Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall Colors on Guanella Pass

Today I rode Brigitta, my '87 R80 Beemer, up on US285 and to the summit of Guanella Pass. The objective was to try and capture the changing of the aspen trees colors with the advent of Fall.

I rode out of the Denver Metro area using US285 and was in the vicinity of Grant, CO by around 10:00AM. Temperatures were in the high 50s to low 60s so not bad at all and it was quite sunny as well.

As I started riding the Guanella Pass Road, I passed several aspen trees which were looking a "might peaked" already. I was starting to worry that I'd missed that short window when the colors are just right and before the leaves fall off the trees!  Note, the first couple to three miles of the road are washboarded dirt surface, not really bad, but I was not going much faster than 15 mph.

As I gained altitude though, the trees started to look a bit healthier and I found that finding good spots with the trees illuminated by the sun were plentiful. The trick you see, is to have the sun behind the turning leaves, not in front of the leaves.

Near Grant, CO after two-three dirt miles

I made it to the summit of Guanella Pass near 11:00 AM and there were many cars parked along the side of the road as the main parking lot at the summit was blocked off by construction vehicles.  The light was all wrong in terms of the nearby mountains that I like to photograph, so I kept going towards Georgetown.

The road is closed near the Clear Lake Campground but its a nicely paved, though unmarked, two lane road with many enjoyable twists and turns.  The mountainsides seemed aflame at times with the bright yellow aspen leaves being brilliantly lit by the overhead sun.

The mountainsides with their aspen in full color change, quite dramatic don't  you think?

It was black asphalt, bright yellow and deep greens all the way down to the Clear Lake Camping Ground  By the way, the camping grounds are already closed for the season.  The snow is coming......

 Near the Clear Lake Camping Grounds

At the entrance to the Clear Lake Camping Sites.

As the road is blocked to Georgetown, I turned Brigitta around and slowly made my way back up to the summit of Guanella Pass.  Twisting and turning on the nearly empty road, enjoying the sunshine which had warmed things up nicely by now.  I stopped at the apex of the hairpin turn just before the summit for a quick snack and to wait for the light to be right:

As I sat there for about half an hour or so, I enjoyed the utter quiet and tranquility of the spot I parked at.  The only sounds were the occasional breeze and the infrequent passing car heading down towards Clear Lake.  I shed my jacket liner, sat on the guard rail and soaked in the sun.

Soon enough though, it was time to get moving.  I geared up and rode up to the next hair pin turn just before the summit and got this shot of the eye-catching mountains nearby:

The summit area remained full of vehicles and I carefully made my way past the mob and to the Guanella Pass sign for the requisite pass picture of one's motorcycle.

Yep, Brigitta's out of focus, was concentrating on the mountains in the background
and forgot to adjust the focal length accordingly.

I cruised on back down towards Grant and stopped just once more time to take a picture of another hillside seemingly on fire with the colorful yellows of the turning aspen leaves:

The rest of the ride down to Grant was uneventful, with just a bit of a traffic jam near the end of the road as fellow motorcycle riders gathered at the bar in Grant.  Lots of car drivers out today as well but they remained well spread out on the Guanella Pass Road, I am happy to report.

I cruised on back to the Denver Metro area on US285 to E470 to the I-25 Northbound Slab.  I was home by 2:30 PM, after roughly 200 miles of riding.  I hope you like the fall colors I saw today, they're not going to be around much longer I'm afraid.


SonjaM said...

What a lovely contrast. Thanks for taking me on this ride. It reminds me very much of the Kananaskis Country in Alberta.

motoroz said...

I love the changing of the colors of the Aspens, especially in the Rocky Mountains.

Brady said...

I was going to say pretty much the same thing as Sonja, sometimes it's hard to catch those contrasts without them looking too busy. This is nice, what stark, vivid changes in color.

Charlie6 said...

SonjaM, thanks for the visit, sorry for the late's Nella's repair coming along?

Motoroz, yeah, there's few other places I'd rather live near...

Brady, thanks for commenting and your kind words.