Saturday, October 01, 2016

East Side ground cover at autumnal best

Scarlet huckleberries and red rocks on Steamboat hillside

On top Steamboat Lookout

Steamboat above an aspen grove
I made a last minute decision Friday to climb Steamboat (Lookout) Mountain (elevation: 8,565 feet), hoping to enjoy fall color along the Rocky Mountain Front.
Along with the clear skies, warm temperature and light winds, I nailed it.
While many enjoy the changing trees, I go for the ground cover on the east side of the Rockies.
The rose bushes, huckleberries and fireweed turn various shades of red, yellow and orange and light up hillsides.
They are particularly striking against the red rocks on this hike.
I did the standard Elk Creek Pass Trail route from the Elk Creek Trailhead, a route that is about 13.2 miles and gains and loses nearly 3,800 feet roundtrip.
I got a late start since I worked a couple of hours before deciding to go, arriving at the trailhead just before 11 a.m.  I was on top before 2 p.m., and back at the car around 5:30 p.m.
The huckleberry bushes were particularly brilliant, a deep scarlet color accentuated by the green grasses, as well as the red rocks.
I usually do this climb at least once a season because I've been fascinated by how this forest has come back since the 1988 Canyon Creek Fire.  I like to measure the progress of the regrowth. This 250,000 acre hot fire burned most of that summer and in September of that year jumped the highway and burned out on the plains.
It has been interesting to watch the forest come back in my short lifetime.
There are thick stands of lodgepole and Douglas Fir trees, so thick that it could probably use another fire to thin them.
Aspens aglow
This is also an area that I often see elk, and when I gain elevation I get fabulous views of some of my favorite country, the Scapegoat masif, Crown Mountain area, and to the north the Sawtooth-Castle Reef and high Teton peaks country as well as Haystack Butte closer by.
I rarely see anyone on this hike, but on Friday passed a local couple on horseback (yes, I passed them!) on their way on a loop ride that would take them back home via the Dearborn.
The Elk Creek bottom was brilliant with the yellow aspens.
On the way home I stopped and took a few photos of the Sun River bottoms east of Augusta, shouting color from its cottonwoods.
Crown Mountain complex seen from top of Steamboat
Steamboat Lookout Mountain summit cap
Golden cottonwoods on the Sun River bottom east of Augusta

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom, these are beautiful pictures! What an an awesome hobby. It's got to be so much fun for you. It was great to see you at the football game a couple weeks ago and nice to meet Katie. Take care.

Frank Lowry