"A lake" on the Grand Mesa. ]Gold in the Hills!
The hot summer sun is now descending lower into the southern horizon. The twilight of fall is about to set aglow with the last flicker of life before leaves fall dead to rest through the dark of winter’s night. I am wont to dismiss my love of the extremes of summer’s heat and icy blast of winter. As I grow older and more comfortable in life, I become more appreciate the gentle transition of seasons. The more I dabble with photography the more challenged I am with capturing Fall’s explosions of color.
This fall and in particular on “Color Sunday,” don’t let that gold in the hills slip through your fingers. Head up to the Grand Mesa and hike to an aspen lined lake. Perhaps you will catch the contrast of red, amber, and neon foliage resting on a clear lake’s gentle ripples.
I suggest avoiding the new ”City of Mesa Lakes” that has become a paved paradise more modern than down town Grand Junction. If you do park here on the smooth carport, you can pay five dollars, fifteen dollars to camp. I’d like my five dollars to go toward letting our woods be the woods. Better still, drive past Delta through the North Fork Valley past Paonia to Kebler Pass to the largest aspen grove in the world. This sprawling expanse of interconnected life form is currently considered the largest single living organism in the world. Followed shortly by a giant mushroom/mold slick on a meadow in Minnesota, then by the giant Sequoia in the Sierra Mountains of California.
Hiking, fishing, and limited camping can be had at Lost Lake on the west side of Kebler Pass. My latest favorite area is just over the pass to Irwin Lake. This Lake is spacious and scenic with nice campgrounds and “primitive” camping on the road above if the spots are full. Ruby Peak, Mount Owen, and Purple Mountain hold court above Irwin Lake. Continue up the two-wheel-drive road as far as you feel comfortable. The road can be driven safely to near tree-line with relatively decent clearance and low to averages driving nerves. Hike up from your parked car on up the road to Green Lake. It will be tempting to stop here but don’t. Hike above the lake on gentle switchback mine road. As you climb above the lake, watch it turn into a sapphire “Blue Lake!” Continue on the mining road to the saddle above.
The panorama here is worth the relatively larkish effort. A few hundred feet of scree trail puts you on top of Ruby Peak. A hike to the North up Owens interesting ridge is a bit more grueling yet rewarding. The trail winds up interesting features with an alpine feel with out the risk of falling. The Summit of Mount Owen is just over 13,054 feet and dominates the Ruby Ridge. This summit gives a layout of the land on a clear day. You can peer into Dark Canyon between Mount Marcelina and the Raggeds. Not so distant views lie north at the Elk’s Range’s Capitol, Peak, Snowmass, the rotten jags of Maroon Bells, Pyramid, and Castle Peak’s. Mount Crested Butte is dwarfed and surrounded by the West Elk Peaks extending form Fossil Ridge to stretching out to the southwest. Return via the way you came enjoying the green alpine tundra juxtaposing the ruby and purple hued peaks. Green Lake’s striking color will be hard to draw your eyes from until it turns green again at it’s shores. The real icing on the cake is a snack, a knap and some sunset fishing on Irwin Lake in the crisp fall air.
Continue over the spruce top of the Mesa to the southern Cedaredge side for more golden vistas and maybe some apples picked off the tree.
To get to Kebler Pass and the Ruby Range, drive south on Highway 50 to Delta. Turn right and head past Paonia. Take a right on Kebler Pass Road to the top of the pass. Look for a left to head north up to Irwin Lake and the road toward Green Lake.
OK with me if you don’t. I’m sure I’ll have enough starry-eyed, leaf-peaking tourists with big smiles and even bigger cameras to join me. To get to Grand Mesa, drive Interstate 70 to Highway 65 past Mesa to Powderhorn Ski Resort, the glimmering gold trees also known as “quakies” dominate the view from here to the upper rim of The Mesa.
Continue over the spruce top of The Mesa to the southern Cedaredge side for more golden vistas and maybe some apples picked off the tree.
To get to Kebler Pass and the Ruby Range, drive south on Highway 50 to Delta and take a left on 92. Take that to Hotchkiss and follow 133 past Paonia. Take a right on Kebler Pass Road to the top of the pass. Look for a left to head north up to Irwin Lake and the road toward Green Lake.