ASPENS are as beautiful as everyone told me that they would be. And what greater place to see them in their classic loveliness than in Aspen, Colorado? Magnificent swaths of ‘Colorado Gold’ spill into every valley offset by dark spruce and snow. The most wind sensitive broadleaf in the plant kingdom, they whisper, rustle and quake just as legend has it. The leaves begin to turn from green to shades of amber in September. By October, they are drifting through the air and piling on the ground like sparkling coins. The massive clonal colonies get their starts from single seedlings. The trees above the ground live 40-50 years, but the roots below live for thousands. Each tree is a clone of the rootstock below. For this reason, it's rare to see pink or orange Aspens in the natural world. In Utah, the Pando (‘Trembling Giant‘) Colony is believed to be 80,000 years old, the oldest known living organism on earth. Aspens are indicators of ancient woodlands; they are also climax trees. In forestry, this means the trees that naturally dominate after other trees have died off. Where avalanches plow down mammoth stands of spruce aspens take over. I almost climaxed myself seeing wave after wave of the divine trees. If I had gasped “WOW!” one more time, my jaw might have dislocated.
This is the best part of the road on Hagerman Pass which runs between Leadville and Basalt. It quickly turned to serious off-road ruts and dips. Thank God for the rental Jeep!
Every bend in the road where there was a creek revealed beaver activity. I've never seen so much beaver action in my life! They love the soft wood of the Aspens.
A Cedar Waxwing in a field of gold