Autumn color taking its sweet time

A few golden aspen catch a patch of sunlight near a restored cabin in the Capitol City ghost town area on the Alpine Loop above Lake City this week. The colors are just beginning to change in the San Juan Mountains. Capitol City lies at about 9,000 feet, at the boundary of the Gunnison and Uncompahgre national forests.


The latest in leaves

The U.S. Forest Service offers a Fall Color Hotline, steering leaf peepers toward the showiest displays on public lands. Call 1-800-354-4595. For more information, visit their website at http://www.fs.fed.usnews/fallcolors/.

Color Sunday

Make like a tree and leave town for a trip across Grand Mesa.

The town of Mesa is hosting its annual Color Sunday dinner and arts and craft fair from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday at Mesa Community Center.

Powderhorn Resort is offering lift rides this weekend and next weekend, Oct. 1–2.

Grand Mesa Visitor Center on Grand Mesa is hosting appearances by Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl on Sunday. The Rocky Mountain Nature Association is having a book sale at the center.

The view from Powderhorn Resort’s website camera this week is gorgeous with wide, verdant ski runs edged with spruce, aspen and fir trees.

Hues of green ranging from lime to olive are lovely, but something’s awry. As Color Sunday at the resort approaches this weekend, some of Grand Mesa’s lower elevations are still short on fall foliage.

“It’s still worth coming up,” said Andrea Reynolds with Powderhorn Resort. “We’ve got to take it as it comes.”

Scrub oak in elevations around Collbran and Vega Reservoir State Recreation Area reportedly are changing into their crimson autumn attire. Some stands of aspens here and there at higher elevations around the region also are converting to their flaxen tints.

But according to the U.S. Forest Service, the riot of fall colors in the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests may not hit its peak until at least the first or second weekend of October, dates that are later than in normal years.

Trees’ leaves start to change at higher elevations in the most northern regions before spreading south and into lower elevations.

Late summer temperatures in the Grand Valley that have been climbing into the 80s during the day and remaining in the 50s at night may not be the cool snap needed for leaves to change. Temperatures on Grand Mesa, however, have been dipping into the 40s and high 30s at night.

Rainy weather lately could be one reason for the later-than-usual fall color display. However, when the trees start to change this year, the colors may be especially vibrant.

Low temperatures above freezing at night and warm, sunny, dry days tend to bring out the leaves’ displays. Cool weather destroys chlorophyll (which makes plants look green) and increases the production of carotenoids or yellowish pigments. Red pigments found in maples are brought on by anthocyanins that become more visible when the chlorophyll breaks down.

According to the National Weather Service in Grand Junction, temperatures may be ideal this weekend for leaf peepers viewing the start of the high country’s changing foliage. Daytime high temperatures for Mesa are expected to be sunny in the high 70s and nighttime lows should be in the 40s through late next week.

Autumn in the Grand Valley may continue its leisurely slide into cooler temperatures. According to a three-month outlook for October, November and December, temperatures in western Colorado are expected to be above normal for that time of year, the National Weather Service reported.


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