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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Aspens Turn

October 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

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Between an appointment near the start of my day and one at the end I had five hours to kill. But instead of killing time, I lived it.

Instead of spending those precious hours mindlessly, I invested them back in nature. I hiked Caribou Ranch Open Space, 32 miles west of my home in Boulder, Colorado. The 4.5 mile lollipop loop trail climbs gently from the trailhead at 8,300 feet to the abandoned Blue Bird Mine at 8,800 feet.

Totally blue skies today defied the “partly cloudy” weather prediction in this morning’s local newspaper. Overnight a cold front had arrived, bringing the season’s first taste of winter. I knew that I had the perfect opportunity to get back to the mountains before all the aspen leaves had turned and fallen.

Snow and hard winds in the high country above 10,000 feet have already stripped the aspens there, according to reports from friends. But the aspens were peaking at Caribou Ranch today. Here in the Rocky Mountains during September and October the leaves turn from green to yellow to gold beginning at tree line and descending to the plains.

The aspen tree is the most widely distributed tree species in North America. But Colorado and Utah are home to the most natural acreage of aspens in the world. The turning of the leaves is the quintessential mark of the turning of the seasons here.

About half of the Caribou Ranch trail is a track, like this:

A Country Road Through Caribou Ranch

A Country Road Through Caribou Ranch

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Here is where the DeLonde family homesteaded the ranch in the 1870s.

The DeLonde Homestead

The DeLonde Homestead

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Two miles from the DeLonde Homestead the trail reaches the Blue Bird Mine Complex, where from the 1870s to the 1960s miners sought silver ore.

The Blue Bird Mine Bunkhouse Dates from About 1877

The Blue Bird Mine Bunkhouse Dates from About 1877

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While I had hiked Caribou Ranch have a dozen times before today, I hadn’t previously hiked beyond the bunkhouse. Today I took the short spur trail to North Boulder Creek, where I saw this aspen in full fall color.

Aspen and Sky in Full Color

Aspen and Sky in Full Color

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Water and Aspen Leaves in North Boulder Creek

Water and Aspen Leaves in North Boulder Creek

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Not until I left Caribou Ranch today did I see any birdlife. Then, I found a tribe of Black-Billed Magpies feeding.

A Black-billed Magpie Flies

A Black-billed Magpie Flies

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We have lots of magpies here. But no caribou.

The name locally comes from the nearby Caribou silver mine. Near the mine is the ghost town of Caribou, where 3,000 people lived in 1875. Just a few miles down the road from the mine and ghost town was the Caribou Ranch recording studio from 1872 to 1985. Elton John, Rod Stewart, and the group Chicago all made albums here.

Beautiful music indeed. But I prefer the sounds I heard today, the wind in the trees and the water in the creek.

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Posted in: Photography

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Marilyn // Nov 2, 2011 at 8:59 am

    Awesome pictures and love following you through your hikes. Thanks for sharing.

  • 2 Phyllis // Nov 2, 2011 at 2:17 pm

    Oh, what wonderful pictures of a beautiful place. Thank you.

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