Autumn leaves!

The sun forsakes the middle of the sky and slides south, the days are cooler, the nights chilly...a chemical chage is triggered in the leaves and summer dies. But Mother Nature has decreed that the funeral of summer be celebrated in flashy style.

In death the leaves are their most beautiful, bright brushes of gold splashed across high country slopes. Time to take a couple of days and get out of touch and go and ...see the leaves...

The only sound the high country is the crisp racket of falling leaves, the only views available are pleasing, high mountain before the first snows.

Ah, autumn leaves. Brings out the best in poets...they talk about the wind rising and the air wild with leaves. Shakespeare wrote about bare ruined choirs where once the sweet birds sang. Autumn leaves...summer's last gasp, Nature's Midas Touch, a fortune in gold.

Throughout the entire Southwest region, though, drought conditions have placed trees under stress. One reaction to that stress is a slowing or cessation of active growth. Stress can even cause trees to begin the process of dropping their leaves for the year. Consequently, fall colors often develop a little earlier than normal in drought years.

U. S. Forest Service reports they are seeing that kind of early season begin to develop in Colorado. However, the stress reaction to drought is a minor component in the development of fall color, which is primarily controlled by day length. At this time it looks like the colors are beginning to develop about a week ahead of “normal.” We are beginning to see some nice color displays at the higher elevations between 9,000 and 9,500 feet.

Where this season goes from here will depend on the weather over the next few weeks. The ideal conditions for the formation of brilliant fall colors are warm, sunny days, and cool, clear evenings. Extended periods of cool, wet weather will decrease the intensity of the color display. Strong winds or heavy snows could put an early end to the fall color season.

With favorable weather conditions, the color should continue to intensify during the next 3 weeks. With even a little more luck from the weather, there could be good color into the second week of October in some areas.

In most years, fall colors follow a typical progression, beginning in the north and spreading to the south in response to shorter day lengths. The color display also begins earliest in the higher elevations and works its way down the slopes.

For color viewing suggestions in New Mexico:

For Arizona:

Some of the best colors in Southern Colorado are in the Silverton and Telluride areas.

Haven't found much up to date info for fall colors 2002 yet, but check the web for your local area.