Autumn; the nights get cooler, the days get shorter, and above all, our trees get more colorful. Every year I do my best to predict when peak “leaf peeping” season is going to occur in order to ensure that I will be able to make it to the mountains to photograph the aspens in their grand finale of the year. This year was no different.
I have had my eye on the iconic shot of the Maroon Bells in Aspen, CO for quite some time now, and suggested to Ryan that we finally make the trip down there this fall. Last weekend when we hiked Mt. Elbert and I noticed that many of the aspens had already begun to change colors, so I thought that this weekend would be perfect timing for the “leaf peeping” road trip.
He eagerly agreed and after some planning, we decided that we would drive down to Aspen on Friday after work and sleep in his Subaru Outback at the trailhead in order to make the morning much easier for me to get out to the lake before dawn to take some pictures, then return home via Independence Pass and Kenosha Pass.
The drive went smoothly and we slept mostly undisturbed (with the exception of a few cars driving past, resulting in their headlights shining right onto your sleeping faces..), but when my alarm went off at 5am the next morning, I had no problem getting out of my sleeping bag and preparing my camera gear in the warmth of the car. We sat around, ate some breakfast that we had cooked the day before, and headed out to the lake… just in time!
We stayed until the sun had fully risen, and then we succumbed to the early morning cold and returned to the car. I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to photograph the Maroon Bells (and their reflection in Maroon Lake), and as we cranked up the heater in the car, we made our way back down to the town of Aspen for some coffee.
It was a beautiful morning! Not a cloud in the sky, and the temperatures were rising quickly. We enjoyed some coffee (although mine was a delicious, foo-foo pumpkin chai type late and barely counts as a coffee…) at Peach’s Corner Cafe before cruising around their farmers market. I could have spent the entire day in that beautiful place but alas home was calling, and so we hopped in the car and headed back over Independence Pass.
We took a short break at the top of the pass (which is along the Continental Divide) to take in the sights, have a quick snack, and stretch our legs before we continued onward down towards Twin Lakes.
The colors were proving to be spectacular, so we decided to take the scenic route home through Buena Vista and over Kenosha Pass to “leaf peep” a bit longer. We have yet to see any clouds in the sky, and with the temperatures approaching the 80’s, this was an easy decision to make for us.
While Kenosha Pass proved to be absolutely beautiful in its display of fall colors (as it is notoriously known for every year), the amount of parked cars in the trailheads, pullouts, and alongside the road were a bit overwhelming for Ryan and I so we decided to keep driving without taking any additional stops.
There was a lot of driving this weekend, and quick frankly, Ryan and I were exhausted from it. However, I believe that it was well worth it. Here in Colorado our fall is a spectacular sight, and you only have a narrow window of time to be able to experience it. We think that there will be one more weekend full of the yellows, oranges, and reds before the leaves fall from the trees and the cold arrives.
“Autumn carries more gold in its pocket than all the other seasons”