Grouse Lake Trail

Aspen Leaves in Snow

Aspen Leaves in Snow

Autumn’s colors came late to Eagle County this year and the early snow has created an incredible contrast with the oranges and yellows of this season’s palette.

Falling Leaves - Colorado

Falling Leaves – Colorado

I found forest refuge this week along the Grouse Lake Trail in Colorado’s White River National Forest. The first couple miles I ascended the trail through forests of mixed conifers and aspen. Autumn winds sent the leaves of the quaking aspens tumbling down to the forest floor to mix with snow and the evergreens.

Spruce, Aspen and Snow - White River National Forest

Spruce, Aspen and Snow – White River National Forest

I continued following the course of the creek until the forest was entirely made up of spruce, fir and lodgepole pine. Once I crossed the creek a third time the rest of my ascent was in 2 – 4 inches of new snow.  My footfalls were deadened by the snow, allowing me to sneak up on about half a dozen mule deer getting a drink from the nearly frozen creek. They caught wind of me as I went for my Nikon and took off up the slopes. One of the juveniles in the group curious about my presence stopped to have a look back. We stared at each other through the lodgepoles our frozen breath back-lit by afternoon sun before he went deeper into the trees.

Carpet of Leaves - Colorado

Carpet of Leaves – Colorado

As is always the case when I’m submerged in wilderness, my thoughts turned to John Muir. “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in” – John Muir – John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, (1938), edited by Linnie Marsh Wolfe, (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1938, republished 1979, page 439.