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Yearning for Yellow

Held in a late season

At a shifting of worlds,

In the golden balance of autumn,

Out of love and reason

We made our peace.

- Richard O. Moore, “A Reminiscence”

In another state, this could have bored us mightily. Each 'travel day', moving between parks, would entail four hours or more of driving. But this was Colorado, with majestic mountains surrounding you to provide visual distractions.

Now factor in October, with the higher elevations in the grip of a blue-ribbon -- no, make that yellow-ribbon -- display of fall foliage. For four days, until we passed out of the glory of high mountain passes, those drives featured intermittent bursts of gleaming gold, with other colors playing a supporting role.

The amplified scenery could hold its own against most landscapes you could see in national parks.

With the exception of one short waterfall hike, there were no adventures per se. Regardless, the photos deserve this soapbox, so I'll show you how fall in the high country can impress.

Wednesday, 4 October 2023, Trail Ridge (Rocky Mtn NP) -> Grand Lake

The colors on the east side of mountains had not yet developed fully. However, once we made our lucky passage over Trail Ridge, the colors began giving us a preview of what was in store for us. From snow-frosted mountains above 12,000',

to the quaking aspens that accentuate the scenes,

to the pockets of yellow mixed with the evergreens,

our eyes drank it in. Even had a dash of orange!

That evening we dined with Uncle Steve in downtown Grand Lake - so nice to socialize and catch up on family news! We got back to his cabin barely in time to see a bit of sunset colors.

Thursday, 5 October 2023, Grand Lake -> Hotchkiss CO over McClure Pass

Leaving RMNP after hiking the burn area, we saw color on the way down to Grand Lake - but Uncle Steve told us that last weekend, gusty winds had knocked many of the leaves off. We drove through a region with few chances for good displays

en route to the I-70 corridor. Once we left the interstate and headed over McClure Pass, the colors improved somewhat,

hitting peak a short time before we reached Hotchkiss CO.

Saturday, 7 October 2023, Hotchkiss -> Mesa Verde over Dallas Divide and Lizard Head Pass

Two wonderful nights of hospitality and conversation with my former co-worker Scott L. and his wife, staying in the 'barndominium' on his spread in Hotchkiss CO. They took us to the Thai restaurant in town, where I experienced something new. I admit, I've been an afficionado of Thai food for four decades, and have probably eaten at over a hundred different restaurants. My go-to drink is Thai iced tea. When I ordered it, the waitress asked, "Regular or green tea?" The green tea version is just as delicious - how come I've never heard of it before? (Even more surprising - six days later, I discovered another Thai cafe offering it!)

After surviving Black Canyon, the road called again. The first half of the ride held no interest, through the sprawl of Delta CO and its heavy traffic. Once we passed Ridgway and ascended Dallas Divide,

the views improved.

My breath was taken so often by the scenery, I suffered from oxygen deprivation. Once the colors abated on the downside of Lizard Head, that deprivation made it difficult for me to keep my eyes open until we stopped for lunch...

Monday, 9 October 2923, Mesa Verde -> Great Sand Dunes over Wolf Creek Pass

The southern rim of Colorado suffers from a drier climate, with fewer of the aspens that provide such incredible color. The colors through Durango didn't pop like the last few days. Just before the climb to Wolf Creek Pass (famous for the prolific snowstorms that regularly hammer it every winter),

we pulled into the trailhead for a short hike to a waterfall.

The rest of the passage over Wolf Creek also kept my camera busy.

I can't imagine having chosen a better week to see these parks!

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