Autumnal Bliss in the San Juans

A theme I’ve noticed among many active backcountry people is their love of fall.

And no wonder many people, myself included, love this season most of all.

Oh, those crisp days with stable weather. And the brilliant colors. And perhaps the best sleeping weather of all.

I love autumn. I find it a sacred time when I the happiest outdoors.  And my favorite time to backpack.

For Joan’s birthday weekend, we wanted to backpack, and where better to backpack than the San Juans of Colorado?

The largest and wildest range in Colorado. And a place closer to Joan and me than when I lived in the Front Range. And only a fraction of traffic to get there.

We planned a route that took in the highlights of a jaunt I did nearly a decade ago: Ridge walk delights, mountain lakes, and alpine terrain.


But all with glorious fall color.

At nearly 12k feet, we found the night invigoratingly crisp.

Perfect opportunity for a certain someone tried out a new birthday present she no longer had to steal from me. 🙂

Our maps let us explore lesser-known trails to access areas also not as well known.

And to enjoy alpine lakes to ourselves.

We soon left the beaten path and joined up with an old friend for a while.

We found the weather on the divide about perfect – no wind, sunny, and the ideal temperature.

We later made our way that evening to a place that leads to a basin full of 13k foot peaks and old mining trails I remembered from that trip nearly a decade ago.  But the weather turned, and even at “only” about 11k feet, our shelter shook quite a bit. We looked over our maps in the morning and decided to walk a valley route along an old rail grade.

A fortuitous choice as we had this route nearly to ourselves, and we found nothing but sheer delight in following along the water to one side and the aspens along our way, too.

The time in the mountains may nearly be over. And the desert soon beckons.

But I do know fall is here. And it is my favorite season to enjoy.

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