That pop of yellow among the blue-green pines and firs. Frost on the windshield of the car. The sound of an elk bugling in the distance.
Signs of fall are all around. While some lament the passing of summer, I’m not among them. I’ve never been a fan of hot weather, but it’s the sights and sounds of autumn that excite me. I once told a co-worker that my optimal hiking day is during a crisp fall day in the Rockies. Give me a sunny, but cool day with that nip in that air — a high of around 50 and a low hovering right at the freezing mark. The cool weather invigorates me — I feel like I can hike forever. It feels good to put that extra jacket on, or perhaps even don a knit hat for the first time in months.
But it’s the colors that really get to me during autumn. As someone who lived in New England, I heard over and over again the best fall colors dot the hillsides of Vermont and New Hampshire. And yes, I’ll grant you the maples and oaks do produce a spectacular color display.
But there’s something about the backdrop of deep green pine, fir and spruce with brilliant yellows and oranges mixed in that makes me say, “Wow!” Add in a peak lightly dusted with snow, and to me you have the perfect calendar photo for September. Theses days, I can an eye on the calendar and make a special trip to Estes Park just to take in all that gold, orange and red.
For four summers, I worked seasonally as a Park Ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park. Living in Nederland, I drove almost 45 miles each way, totaling more than an hour of driving. Some days that drive seemed really long. But come September, I relished every curve, every mile of that road. Because every day brought a new vista of fall technicolor on full display. So many times I would find myself stopping by the side of the road, taking it all in. Photos didn’t do it justice.
Fall in the Rockies is magical. Whether it’s the color change or the antics of the elk rut, it leaves me spell bound. One day, a large bull elk bugled right outside the building I worked in. I walked outside, and not 20 feet away, he stood. Feeling as if I invaded his personal space, his rite of passage to speak to the cow elk, I stood quietly. It’s one of those moments you feel lucky to witness.
If you’re lucky enough to live here, or even just be visiting during this very special time of year, enjoy. Take some time to drive the Peak to Peak Highway, to hang out in a meadow and watch the elk, or to even go for a walk at Brainard Lake.
The grand finale to the greatest show is just about to begin…