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Following the Light

Aspen and light

As the days shorten and the temperature drops here in the Southern Rockies, fall color begins to move downward into the mid-elevation canyons below the crest of the mountains, spilling down like trickles of bright paint toward the old Spanish villages and dreaming Pueblos that dot the broad and luminous valley of the Rio Grande. The great burst of yellow among the high forests of aspen and spruce fades as quickly as it flared, but further below, color seems to concentrate and richen in the smaller groves and stream-side meadows, set off by the deep greens, rich olives, and waxy blues of the mixed-conifer forest.

Ponderosa. "Of all western pines this one seems to the beholder most full of light"

The aspen will follow you half-way down the mountain, clinging to the cooler drainages, and forming a golden canopy of light far over your head as their turn comes to shine:

Aspen high above the Bear Wallow Trail

But now a new palette of color emerges. The scrubby Gambel Oak sheds its dour summer aspect and dons the most surprising wardrobe of warm copper, persimmon, and Indian red:

A tangle of Gambel Oak

Wild currants throw off all restraint:

This dogwood relative goes deep into the red end of the spectrum,

while the Cliffbush simply can’t make up its mind:

Strawberries display a bipolar nature you would never suspect them of

while their proud and thorny relative, the wild rose, takes on a tasteful, conservative dress:

The lovely Rocky Mountain Maple glows in a pure chartreuse yellow:

Other shrubs experiment experiment with warmer combinations of color, flaunting the fashionable yellows:

All of these photographs were taken along the Bear Wallow Trail, about halfway up the road to Ski Santa Fe, just beyond Hyde Memorial State Park, about 8 miles from the Santa Fe Plaza. The Borrego-Bear Wallow loop is a hike we frequently recommend to guests here at the Inn, and while it is a beautiful walk any time of the year, it is simply exceptional right now.

Get outside and follow the light.

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