I hate to be picky, but I’ll only see Colorado when the time is right
My friend Elke keeps asking me to head over Hoosier Pass and ride the Sheep Creek Trail a few miles west of Fairplay. And I keep saying no.
I just know that, in a week or so, Sheep Creek will finally be at its full aspen peak; the trail will be a blur of yellow and orange.
Picky me won’t go there right now because I know that, soon, it will be at its finest. I’m turning into what I find frustrating with older people – being stubborn and set in my ways. I guess I’d rather be anal about when to ride a particular trail, than like my grandfather, who I remember sulking around the house if someone was sitting in his armchair.
I’m so picky, though. I have each month tabbed in the High Country – sometimes down to the week – as to where the most beautiful place is for recreating. Wildflowers are all I can think about for most of the summer. I have calls out to friends across our county, asking for flower reports in their surrounding forest.
But it’s the 20 years of wandering which has really taught me where and when certain wildflowers peak, along with this obsession I have with taking notes. I’m always writing down how to do it better next summer, noting things like “Save Monte Cristo Gulch for August,” and “Bike the Ptarmigan trail next year for the mid-June wildflowers in the sage …”
The last few weeks of August are my blah time. Flowers are generally done blooming and fall colors aren’t here yet. Contrary to what one might assume, mushrooms haven’t yet grabbed my interest – they just are a little too slimy for me.
September is a re-birth. Finally it’s cold again. I know many of you don’t like the chill. You loose motivation and wish summer was longer. Sometimes I have to give myself a pep talk to get outside – especially if it is snowing or raining – but it’s those stormy days when the rich colors of September are much more vibrant.
You’ll find September to be one of the most beautiful months of the year here. The ground cover, the willows, the dying flowers, the aspens – the gorgeous shades of autumn are everywhere you look. Ironically, this “dying” season is one of the most beautiful, and I like to think it is nature telling us that dying is OK.
Keep an eye on the tundra over the high peaks. If the alpine grasses are still rusty reds by the time this is printed, head high. After that first snow storm, I went to Montezuma and biked up Saints John to the 12,000 foot Glacier Ridge Road. (You could hike or jeep this as well.) I was surrounded by burgundy tundra and incredible views of our familiar mountains, all in hues of reds, limes and orange, and that dusting of white.
The next few weeks of aspen-changing colors is when my pickiness reaches critical proportions. Summit County and Park County seem to peak before the rest of the state, around Sept. 22 or so.
If you want to extend fall to its fullest, go to the Wasatch mountains of Utah and finish south in Brian Head or Flaming Gorge but no later than Oct. 7.
After all the fall color vacations I’ve had, Park County is still my favorite, not just for the trails, but there are so many great car camping spots nestled in the aspens.
Stop at the Fairplay forest office and ask for their free mountain bike guidebook for this region. If they are sold out, get the Trails Illustrated map that shows the following: Sheep Creek Trail, Tumble Creek Trail and the Salt Creek trail.
All of these smooth, gentle trails can be ridden or hiked in both directions. All start from major forest service roads where there is plenty of camping. And if you happen to be on the Sheep Creek Trail on Sept. 24 at 10 a.m. sharp, you’ll probably run into Elke and me, unless I notice that the leaves are more yellow on Tumble Creek.
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