Thursday, November 12, 2015

Autumn’s Farewell to Colorado Springs

...was Tuesday, 10 November in 2015. Halloween is normally the unofficial finish, and we usually have a wet, sloppy drive-by snowstorm weeks before that. Snowstorms and seasons are running a little late this year, but I don’t mind. If all goes according to plan, this was my last autumn here in the Pikes Peak Region. I should be long gone by the time the trees bud again in May.

I force myself out of my basement office every other day or so to walk a two and one-half to three-mile circuit along the greenways closest to my house on the north side of town. As I had gotten out late in Tuesday, with the sun in its final glide path behind the Rockies, I took the abbreviated walk. These Canon Powershot happy-snaps partially describe what I saw before the storm that arrived just before midnight put paid to the last of autumn’s glory in my little corner of the Northern Hemisphere.

This greenway and drainage canal separate the Charleston Place development from the other houses wedged between Meadow Ridge Road (behind me) and Rangewood Drive (three or four blocks over to my right). What caught my eye here was how the top part of this tree had dumped all of its leaves into the drainage canal. In the photos that follow this one at right, you may notice a few trees that are spiky and bare at top, yet fully leafed around the bottom. The wind can be damned perverse in the steppes of the Rocky Mountain Front Range.

While it has been very nice having an extended fall season, with a delightfully moderate Indian Summer that lasted throughout October and then some, the spring’s excess rain and the preternaturally drawn-out period of warm temperatures stunted the color on some of the trees. This line of trees was not only long-delayed in changing colors, it skipped much of its gold phase and went straight to brown.

You don’t see too many grand old trees in Colorado Springs, but when you do, it’s easy to forgive their having a bad fall. They still look good against a bottomless blue Colorado sky.

Below is a fairly decent representation of where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. I can stare at these tree/sky boundaries forever:

That’s not to say it’s all dull browns. Whatever these trees are, they are not going gently to their winter slumber.

The one thing that went according to schedule this season was that the small to mid-size aspens were the first to change, and the first to shed. The first photo is from my right, the second is the view on my left.

Even in their denuded state these are beautiful trees. They will also be the first to bud in May.

On this last day of autumn I crossed the drainage canal at the pre-fab bridge, ran up the 45 steps to the corner of Windy Hill Road and Research Drive, and began the eastbound leg of my journey along busy six-lane Research. Most of my favorite trees along this part of the route had already changed and dropped their foliage. But there were still a few sights to see. 

One notable was this tree at left, in the molten butterscotch Golden Hour light. The light in October is the best, of course, but what we see the rest of the year bestows aesthetic warmth even along a mundane commuter artery like Research Boulevard. The light of the Golden Hour can ennoble a landfill. Of course, it doesn’t have to work so hard here:

Who needs a CIA stooge like Jackson Pollock when I’ve got all the abstract expressionism I need right here? This stands as one of my favorite photos I’ve ever taken. And I still didn’t quite capture the majesty of the subject, how those bright splatters of hot colors on a deep azure canvas held my eyes. I had to get something, though:

Eventually, the sun winked out behind the mountains, and I spent the rest of my walk in gathering gloom. Turning south down Rangewood Drive, I passed my usual turn into the park and walked straight down to Meadow Ridge Drive for the return leg of my journey. Along the way, there’s a stretch I call the Dead Zone, which is an unlucky patch where all the road kill on Rangewood seems to end up. There are even dead trees standing blight-black and skeletal along here. With the occasional bit of tossed garbage for flavor, it’s like the area is cursed.

This evening’s bit of morbidity was a beggar’s sign, blown over a mile up the road from the entrance to the shopping center where you normally see these people. It says something that we take beggars for granted in front of our Wal-Marts and other shopping centers. You did not see such while I was growing up because there were jobs out there if you needed them badly enough, enough so that begging in public was shoot-yourself-in-the-head shameful.

These days, it’s just another Sign o’ the Times™. I doubt the person in question was “Truely Hungry”—our beggars, like everyone else, are bullshitters—but I am charmed by the handwritten “font” here. I hope it’s not an omen of things to come. Not that I believe in such things, but this last photo in the gloaming of the last day of autumn has that creepy frisson about it.

Here’s hoping you enjoyed my stroll, and that everything’s gorgeous and nothing’s hurt where you are. What can I tell you? I can’t do zombies here all the time. Sometimes I just need to get outside and look at some stuff.