Gone two weeks from the cabin and autumn has started to slip into winter. A light dusting of snow on the mountains and pines, while a few aspens are still leafed out—shiny gold coins among the white and green.
At the cabin, I’m still surrounded by the golden light, the leaves hanging on while the snow line creeps down the mountain. For reasons I don’t understsand “my” trees leaf out later in the year and stay dressed while the rest of the valley strips down, prepares for winter. I’m grateful for that lingering brightness as the days get shorter.
On the pond, ice is forming on the side that’s in the shade, trapping aspen leaves in the ice. On the other end, leaves blown into the pond are pulled slowly and inexorably, like fate, across the pond, slipping quickly and quietly through the small outlet (left) and into the stream that will eventually join the St. Vrain rivers—canyons still closed off from the flooding.
But more roads are being repaired. Boulder Canyon is now open, and in Meeker Park, a new culvert allows those who live on Coyote Hill Road to cross the creek without having to ford it, although the rock delta created by the flooding will remind us for a long time of what happened.
And Rocky Mountain National Park is open again, after being closed for weeks due first to the flooding and then to the government shutdown. In the intervening time, the animals have had the park all to themselves: elk bugling without anyone to hear or watch them fight off other males; gray squirrels able to run across the road with no threat from cars; the Stellar’s and gray jays missing their free lunches from tourists.
In Halowell Park, all the aspens were bare along the creek, and winter had descended in the form of a bracelet of icy ringlets above the creek (below). On one boulder, the water had created an ice sculpture: aspen leaves trapped under bubbles of ice (above).
Later, I searched for elk in the park, so I could hear the bugling, one of my favorite fall rituals. But while the park was closed, most of the elk had finished their business, wandered off into the woods. I found only one elk, a male sitting on the ground, its head down, as if it had lost a battle and had been banished from the herd.
Later, outside the park, near St. Mary’s Lake Lodge and in someone's front yard, I saw a huge herd, maybe 30, with several bulls chasing each other. While I watched them, I finally saw one large male raise its head and trumpet its challenge. Like the single elk in the park, I can rest now for winter.