Autumn in Colorado
We clutched onto each other frozen in fear and pulled the dogs close to us…
Outside of the van it sounded like something sinister was sweeping its way down the steep slopes of Mt Sneffels uprooting everything in its path. As the sounds of tall pine snapping and falling into each other approached I quickly did the math in my mind trying to determine if I had parked far enough away from the tree line. I had, and as the winds rocked the van I realized everything would be okay.
The next morning I awoke before sunrise to see what all the commotion had been about. The winds were still gusting strongly and would for our entire four day trip through the San Juan mountains of Colorado. As I walked around the high alpine meadow I could see the result of the terrifying sounds we had heard the night before. Trees were indeed snapped and toppled over like fallen dominoes. I recalled seeing the couple tent camping under the trees with their dog a short ways down the road and walking towards their site now saw that they had bailed and slept in their small car instead. I felt incredibly grateful at this moment for our camper van.
The fierce and unrelenting winds had nearly stripped the aspens of their vivid yellow leaves that we had travelled from Phoenix to photograph. The night before I had been able to make some nice images from a few different compositions near our camp site. Mt Sneffels was the centerpiece of these landscape photographs. The previous night’s sunset had been a nice one full of excellent light and beautiful warm tone shades of color painting the perfectly placed clouds.
After a short sunrise session photographing the mountain (Mt Sneffels photographs best at sunset in the Fall) Cassie and I had some coffee and breakfast and took the dogs for a walk along the old wooden range fence separating county road 7 from the wilderness. We packed up the van and bounced down the 8.5 miles back to highway 62. Turning right we headed towards Ridgway into territory neither of us had ever been before. After hitting a hump in the road that practically sent the van airborne we turned off onto highway 550 south towards Durango.
Highway 550 is also known as the ‘Million Dollar Highway’ and winds its way through the heart of the San Juan Mountains passing through quaint Colorado towns such as Ouray, Silverton, and Durango. The scenic byway was named several times as one of the most beautiful drives in the world and it lives up to this high praise. The region is a fantastic choice if you’re looking to shoot Colorado landscape photography. We stopped in Ouray for a short break from driving and to let the dogs stretch their legs in the park in the center of town. Ouray is perhaps the most gorgeous mountain town in the state and the landscape strongly reminded me of the Austrian Alps along the German border. Continuing on we headed south out of town and began a long slow elevation climb up to 11,000 feet passing through some of the most incredible displays of Fall color I’ve ever witnessed. The mountains are so impressively beautiful along this stretch of road that it demands a few stops to take in the surroundings and take some photos. As we drove on through flowing curves of road seemingly carved intentionally through brilliantly yellow aspen groves it began to sleet. At this point we were about at the halfway point between Ridgway and Durango at the highest elevation we would pass through on our trip. The Fall leaf tourist crowds had long since turned back towards Ouray and we had the road to ourselves. We made a stop in Silverton to grab some snacks and check out the old vintage train in the center of town before finishing the drive down to Durango.
It was our first time experiencing The Centennial State and definitely won’t be the last. Despite the winds we came away with a near complete new collection of Colorado landscape photography. Below are some of those images which you can also find prints of in our Explorizona store.