Saturday, October 1, 2011

Fall Colors along the San Juan Skyway

Yesterday was a great day.  No painting - instead, it was 13 hours of driving, exploring, photographing and just simply enjoying the amazing fall colors in our area along the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway loop drive.  There have been, of course, numerous photos posted here taken along the section of the Byway between Durango and Silverton, of fall colors, Engineer Mountain and such.

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!


  1. I came over to see the moose (I love the digests I get in my inbox via email)... but I love the new look of the bog! (& the moose - way cool too)

  2. Thanks, Morgen. Yeah, the moose was too cool, and I got a surprisingly decent # of photos that turned out pretty good, given the limitations I had (poor light, hand-held shots). They have such peculiar anatomy!

  3. Wonderful photos. It must have been exciting to see that moose. We saw one once on a camping trip in Yellowstone, browsing around a small pond about 15 years ago. It's odd, but we have several elk "farms" here in Indiana and if you know where to go you can see them. Not quite the same though.

  4. Thanks Ruth. I didn't mention this in my post, but we actually saw two others (a cow and bull) earlier that day along Dallas Creek - much further away. Seeing this one in particular was really exciting because he was closer and I got so many good photos. We have elk ranches out here as well...I agree that it's just not the same seeing them in those conditions.

    Thanks LeAnn :)


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...