A year ago this week I was returning from an amazing trip to Colorado, where I photographed the aspens in all their golden glory as they turned their autumn colors. I was joined by Kristen Wilkinson as we explored western Colorado, capturing peak color in places like Aspen, Ouray, Telluride, and Silverton. We drove across country with stops in Ohio and Kansas City, but the highlight was definitely the week in Colorado.
Our first stop in Colorado was Colorado Springs, before we made the big trip to Carbondale for a two day stay there. This stop was important to me, as I had wanted to photograph Maroon Bells for some time. We made our reservation for the bus to Maroon Bells and arrived bright and early for the ride in. While most people stop at Maroon Lake, just a short walk away from the bus stop, Kristen and I had decided to hike up to Crater Lake, about two miles above Maroon Lake. For someone who's lived at sea level all his life, it was quite the endeavor to hike the four mile round trip at nearly 11,000 feet! My favorite image from this hike is Maroon Bells II, below.
Another highlight was photographing Crystal Mill, near the ghost town of Crystal City, outside Marble, CO. The mill was once a powerhouse, supplying power to miners nearby. Today it is in process of being restored. The mill was resplendent draped in golden aspens on this autumn day. Getting there was no small feat. The "road" to the mill is barely that, and requires a vehicle with off-roading capability. Kristen and I rented a UTV to make the trek down. There were a few white-knuckle moments with a thousand foot drop from the edge of the road at times!
Once we left Carbondale, we headed south toward Crested Butte and ultimately, Ouray. Kebler Pass was our chosen route, and to say it was stunning would be a major understatement. We really got lucky and hit peak color as we drove over the pass. All around were golden leaves, glowing in the sunlight. The image below was one of my favorites, showing backlit aspens at the side of Kebler Pass.
What's really amazing about aspen trees is that one grove is actually a single living organism. So amazing that one of these groves, such as this one, is actually just one tree!
We arrived in Ouray and made that our base for three days, exploring Last Dollar Road between Ridgway and Telluride, the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, and then heading to Ophir in search of a particular grove of aspens. It was very much like searching for a specific needle in a pile of needles! But find them we did.
These aspens had been bent by heavy snows as saplings, and as they grew, their trunks remained curved, giving the appearance they are dancing. Kristen and I spent over an hour wandering the woods, looking for these particular trees we'd heard of. After a local came to our aid, we finally found them. The timing was perfect as the sun was in the perfect position to light the leaves and come through the trees!
After leaving Ophir, we began the long trek back east, stopping for two days in Alamosa to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park. Such an amazing sight to see, these huge sand dunes piled at the base of Sangre De Christo Mountains. Given that this was at the end of our trip, Kristen and I were both exhausted. These trips typically entail a lot of 16 hour days, scouting locations, photographing, and editing. We were wiped out, so we opted not to climb the dunes and photograph from several overlooks.
It was an amazing trip that has me wanting to go back. A week in Colorado isn't nearly enough.