The wait is over. Peak color is finally arriving to the high country of Colorado. Some of my favorite hikes are walking among golden aspen trees with snow capped peaks looming up above.
It just took a little longer than in past years.
Two weeks ago, I got a Facebook memory on my news feed. A glorious sea of yellow aspens. The date – September 12. But when I looked out my window, all I saw was green.
What’s different about this year?
Of course, there’s science that affects color change. On the positive side, we had lots of rainy and cooler weather in the beginning of summer. All that rain in May and June allowed our aspens of Colorado to get leafy and green.
But that was followed by hot and sunny weather that lasted into this week. Of course, in Colorado where you get an average of 300 sunny days per years, that’s not unusual.
But what was unusual was the hot weather lasted right into this past week. In addition to the sunny days, aspens need two things to trigger the blaze or gold and orange.
Shorter days with less sunlight means the production of chlorophyll slows down. But the other key ingredient is cold nights. Until the last week, that had been lacking.
In past Septembers, we had already seen snow fall. Our wood stove would have been warming our great room. But this year, temperatures were only cooling down into the 50s. It’s been so warm, we were still keeping our windows open at night.
All this hot weather really slowed down the march from green to gold where we are now two weeks later than normal.
And we’re not alone. The entire country had warmer than normal temperatures for most of the summer. So New England’s famous reds and oranges will also be held up.
As a Park Ranger working for national parks both in New England and Colorado, I often got asked by visitors, “When will the fall foliage reach peak colors?” Unfortunately, for people planning fall vacations, there is no sure-fire answer. This year just shows how weather can mess with Mother Nature.
For those of us who are local, it’s not a big deal. I’ll still enjoy driving the Peak to Peak Highway just as much this weekend.
But if you’re a tourist who planned part of your vacation around viewing the majesty of fall, you’ll probably be disappointed. It reminds me of that famous quote by Mark Twain:
“Climate’s what you expect, weather’s what you get.”