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Get out while you can

Soon, leaves and snow will fall

— Those glancing around and wondering where all the beautiful fall colors have gone are not alone.

“It definitely does seem kind of late to me,” Yampatika senior naturalist Karen Vail said.

Foliage is triggered by photoperiods. As days get shorter and cooler, the leaves begin their autumn transformation.



Unseasonably warm temperatures at the beginning of the month may have thrown nature for a bit of a loop, Vail said. Simply put, most leaves are still green.

Aspens and cottonwoods at the Steamboat Ski Area and Emerald Mountain appear healthy, Vail said, so the golden and orange colors Routt County residents are accustomed to seeing from their homes or cars should still arrive.



But other aspens and cottonwoods won’t be beautiful this fall. They are already brown or dead.

Routt County is experiencing an aspen decline for two reasons, U.S. Forest Service district forester John Twitchell said. A common fungus called marssonina leaf spot is damaging leaves, while the poplar borer, a large beetle, is infesting North Routt aspens.

“It looks like someone shot the tree,” Twitchell said of the beetle’s effect.

Others trees are dying for no apparent reason, Vail said, and people are researching why.

Whatever the pest afflicting area aspen trees, residents will be robbed of some of the brilliant fall colors they have grown accustomed to.

“There are some nice young healthy stands turning bright gold,” Twitchell said. “There are a lot of leaves that haven’t turned. It’s too early to say we won’t have a nice foliage year.”

Vail has a long list of places she recommends people visit if they would like to take in fall foliage, which is just beginning.

She has seen some patches on Buffalo Pass, and Hahn’s Peak is one of her favorite viewing areas.

There should be some pretty patches in The Sanctuary, and the views up Spring Creek toward Buffalo Mountain are worth catching.

Rabbit Ears Pass has patches, but people willing to make the drive should turn left on Highway 14 and drive toward Walden.

“There is some spectacular stuff,” Vail said.


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