In the early 1980s I lived in Loveland, Colo. On weekends, I would drive up U.S. 34 along the Big Thompson River toward Estes Park, into the Arapaho & Roosevelt National Forest. I would typically stop well short of Estes, sometimes not even making it to the tiny crossroads of Drake. I’d find a roadside pullout, get out and start hiking: there didn’t need to be a trail, as long as the terrain was passible. It wouldn’t be long, scrambling up the steep canyon walls, before I’d start fantasizing that I might be the first person to have ever made it to the ridge above. Hey, I was in my 20s. What did I know?
For the first time in a while, there’s a chance of rain in the weekend forecast. But how much and where exactly is hard to tell — harder to tell than usual, because the source of the rain is a fickle hurricane. Or the remnants of a fickle hurricane.
Not only are we setting up for a colorful fall, we’re getting it early. After several years of mostly mediocre fall color, the stars — actually, the temperature and the sun — have aligned for what already looks like a great fall color show.
Good fall color depends on several factors, the key ones occurring in September and including:
This morning I went out for an early hike. The air was crisp and clear, not a cloud in the sky. The trees were just beginning to show color. And it was brisk: I could have used a long-sleeve shirt.
After a moment of blissful basking, I remembered a map I’d seen the day before showing the extent of the smoke from the western wildfires that so far have burned more than 3.7 million acres. The haze from the fires extended from coast-to-coast, blanketing most of the West and following the jet stream into the mid-Atlantic and Northeast. Much of the country is affected by these fires (there are 26 major wildfires burning in California alone). Fortunately, we are not.
Wednesday morning I was 10 minutes down the trail, passing through a clearing about to reenter the woods when I was struck by an odd mix of discovery and deja vu. The trail through this rolling hardwood forest and this clearing was both familiar and foreign. I’d hiked here before, plenty of times. At one point, I probably hiked here two or three times a month. And I had some vivid memories, including one visit in a light snow. But there was one thing I couldn’t remember.