As the snow gently falls outside and the world nearby is covered in white, it is a good time to reflect on the year that has been and the new year that lies ahead. Here at the Aspens Lodge, each season brings its own special kind of beauty–and a beautiful year it has been–blessed as we were with a bit more moisture in 2022 than in the previous couple of years. Lush shades of green in the pastures and on the hillsides lasted longer into the summer than usual. Wildflowers bloomed in abundance. Fall colors blazed brilliantly, if but for a short time, and now winter has descended with a cloak of white providing snow, aplenty, for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling. What ever the season, there is a reason to be outside fully immersed in the beauty that surrounds.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “There are moments when all anxiety and stated toil are becalmed in the infinite leisure and repose of nature.” In this troubled age of polarization and political divide, when uncertainty and fear are amplified by our most un-social media, there is a need–more than ever–for the calming and healing influences of nature. Although the moment is brief, with the changing of the seasons, fall offers an opportunity to see the natural world that surrounds us in a new and beautiful light. Here at The Aspens Lodge, fall’s paintbrush has colored the hills with gold, yellow, orange, red, and brown. And it is beautiful. Seize the moment. Savor the day. Find a way to get out and enjoy nature. Here are a few pictures taken on October 1 along Rio Blanco County Road 8 from Buford up toward Ripple Creek pass.
Warmer than usual temperatures have resulted in an earlier melt-off in the high country. And while that is generally not a good development, it does mean that the trails used to access the high country in the Flat Tops Wilderness Area are now largely accessible. This past week when a friend and I hiked from Trappers Lake to Wall Lake, we encountered only a few patches of snow. We also encountered meadows with early summer flowers and a landscape that was majestic, beautiful, and remarkably still–except for the sounds of birds and the croaking of frogs. A few days later, we did a day hike up the Lost Solar trail from the South Fork Campground. Again, we hiked through some beautiful country, including a gorge area with the white waters of the South Fork of the White River rushing through. If you are seeking to get away from it all–all of civilization, that is–you would be hard pressed to find an area as beautiful as the Flat Tops. It is accessible for either a day hike or a week-long adventure. Maybe it’s time to put on your hiking shoes?
I awoke this morning to a world immersed in white. The snow that began falling yesterday was still gently coming down and blanketing the aspen, spruce—indeed, the entire landscape, with a soft winter coat of white. As I watched the snow fall and contemplated all of the snow shoveling that lay ahead, I checked the weather report which called for clouds clearing in the afternoon. Since blue skies, sunshine, and freshly fallen snow provide the ideal condition for cross-country skiing, I resolved to expeditiously attend to my chores. I didn’t want to let the “necessary” stand in the way of the “transcendental.” Those who have experienced breaking a fresh trail in a forest adorned with new snow will understand what I mean: Beyond the solitude, stillness, and beauty, cross-country skiing on such a day provides an immersive outdoor experience that transcends the ordinary and provides a glimpse into perfection. It transports one into an otherworldly dimension where there is genuine peace and harmony. It provides a welcome and needed antidote for the uncertainty, unsettledness, tension, harshness, and coarseness all too prevalent in our everyday experience. In the quiet forest, there is calm refreshment and nourishment. Come. Be refreshed.
Winter is a quiet time here at the Aspens Lodge, but is a time with incredible beauty. Abundant options exist for enjoying the great outdoors. Nearby cross-country ski or snowshoeing options include the Buford-New Castle Road, the road to South Fork Campground, and the delightful (and often neatly groomed) trail into the yurt at Marvine Campground. A multitude of snowmobiling options are available in the immediate area. Near the end of the winter maintenance on the Buford-New Castle Road, we have provided, on our property, a courtesy parking area for snowmobilers. Old-fashioned winter fun can be had with sledding, snowball fights, and building snowmen. And, of course, if curling up with a good book in front of the fireplace is your preferred choice, that is an option too.
During this season, the late afternoon sun imbues the changing leaves on the aspen trees that surround The Aspens Lodge with a mesmerizing quality. The hillside seems alive with its shimmering carpet of sunlit yellow. Deer graze peacefully in the yard seemingly unaware that hunting season is about to start. If you are lucky, you may see a blue jay make a brief appearance flitting from tree to tree highlight, its brilliant blue highlighted by the backdrop of gold. In the larger world, these are tumultuous times, but here at least nature has her act together.
It would be wonderful if this magical season could last longer than it does, but nature has its rules. As the poet Robert Frost noted long ago,
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief. So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
For those searching for fall colors, options abound nearby: Consider driving over the Buford-New Castle Road; hiking up the South Fork of the White River, trail running or riding horseback into the Marvine Lakes, kayaking on Trapper’s Lake, and driving over Ripple Creek Pass.