The state of Colorado has many colors and is often called “Colorful Colorado“. The very name (taken from the river that springs up in the western part of the state) is Spanish for the color red or reddish, which is the color of the water in the Colorado river, coming from particles of the red sandstone that is part of the state’s geological heritage.
But more than anything else, Colorado is known for gold. The gold dug out of the mountains that brought Caucasians and their culture first to Colorado and that kick-started its economy, yes. But the gold that Colorado is famed for now is the gold of autumn in the high country, the gold of the turning leaves of aspen, their final glory each year before the leaves fall and winter sets in.
On Saturday, I took a drive/hike/walk in Rocky Mountain National Park to see the color (that’s what we call it around here, “going to see the color”). And with just a few comments, I’ll mostly let these photos speak for themselves.
My special mountain, Long’s Peak, but look at the patches of gold on its lower flanks. Those are aspen. Aspen have some unusual, even fascinating facts, information to share. For one thing, a grove of aspen does not consist of separate trees, but of one organism connected via a root system and appearing to be individual trees. Aspen are a member of the birch family of trees, with paperwhite bark and heart-shaped leaves. These leaves are attached to the twig in such a way that each individual leaf quivers in the slightest breeze — so much so that the tree is often called a “quivering aspen”. Aspen are first growth trees. In areas of land with very poor soil or little topsoil, or land that has been burnt over or clear cut, the first trees that will grow on such land are the aspen. They will seed themselves after scrub oak and other lower, ground-covering bushes and plants, and will help to prepare the soil over time for the more needy pines that, in our part of the world, are considered the “mature” forest.
So, in a sense, aspen are placeholders, but such beautiful placeholders. Mostly, during fall weather, when temperatures get low enough, the aspen turn gold, with some trees for reasons that are unclear, at least to me, turning orange, rusts or even nearly red.