Though my home state of Colorado offers scenic beauty at any time of year, autumn is by far my favorite season. The days are still mostly warm, and the evenings are cool and crisp. Last year, I visited in September, so I wrote about my love for this time of year in the Rocky Mountains then. This year, I got to fly back home to visit in early October... most of the leaves at higher elevations in the mountains have already hit their peak color (and some have fallen off the trees completely), but lower elevations are still covered with golden yellow aspens, and the trees in Denver are just starting to change colors. It's just a wonderful time of year, a few short weeks where the transition from summer to winter yields a comfortable climate with plenty of clear, blue-sky days, punctuated by the brilliant colors of the changing leaves.
It's been an enjoyable holiday... getting to visit with friends and family. My mother is recovering from major surgery now, so we've been trying to get her out and about a little more each day as she works towards her recovery. One day, we took her brother and his wife, who were visiting from Atlanta, into the foothills and along the Front Range, where I snapped many of these photos. In the afternoon, as we returned to Denver, we stopped by an open-space park in the foothills west of the city. The sun was low in the sky... that "magic hour" before sunset, so the quality of light was outstanding. The warmth of the setting sun, the long shadows and deep contrasts between shadow and light made for a very enjoyable hike along the creek. This stem of scrub oak leaves, a deep red color, was backlit by the sun and really caught my eye.
One thing about life in the mountains is that there's a real struggle for life above a certain altitude. Yet life always finds a foothold and manages to carry on. We went over Squaw Pass, just west of the city, which reaches an elevation of over 11,000 feet (3,350 meters), and trees have a hard time growing there. Yet they still find a way... here is what I thought was a nice shot of a young tree which was growing and thriving in the most inhospitable home... the side of a rocky cliff high in the mountains.
Down at lower elevations, life takes on a much more recognizable shape. Here, a mule deer buck pauses during his "fattening up" for the coming winter. People in Colorado are very accustomed to wildlife... seeing deer, elk, foxes... even in the suburbs of Denver, it's not unusual.
I'll add some more pictures and write more in a second entry later. I have a couple of full days left here in Colorado, so if the weather cooperates (there's snow in the forecast), we'll head back up into the mountains and I'll take some more pictures. This last photo was taken looking over a rocky outcrop towards a forest that, although already filled with plenty of barren trees, still shows bright yellow swaths of aspens amongst the evergreens. I'll always consider Colorado to be home... no matter how far I wander. :)