This is Guanella Pass, 11,700 feet (3570 m) above sea level on Wednesday October 9, 2019. It was a warm day, one that almost felt like mid-summer. As can be seen from the photograph, the region had yet to receive a significant snow. On that day, Denver International Airport would reach a high temperature of 83ºF (28ºC). Temperatures were quite pleasant at higher elevations.
However, change was on its way. These photos were taken only several hours before autumn’s fist meaningful push of cold air would arrive in Central Colorado. The next day would see temperatures across the entire region dip below freezing, and snow fall all the way down in Denver.
Friday morning’s low would reach 9°F (-12°C) in Denver, representing a near record breaking temperature drop.
Thanks to weather models, forecasters saw this dramatic change coming. Most Coloradans were prepared.
Yet, even without computer models to foresee the exact day and exact nature of these changes, it is pretty well understood, especially up in the Rockies, that at this time of year, sooner or later an event like this is bound to happen. This is why many high elevation animals gather food in the second half of the summer and why the tree leaves change colors in the autumn.
Guanella Pass is amazing in autumn. Being only 50 miles from Denver, it is typically far more crowded on weekends at this time of year.
I often get carried away with getting to that perfect location, many miles out of the way where the image, the sounds, smells and conditions are perfect!
However, that day I noticed that it is quite possible to see some spectacular fall colors without even leaving the main roads. I saw bright gold trees along both Interstate 70 and U.S. Highway 285!
Few places captured the essence of life in the mountains in Autumn better than Georgetown, which is right along I-70.
It was strange to gaze upon the Aspen trees knowing that in less than 12 hours, due to wind and snow, most of the leaves would be gone, and the landscape was about to fundamentally be changed.
Storms are part of the nature of life, not just with respect to weather and seasons. It is the first time we have a crush, and soon after the first time we get our hearts broken. It is the conflicts we have with our family, close friends and significant others. It is that person we just don’t get along with. It is losing a job, getting in an unexpected accident, or even just having a week’s worth of bad luck.
It’s facing our fears, which is what Halloween is really all about.
In October, the days get darker and chillier, foreshadowing winter, often the most dreaded of the seasons. It is no coincidence that this is the time of year we celebrate all that is spooky; carving spooky designs into pumpkins, dressing in scary costumes and watching scary movies.
Some of life’s “storms” come unexpectedly. However, some are at least somewhat predictable, like the changing of the seasons or a coming breakup. How we respond differs quite a bit from person to person. There are those that prepare, those that embrace, those that deny and those that simply try to weather it as best as possible.
Maybe the same is true of these Aspen trees up in the mountains.
It was hard for me to imagine why some trees at 9,000 feet (2750m) in elevation would still have green leaves on October 9th. They seemed less prepared. However, maybe they are just enjoying this calm before the storm a bit longer. I can’t say I had not done the same at various points in my life.
The key to facing the storms of our lives is to build up resiliency and self-confidence. This is part of what facing our fears is all about. Once our fears have been faced, we are prepared to have that awkward conversation where we must tell people what they don’t want to hear. We are ready to assert ourselves to obtain what we really want out of life. And, we are ready to deal with setbacks without falling apart.
The confidence not to panic gives us the capacity to enjoy “the calm before the storm” to its fullest extent.