here was so amazing but the colors got a little washed out in the picture. The sky was a lot more pink and orange, a compliment to the glowing aspens on the hillsides.
Again, this picture doesn't do the soft sunset sky justice, but I love the trees and the brick red gash of soil through the autumn-dried grass.
Saturday, September 25:

We spent the night in Gunnison and I couldn't wait to get up to Crested Butte that morning! The view along the river was so beautiful:
The aspens flowed like a yellow wave breaking along the south side of Mt. Crested Butte.
B spotted this little red orange plant, a color which is typical in a New England fall but that I've only found in short ground cover in Colorado.
The first place we visited was the old abandoned farmhouse that I fell in love with during our July trip. There are several dilapidated buildings that are part of the farm complex...
... but the barn seems to still be used and in decent condition.
Aspens along the south side of Mt. Crested Butte, in the backyard of the abandoned farmhouse... which I still think is the best backyard ever!
We walked the same road near the farmhouse as we did when we visited in July, and the aspens were amazing:
View back down the road:
In this picture, if you look really really closely, you can see the tiny tip of Maroon Bells in between the large colorful hill on the right and the stark rocky mountain on the left:
More red ground cover!
I couldn't resist, I had to ask my dog to pose for a few pictures....
On our drive back toward the town, we found this group of cows who had escaped from their enclosure and were invading the road without a care as they peacefully grazed.
The farmhouse again, and I think you can see one of the tiny rocky areas near the peak of Mt. Crested Butte sticking out from the pines. The mountain is weird, the base covers up most of the peak which is actually very high.
The sky was the deep sapphire blue that reminds me of fall:
We drove up to Kebler Pass and again I was surprised to see how many leaves were gone already. I had hoped maybe there were some aspens around Lake Irwin, but instead I was given a serene reflection of green pines, deep blue sky, and pink and gray rocks.
Stump on Lake Irwin:
This is one of the views along Kebler Pass, and views like these are the reason I like this road so much!
Mmmm so many golden aspens:
The trees line the roadsides here as trees line all roadsides in Connecticut, and I loved driving with the sun blinking staccato patterns of light at me through the trunks and leaves.
This is the first aspen grove I asked B to pull over for, and I spent several minutes walking around just taking in the remarkable light that filtered in through the leaves. At one point a breeze came through and sent hundreds of leaves fluttering down to the ground, shimmering like a cloud of butterflies.
We traveled out to where the road starts descending into pines and away from the aspens and took our fill of the beautiful view presented there:
I am fascinated by this light gray mountain, which is so different from all the other mountains in the area. I have no idea what it's name is or why it's so light colored, so if anyone knows please enlighten me! :)
In many spots along Kebler Pass there is no clear view of the mountains, but they are almost always visible somewhere through the trees.
The second aspen grove I asked B to stop for was this:
The colors were so, so amazingly vibrant, bright yellow and bright green leaves against a bright blue sky. I think it's probably one of the most colorful natural places I've ever seen in my life.
We stopped along Slate River Road once again to view Whetstone Mountain. This time the water was too ruffled to show a reflection, but the pond itself was more interesting to me than a double image of the mountain. The water was a deep greenish blue, and B pointed out that it looked like it had a sandy bottom. It looked like a tiny tropical sea in the middle of the mountains.
Recognize this view? I took a picture from the same spot during our last visit. The water here, like the little pond, looked really green-blue and tropical. I wonder if the leaves gave it that illusion or if there was something else going on, but it was a really beautiful contrast to the pure blue of the sky and the yellow of the aspens.
While standing near the river, I noticed this little mining structure way up on one of the mountain sides:
View along Slate River:
While heading back to town, we noticed the Mt. Crested Butte cemetery and decided to take a drive around it. A narrow dirt road wound through the long grasses and headstones of varying ages, with the beautiful shape of Mt. Crested Butte in view at all times. It was a very beautiful and peaceful place of rest.
Kaylee was tired from her busy day, as were we, so we headed back to town to relax.
Sunday, September 26:

As we headed back to Denver, the hills east of Gunnison reminded me for some reason of France. The area where I stayed when I visited in high school was fairly hilly and very agricultural, perhaps that's why.
We wound up Rt. 50 and through Monarch Pass, from which there were many amazing views but very few stopping places.
Still, I managed to get a few good pics. :)
The leaves were so vibrant, with bright orange speckled in among the gold:
Mt. Antero, which is near the Collegiate Peaks, has to be one of my favorite looking mountains in Colorado. For some reason, it just looks to me like the true definition of a "mountain".
The collegiate peaks area was just as golden and orange as Monarch Pass:
B was surprised to see the amount of cars at Kenosha Pass, but I wasn't as I experienced it last fall when I visited. Rather than head up one of the popular hiking trails, we made our own trail across a field to a tiny pond that I've always wanted to visit. It was well worth the short hike:
After seeing the crowd at Kenosha, B stated that he likes the way we chose to see the leaves better. I do too: far away from the crowds, just us and nature, taking it in peacefully in our own time.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Sun, Sept 19, 2010: Hike Like a Pirate Day!

Arrrrrg mateys! This Sunday was Talk Like a Pirate Day, and since I love anything having to do with dressing up I was psyched about the idea of taking a pirate hike with friends! Unfortunately I didn't actually dress like a pirate, but my cooler friend did and dressed her kids up as well!

We headed up to 3 Sisters Park in Evergreen, CO, and though the leaves were mostly green around us we could see small patches of yellow dotting the hills around us.
The hike itself was almost comical for B and I, being the only kid-less individuals on the hike, because we had to stop every 20 feet to wait for the younger kids to catch up to us. B eventually tired of this and ran ahead with a friend's daughter, who seemed to have more energy than all of us combined.

Toward the end of the hike we came across two trees growing near each other, at the right of this picture.
I was obsessed with the shape and pairing of these trees, independently growing side by side in the middle of the field.
We came to another small view of fall, at which point I stopped and yelled "Hey, fall is happening over there!" and indicated this view. Isolated aspens dotted the hillsides with color like gold flakes in the bed of a stream.
This is what fall in Colorado looks like to me: hints of gold blazing among the pines, while a lake of golden grass laps at the toes of trees.
I failed entirely at my goal to stay fit and do a lot of hiking this summer, but I really hope that I can pick that goal up again soon. Our vet said that Kaylee (my puppy, remember?) should be able to start hiking at around 6 months, which leaves one month to go! I can't wait to take her on adventures with me.