Fall leaf color season keeps on going and going…

It’s been a mild autumn so far with very few hard freezes. As a result, the fall color season continues even at the higher elevations. Last week we rode our mountain bikes on the Arizona Trail from FR418 south to Snowbowl Road. This is one of my favorite sections of the Arizona Trail because—among other reasons—it passes through several large stands of aspen trees.

Aspens typically grow in large clonal colonies derived from a single seedling. Thus, each stand or colony of aspen have a strong tendency for their leaves to change color at the same time, while a nearby stand may change either earlier or later.

Aspen leaves cover the Arizona Trail.
Aspen leaves cover the Arizona Trail.

Consequently, it is possible to ride this trail over the course of several weeks and have the various aspen colonies exhibit different states of color. Last week, most of the aspen had dropped their leaves but one colony was still in peak color.

Water droplets on aspen leaves sparkle in the brilliant autumn sunshine.
Water droplets on aspen leaves sparkle in the brilliant autumn sunshine.

In addition, rain showers the previous day had left the trail in excellent condition; i.e., no dust and firm traction. Many leaves had already fallen from the trees onto the trail and the rain droplets deposited on the leaves sparkled in the bright sunshine.

Snow on the San Francisco Peaks is framed by meadows and aspen.
Snow on the San Francisco Peaks is framed by meadows and aspen.

From the open meadows, snow was visible across the higher elevations of the San Francisco Peaks which contrasted with the deep blue skies and the yellow and gold of the aspen trees.

Happiness is mountain biking on the Arizona Trail through a forest of colorful aspen trees.
Happiness is mountain biking on the Arizona Trail through a forest of colorful aspen trees.

Brilliant sunshine, mild temperatures, colorful aspen trees, and mountain bikes: what’s not to like?

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