Despite a summer of record-breaking heat and drought, plus smoke haze all summer long, the aspen changed colors right on schedule, the third week of September. I thought they might give up earlier, succumb to the lack of water and heat, but somehow they stuck in there, and made it through with flying colors. In this summer of abnormalities, it was good to see something go right.
It wasn’t just the heat and haze and no rain. In Rocky Mountain National park, a major road construction project has made it difficult to get to my favorite trails. Everything seemed off. I couldn’t even enjoy my favorite places. Last week, when I wanted to hike to Loch Vale, one of the most spectacular settings in the park, the ranger told me it would take several hours on the mandatory shuttle bus, because they were laying concrete on the road. And the road to Twin Owls, a beautiful hike through the aspens, was closed due to construction. It seemed that in every direction I turned this summer I was thwarted. Even when I made it Mills Lake or Isabelle Lake, the white skies from the smoke made the landscape unfamliar.
So it seemed an unexpected gift when the aspens switched off their chlorophyll and let the golden colors emerge. When I went for my walk around Meeker Park two weeks ago the aspen were all in their glory, suffusing the whole valley with light. On the valley bottoms, the willows were reddish brown and golden while some of the grasses edged from green to red.
Last week, the landscape was a bit more somber, as the wind chased the leaves from the trees, sent them flying, and the road was littered with small gold coins. Some of the groves of aspen were naked, while others were only dressed on the bottom half. Two weeks ago the grasses along the creek were upright and green, while one large green leaf was caught by the water. Then last week, the leaf was soggy and brown, crumpled, and the grasses were tawny blond.
And then it rained, and when the clouds parted, there were the high peaks smothered in a brand new blanket of snow. And so one season closes down and another season emerges.