Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Photo Tour of Colorado Aspens

Aspens (Populus tremuloides, the quaking aspen) were our favourite Colorado tree, and tied up with so many Colorado memories, a few of which I wanted to share. We'd love to have aspens in our garden, but they don't grow at elevations below 1500 feet. They have no chance in Melbourne! So our only way to enjoy them is from our photos.

Summer Aspens
Our Colorado summer involved lots of weekends in the mountains. As the Melbourne winter greys up, I keep thinking of what's happening up in the Rockies- are the snowbound trails thawing? Are the columbines blooming? Is Trail Ridge Road open?

Aspens are tall and thin, with white trunks, and brilliant green leaves. I could never get a photo that captured the feel of the leaves quivering (quaking, hence the name)- it's like a life force is in the leaves, beyond the normal vegetative state.

We visited the town of Aspen on the 4th of July- Independence Day- having driven over Independence Pass (and a couple of days earlier hiked the 4th of July trail), and- not ones to avoid significance- on the way in we stopped to admire the Aspen aspens.

In August we headed to Telluride, in the South West- I've mentioned it before in the context of columbines. On the way there we stopped at Elk Mountain Resort, which is a gorgeous place to stay, set in the midst of an aspen forest... but also (for us) a very bizarre place as we discovered it also houses the Valhalla Shooting Club, which runs tactical shooting courses like simulated terrorist situations. We just enjoyed the forest.
Telluride itself is just amazing in summer (I am holding myself back from just posting a zillion photos of it!)- one of my favourite Colorado destinations. It's a town in a mountain gorge, and on one side is an aspen forest.

Fall Aspens
Aspens come into their own in fall (yes, autumn!) when they turn a shade of yellow to red. Given that aspens are supposed to generally live in clonal (genetically identical) colonies propagated by root shoots I don't understand why red and yellow aspens can often be found close together- maybe a microenvironmental effect? While East Coast Americans scoff at the Colorado fall colours, we thought the aspens of Rocky Mountain National Park were worth the day trip!
This is Long's Peak (a notoriously difficult "16-er" mountain) framed by aspens in RMNP.

The first conference I went to was in Vail, and this was a view of one of the hills, showing the aspen forests which are overtaken by conifers at the more exposed points. The most memorable part of the conference (with apologies to the organisers) was that one evening there was a fire alarm during dinner, and who should be one of the responding fire fighters but thehusband of TV's original Bachelorette!Our final Colorado Fall experience was a hike near Steamboat Springs. We started in aspen forests...
...and ended up at this mountain lake, surrounded by snow by not yet frozen. It was completely magical. And a perfect fall finale.

Winter Aspens
Winter in Colorado was, for us, all about skiing. In our second winter we were good enough to tree ski. This is B amongst the aspens in Steamboat Springs.

And to finish up where I began:
Aspens in Aspen


Maxabella said...

You're right, aspens are lovely. I remember GM Hopkins poem that we studied in Year 12 "My Aspens, dear, whose airy cages quelled / quelled and quenched the leaping sun". Do you think I bothered to find out what an actual aspen looked like? I did not. Regrets.

_vTg_ said...

Thanks! I'll look it up.

allison tait said...

I love that you can document your entire trip via the trees. Beautiful. Have you read the book 'Meetings with Remarkable Trees'? I think you'd love it. I do.

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