shoot-184It is hot outside, in the way that only the high plains can be in August. Dry and hot, no humidity.

And yet, when I went up the mountains the other day, it was already chilly. I stepped out of the 4Runner and the clouds were sliding by just over my head. It was cool, heading toward cold. There was a feeling of cool mist and maybe, just a touch of snow, coming soon. Like rain, it has a smell all its own.

I will admit that fall is my favorite time of the year.

It’s kind of a cliché in Colorado to take pictures of the fall. The brilliance of the aspens when they change is pretty tempting. Many of the high passes are clogged in leaf season, blocked by photographers with big zoom lenses and tripods, leaf peeping. Online arguments break out about what spot is best and when. I admit I do occasionally find myself taken in by the aspens, but I love other things during that time of year.

shoot-185Most of the high mountain towns shed their tourists with the leaves. You see them as the quiet, solitary outposts they are during that time of year. I love rambling during fall. I love sitting in bars, plunking my camera down, and having the locals come over and talk. They comment about me taking pictures, then they usually ask a little about me and I ask a little about them. Then, over my cheeseburger, they’ll usually ask if I’ve seen a certain place or taken pictures of it. I find all the good spots this way.

The towns are all better in the fall. Empty, and in a sense a little forlorn looking. But to me, they all seem to be a little relieved that the summer is past, and there is time before the snows come, harsh and cold, to wrap them in a blanket of white that makes most of them revert to being a high, lonely place. The kind of place I’ve fallen deeply in love with.

shoot-183The mountains are a real force here. They stand between us and the sunset lands. They hurl our weather towards us, with claps of thunder, or bringing us perfect clouds. Soon they will show us a bit of color, and then the white caps will start to come down and spread themselves over us all. They say in our past, people worshiped the mountains as gods. It is easy to see why.

I look forward to the fall. I look forward to the time when the mountains will send the coolness sliding down to us, bringing the changing leaves and crispness to the air. I only wish the season was longer.