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Fall Colors in the Elk Mountains

Fall Colors 2012
Friday – Sunday, September 21-23, 2012

Fall Adventr by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

This weekend I spent my time photographing more fall colors in the Elk Mountains near Crested Butte. I left work early on Friday and made my way to Kebler Pass where I quickly setup camp. I spent the rest of the evening taking photos of the amazing fall colors before the daylight finally faded.

As I was exploring the area, I spotted this back-lit aspen tree that stood out nicely from the shaded pine trees behind it.

Lit Up by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I eventually made my way over to Horse Ranch Park and took a few photos of the multi-colored trees below the rock ridge known as The Dyke. There was a patch of some nice red trees here. Follow this link if you are interested in seeing a panoramic image of The Dyke with a lot of color.

Colors by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Ruby Peak stands tall above a large grove of golden aspen with some green still lingering.

Ruby Peak by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

The Dyke bathed in the day’s last rays of the sun. I sure wish there had been a few clouds this evening.

The Dyke by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Once the sun was down, I turned my attention to a a few nearby aspen trees in the low light. I just loved the yellow and green colors in the background and wanted to show them off in this more abstract photo.

Blur by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When it finally got dark out, I drove back to camp and got right to bed. I needed to get some sleep so I could get up and catch sunrise the next morning. Unfortunately, there was just too much smoke in the air during the following morning’s sunrise, so none of my photos turned out very well. I still tried to make the best of the morning by exploring a few of the large groves of aspen trees that Kebler Pass is known for.

Here’s a little twist on the typical ‘looking up through the tall aspen trees’ photo that everybody takes.

Standing Tall by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

It’s a good thing I washed my Jeep semi-recently, or I never would have seen the reflection on the hood.

Jeep Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Since I love sunbursts, I had to get one of those through the aspens, too.

Sunburst & Aspen by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When I was finally done playing in the trees I drove back over Kebler Pass and into Crested Butte to grab a late breakfast. Then I continued my drive up Gothic Road and into Rustler Gulch. Near the top of Rustler Gulch, I parked near The 401 trail, which is popular with mountain bikers, and did a little hiking. I’ve wanted to ride The 401 for a while, and after hiking part of it, I think I might make that one of my goals for next year!

While hiking The 401 trail, I took this photo looking back towards Crested Butte to show how much smoke was in the valley.

Smoke by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I was passed by a few mountain bikers as I hiked.

The 401 by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

After my hike on part of The 401 I drove back towards Crested Butte. I stopped along the road for this photo of Gothic Mountain above.

Gothic Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Another of the nice views from the Gothic Road.

Gothic Road View by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I passed back through Crested Butte again and got back on the Kebler Pass Road. I was planning to visit the Crystal Mill for sunset and decided to take the long way around so I could check out McClure Pass on the way.

As I turned a corner on the Kebler Pass Road the wind picked up and started blowing leaves from the trees. I grabbed my camera and took a quick photo of the leaves falling.

Falling by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When I drove past the Paonia Reservoir I had to stop for a photo since I have never seen it completely empty before…

Empty Paonia Reservoir by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

As I drove over McClure Pass I was disappointed to find a lot of green and very little color. I thought the conditions here might be good, but I guess I was wrong. I reached the turnoff for Marble and then started the bumpy drive to the Crystal Mill. I really didn’t think I would run into too many people here since I thought the rough road would keep most away. I was wrong about that, too. I passed quite a few vehicles coming from the opposite direction on this very narrow and rough road. I even met up with a neighbor who was coming back from the mill. He warned me that there were a lot of people there, and a few fishermen in the water below that would not move. I braced myself and was expecting the worst. When I finally arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to find that only a few people were left at the mill and the fishermen had packed up an left. The light was also amazing! It seems that not many people stuck around for the better light of the day.

I climbed down to the creek and took this photo from near the water level. I was wearing my not-so-waterproof boots and got my feet a little wet…but it was worth it!

Crystal Mill by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Here’s another image from higher ground that I really like, too. I even managed to catch the moon above the mountains in the background.

Iconic by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I was originally planning on returning back to camp the way I had come since I didn’t want to drive over Schofield Pass in the dark. However, since I got the photos I was looking for with plenty of daylight left, I decided to take the much shorter and quicker route over Scofield Pass. It had been a few years since I drove this narrow and rough road, and the first time in my Wrangler. I wasn’t too concerned about the trail itself, but I was worried about meeting a vehicle coming from the other direction, since there are quite a few narrow sections where passing could be tough. I was lucky again and never saw another vehicle the whole time I was on the trail…I had the canyon to myself.

Driving through another grove of aspen trees on my way to Schofield Pass.

Fall Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

My Jeep on a section of shelf road in Crystal Canyon.

Crystal Canyon by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Since I had the place to myself, I stopped and took some photos of the waterfalls at the Devil’s Punchbowl.

Devil’s Punchbowl Falls by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

A view of the upper and lower falls. The Devil’s Punchbowl is in between the two falls, but not really visible from this angle.

The Devil’s Punchbowl by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I made it!

Narrow Steep Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When I reached Schofield Pass, I realized I might have just enough time to get up to the Paradise Divide before sunset, so I floored it to see how quickly I could get up there.

Even though I was in a hurry, I stopped for a photo of my Jeep with Mount Baldy lit up in the background.

Towards Paradise by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I made it just in time for a couple quick photos. I stopped the Jeep, grabbed my camera and tripod, and fired off a couple quick shots before the light was gone. The little lake was nice and calm, so I was able to get a good reflection. For more photos from the Paradise Divide, make sure to check out my trip report from July when Amanda and I spent a weekend there.

Paradise Sunset by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the sun was down I started the drive back to my campsite through Crested Butte again. After leaving Crested Butte the ‘low tire’warning came on in my Jeep. I found a place to stop and figured out that my passenger side front tire was a little low. I checked for anything stuck in the tire and found nothing. My biggest concern was waking up to photograph the sunrise the next morning and finding a flat tire. I got out my compressor and filled the tire back up again, hoping for the best. I finished the drive back to camp and got to bed. I slept very well that night.

The following morning I was up bright and early again and found that my tire was not flat, so I made my drive over Ohio Pass to watch the sun rise on The Castles.

Just before the sun came up, the light reflected off a few clouds in the sky which made everything glow. You can see The Castles in the distance over the sea of golden aspen trees.

The Castles at Dawn by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Looking back up Ohio Pass Road.

Ohio Pass Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When the sun was up and I had a few nice photos, I realized I could probably make it back to East Beckwith Mountain to try and get a few better shots that the smoke had prevented the previous morning, so I hopped in my Jeep and drove.

The peak of East Beckwith Mountain is reflected in a beaver pond below.

East Beckwith Reflection by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Kebler Pass Road and East beckwith Mountain.

Kebler Pass Road by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When I was done taking my photos at this location I went to get into my Jeep and noticed it was sitting funny. I checked the tires and found that my passenger side front tire was almost flat at this point. I wasn’t parked in a good area to look at it, let alone fix it, so I drove up the road a little way until I found a better spot. I got out the compressor again and started to fill it up. When I inspected it this time I managed to find the hole in the tread that the air was coming out of.

I guess there are worse places you could be repairing a flat tire!

Flat Tire by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I didn’t feel like changing the tire with the spare, so I drove it back to my camp and plugged the tire. I filled it up and it held air perfectly again. As a matter of fact, it’s been holding air all week for me, though I will be replacing my two front tires soon.

Kebler Camp by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

When my tire was repaired, I broke down camp, loaded the Jeep and started my drive back home. I did stop at one more colorful group of aspens on my way back…

Gold & Blue by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Rainbow by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

Colorful Aspen Grove by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

I’ll end this trip report with one more photo of East Beckwith Mountain that I liked. I know I took many photos of this particular mountain, but it is just so photogenic with the fall colors below!

East Beckwith by IntrepidXJ, on Flickr

It was a great weekend and the fall colors were spectacular! I’m hoping to get one more weekend of chasing fall colors in this year…

>> Elk Mountains Fall Colors Photo Gallery

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