Fall leaf season in the San Juans is short and fleeting, and amongst photographers, artists, locals and tourists, there exists a sense of urgency to try and experience as much as one can before the aspen, oak and cottonwood give up their colorful photosynthesizing units to the earth and we settle for several months of the spruce and pine forests to tide us over until the greens of spring return.
We opted to do the drive counter-clockwise, heading up Hwy 550 towards Silverton and returning through Dolores and Mancos, and thanks to some tips from fellow Durango Photography Club member Kathy, we now had some new places to check out along the Dallas Divide-Mt Sneffels area.
Hopefully, no one is tiring of the fall color theme here on the blog...because I'll probably run with it until the season is spent.
Here is a selection of photos from the trip yesterday, including some non-fall color surprises:
Morning sun lights up the beautiful stands of aspen in full color along the southern slope of the mountains near Red Mountain Pass, approaching Ironton Park
Two horses graze in a meadow against the backlit foliage of large narrowleaf cottonwoods along East Dallas Road. This FS road, which passes by (or through) Ralph Lauren's huge ranch property, leads to the Uncompahgre National Forest and the base of the Sneffels Wilderness Area.
Towering aspen along the road are backlit by the mid-morning sun
A hillside wedge of bright yellow aspen surrounded by the patchwork of scrub oak in a variety of fall colors
A view of the Sneffels range from the NFS land, and one of the countless split rail style fences found throughout. Note the clouds in this photo...
A view from a pullout near the Dallas Divide showing the Sneffels range and patches of color
Note the rapid cloud build-up from the previous photo
A view of the amazing Last Dollar Ranch from Last Dollar road
This property has been featured in ads for Budweiser and Marlboro [ugh], and with its stunning views, it's easy to see why. Unfortunately, shooting into the sun, it was impossible to avoid some lens flare, even with the lens hood
Split-rail fence bordering the Last Dollar property
Despite the fact that this road leads to the Telluride Airport, it was unclear from our map whether the road remained passenger car friendly, so we opted to turn around a few miles up the road
Entering Telluride, with the famous ski area colored by aspen
Clouds covered the sky by the time we got to town, just showing how rapidly the weather can change in the high country
One of the Wilsons (Peak or Mountain...I can never tell which is which) of the San Miguel range south of Telluride. Yes, it is receiving a dusting of snow at over 14,000'
Meanwhile, about 60 miles south and an hour and a half later...beautiful backlit aspen along Hillside Road, another FS road that is east of Dolores
Late afternoon aspen and shadows across Hillside Road
Beautiful old aspen trunks and shadows
Wow - what an unexpected surprise!
While driving towards Dolores, we spotted this youngish bull moose out in a meadow not far off the road. Moose aren't common in Colorado, and the only other time I've seen one was about 34 years ago in the Tetons
Another photo, because he's just so cool. I quickly popped on my telephoto lens and followed him along the roadside fence as he trotted back and forth through the meadow. How exciting that moose have been introduced this far south into CO and what a treat to see and photograph him!
This most amazing cumulonimbus cloud over Mesa Verde on the way to Mancos
We stopped so I could take photos, but this one shot out of the window of the car as we drove along turned out better
The same cloud, about 16 minutes later, as seen from Mancos
The cliffs of Mesa Verde are seen to the left
A great way to spend a fall day in southern CO, I must say!