Colorado gold to peak soon

Snow greets leaf-peepers on top of Grand Mesa

Marty O’Connor of Highlands Ranch takes pictures of the autumn colors Saturday during Color Weekend on Grand Mesa. He had stopped at a pull-out on Colorado Highway 65. Snowfall turned the vivid leaves into a black-and-white wonderland above 9,500 feet. Grand Mesa Lodge reported about 9 inches of snow as of 3 p.m. Saturday.

The Melchor family of Olathe pose at the Mesa Creek Ski Area (old Powderhorn) on Saturday. Bernardo, the father, shoots the photo of Cody, 15, left, mother Emma and Selma, 12. Evolette, 8, is blocked by dad.

A pair of small, golden aspens bend in the wind against a background of evergreens as snow falls around them Saturday.

Mother Nature had other ideas for Color Weekend on Grand Mesa and dumped the first snowfall of the season on leaf-peepers Saturday.

The snow stuck around on top of the mesa Sunday, blanketing some areas where the aspen leaves had not yet transitioned from green to yellow and creating chilly conditions for those enjoying the fall colors.

The weekend after the autumn equinox proved to be perfect timing for near-peak colors in the high country. Some aspen stands had their leaves turn brown instead of yellow because of an ongoing issue with Marssonina leaf blight, which is caused by fungus. It is also called black spot disease, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The forest on the mesa is anticipated to reach peak color this week, according to the agency. If viewers want to catch a glimpse of that Colorado gold, they had better head to the hills soon.

More than 75 percent of the aspen leaves on top of Grand Mesa at over 10,000 feet in elevation have already turned yellow. About 40 percent of the leaves at elevations lower than Mesa Lakes have transitioned, according to the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest.

Forecasts from the National Weather Service indicate after a somewhat windy weekend with snow showers, the weather will calm down and warm up through Wednesday. Calm, dry weather will prolong the fall color display, as rain and winds cause the leaves to drop earlier.

Other routes known for color-watching, including McClure and Kebler passes and forests in the Crested Butte and Gunnison areas, are estimated to be 50 percent changed with fall colors.

The forests near Telluride are estimated to also be about 50 percent turned, and the area near Cimarron and Norwood are estimated to be about 30 percent changed.

For up-to-date reports on the fall colors in the area’s forests, you can call the fall color hotline at 970-874-6678.


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