by Laura Crum
All my life I have loved seeing the aspen turn bright gold in the high country. Sadly, I can count on one hand the times I have been there to see this in the last twenty years. I live on the California coast—no aspen here—and my husband is a farmer. Fall is his busy season. We don’t take vacations during the harvest time of year. Until this year.
This year I lobbied for a short vacation in the high country to see the aspen—and I got my wish. And so, for those of you who won’t see the high mountain aspen trees this year, or perhaps have never seen them in autumn—here’s a virtual vacation for you.
First off, meet the canine contingent, who traveled with us.
This is Star and Jojo. Star, the small black dog (about 15 pounds), named for the white star on her chest, is a rescue—part of a litter that was to be euthanised at the animal shelter due to demodectic mange. We adopted her as a puppy about a year and a half ago, and she’s doing great. Smartest dog I ever had. People always ask, “What is she?” Well, I don’t know. I saw her mother and siblings and they don’t look much like her, other than being small and black (all got homes, by the way). Our guess is she’s part Chihuahua, part terrier and part ?
Jojo, on the other hand, is an accident raised by my neighbors, who bred Jack Russell terriers. They went away for the weekend and the female Jack Russell got bred, they assumed by the male. But when the puppies were born it was clear that their Australian Shepherd was the father(!) Jojo was the smallest pup. She’s a very sweet dog, fourteen years old this year, about thirty pounds.
So, off we went, three people and two dogs in our camper, headed for the mountains. We stopped to have lunch on the terrace of the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite Valley, an expedition I recommend. And Yosemite is relatively uncrowded this time of year. Here’s my son and I having lunch on the terrace.
Then it was over Tioga Pass to our friend Bill Crum’s forty acre property twenty miles from anywhere, surrounded by national forest. Sagehen Meadow in the Glass Mountains. About 8500 feet high. The Glass Mountains are a small range just east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and south of Mono Lake. We camped there this summer with our horses. See my August 1st post, “Ride the High Country,” for photos of us riding through these mountains. Here is the view of Crooked Mountain from Sagehen Meadow the last day of September, with the aspen on the mountain’s flanks turning gold.
And here is the aspen grove near Bill’s house.
Looking into the blue distance of Nevada—dusk at Sagehen Meadow.
Our camper as the full moon rises.
Sunrise at Sagehen Meadow—Sagehen Peak and Crooked are lit up with golden light and golden aspen.
It was really lovely to be there. That day we headed out to see more of the country. As we were leaving, we saw the sage grouse that give Sagehen Meadow its name. Ten of them.
These were the same roads we rode horseback in July. Here we are, headed out across Sagehen meadow on our horses.
Summer aspen along the trail.
But now the aspen looked like this, rather than green and silver.
Aspen on the flank of Crooked with the Sierras in the distance.
The eastern Sierra Nevada range—doesn’t this have a very “Sound of Music” feeling?
Fire colored aspen at the base of Shark Fin Mountain.
Sadly, the camera will not do justice to the beauty of the aspen. They are so graceful and delicate, they flicker and “talk” with every breeze, their shining gold leaves and white bark make such a lovely contrast to the brilliant blue autumn sky and the dark green pines…I took many photos but not one captures their glory.
We stopped to admire some cliffs made out of obsidian, for which the Glass Mountains are named. My husband and son and Bill climbed up to the base of the cliffs—not me—it was quite a steep climb. My son at the obsidian cliffs.
Looking down at me on the road below with the truck.
And then it was back to the camper for whisky and music—and margaritas in my case. My husband played his pipes and Bill played his guitar. The sun set over Sagehen Meadow.
It was a lovely trip. The weather was sparkling and perfect. The only way it could have been improved was if we had brought the horses. Riding through those brilliant yellow aspen would have been delightful. But it’s a very long haul (eight hours) for one day of riding. And my husband’s schedule precluded a longer trip. Anyway, I hope you were able enjoy my autumn vacation to the high country with me—if only in a small, virtual way. Cheers--Laura