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Waiting for Summer in Colorado

Memorial Day weekend, May 26 - and the Aspen trees are still bare on Wilkerson Pass at 9,200' elevation. In Colorado Springs, to the East, the Cottonwoods and Elm are all leafed out, and a brilliant green. It's all about the elevation there - 3,000' lower, at 6,200'. But I wanted to photograph some Aspen leafed out in the higher mountains, so I drove on North and then East to Buena Vista, at the foot of the 14,000' Collegiate Range. There, at 8,000', at the mouth of Cottonwood Creek, I found entire groves of Aspen starting to leaf out in a light green. A bit too light, but I can fix that with a slider on my MacBook. Progress. I couldn't do that with film and get a realistic result. The snowpack this year was huge - in normal years, the Eastern faces of the Collegiate Peaks start to look bare - this year, the snow still left ranged from 11,000 to 14,000'. The climbers this year needed ice gear to reach the summits. Rain and light snow started falling - I was wearing a long sleeve shirt and a light jacket - and it was almost the first of June. Some months of June are cold and wet, others are so dry and windy that fire danger increases to the point where fourth of July fireworks are banned, and multiple forest fires rage all over the state, like last year. I'm betting on a cool June in the Colorado mountains this year, with a gradual runoff and no flooding. Summer can wait until July this year.

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