Aspen Fall Tapestry
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One of the ways aspen trees propagate is by growing new trees out of the roots of older ones, resulting in groups of genetically identical specimens, referred to as clonal colonies. Different trees turn at different times and trees that are genetically similar turn together. This phenomenon creates patches of color where different groups of trees in the grove change at different times. Colors range from bright green through fiery yellow and all the way to deep orange and pink.
Tracking the Lion
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A mountain lion (cougar/puma) left these fresh tracks among fallen aspen leaves. For all the years I’ve been photographing in these places, this is the only time I saw a live mountain lion in the wild.
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A storm the previous day blew these colorful leaves to the ground. Many have not yet fully turned and those that have were in various stages of decay resulting in a dazzling array of colors, patterns, and textures.
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Aspen trees and dogwood bushes reflecting in a mountain lake.
After the Big Show
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Aspen trees in late autumn, about to shed the last of their leaves.
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Bracken ferns line the bottom of a grove of young aspen trees in the peak of autumn color. The curving trunks made me think of a slow sensuous dance.
An Unlikely Convergence
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Aspen trees growing against a red sandstone wall. The title refers to the fact that it’s very rare for aspen trees and sandstone to exist in the same place. Aspens generally grow at high elevation, while red sandstone generally is found in the lower, hotter, parts of the desert. This is the only place I know where red sandstone is found high enough so that aspen trees can grow in the same place.
Foam Patterns and Aspen Leaves
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Aspen leaves floating among intricate foam patters at the outlet of an alpine lake.
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Aspen trees, bare for the winter, atop a high desert plateau. The canyon country below, covered in thick fog, the peaks of desert mountains loom in the distance.
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Small grove of aspens looms out of thick fog in winter.
Last Light at Camp
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Aspen trees in spring, glowing in the last of the warm sunlight, seen from my campsite.
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Aspen boles in winter. Recently-dead trees turn a bright orange before drying up.
Aspens, Filtered Light
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Soft afternoon winter light filters through an old aspen grove.
Sapling in the Clouds
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After a good rainy season, this aspen sapling sprouted at the edge of an alpine lake. In time, the water will recede back to its normal levels.
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Aspen trees on the shore of a thawing lake. The spaceship-looking ovals are spots where the ice had melted faster thanks to underwater springs.
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Dormant aspen trees engulfed in wintry mist.
A Place of Refuge
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A small wind-battered grove of aspen trees next to a remote mountain road lined in blooming locoweed.
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Testament to their tenacity, these stunted and wind-beaten little aspens grow on a precarious exposed promontory.
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Yet-to-turn aspen trees mixed with maples in vibrant autumn display.
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Aspen and dogwood grow among the Sierra Nevada granite boulders.
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Aspen grove against a backdrop of the slope of a desert mountain, green with new growth as spring arrives and the last of the snow had melted.
Summer Eve Among the Aspens
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Last light of the day, camping in a high-elevation aspen grove. In the summer months, these high groves provide shade and comfortable temperatures while the desert below bakes in the heat.
Early Autumn Storm
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In these high sagebrush-covered plains, thunderstorms can be violent, but usually for short periods as storm cells wander around the landscapes. The light during such storms, on the other hand, can be profoundly peaceful and revitalizing.
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Gently making its way through a grassy alpine meadow, this creek will eventually become a desert river destined to travel some of the most scenic desert canyons on Earth before arriving at the Pacific Ocean.
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Bare aspen trees against a backdrop of crimson-colored willows during an early snow storm.
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Last of the autumn foliage still clings to these young aspens as they prepare for the big sleep.
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Aspen trees in fog during spring rainstorm.
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First snow falling over aspen grove in autumn color.
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Aspen grove in thick fog during a summer monsoon rainstorm.
A Merging of Worlds
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Aspen trees reflecting in alpine lake.
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Burned aspen snags lit by the low sun in winter.
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Fallen aspen tree, likely felled by avalanche, supported by its brethren.
Quiet, Frosty Morning
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A cold autumn morning by an alpine beaver pond surrounded by aspen trees.
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Vibrant new foliage on aspen trees growing in an alpine meadow. The last of winter’s snow still lines gullies in the steep slopes beyond.
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Young aspen tree catching the last light of the day.
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New foliage on aspen trees and snowberry bushes in dazzling autumn display among the skeletons of trees killed by wildfire years before.
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Bare aspen trees in winter, covered in hoar frost from a passing storm.
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Aspen trees in deep winter slumber in a clearing in a thick grove. Soft mist filled the grove as a calm winter storm passed through.
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A thick aspen grove reduced to thin, faded lines in winter.
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Red leaf on fresh snow
Autumn is no longer here
Sadness lies ahead
This portfolio is one of a series dedicated to trees that have become personally meaningful to me, by which I mean that they are prominent and welcome parts of my world and life. It is not an exaggeration to say that, being the recluse that I am, I spend considerably more time in the company of these trees than in the company of people (including those I consider as friends).
Aspen trees, growing in clonal colonies (one of which is the oldest living organism on Earth, estimated to be about 80,000 years old) are a staple of the Western mountains. Alas, in recent years these trees have been on the decline due to Sudden Aspen Decline (SAD) due to years-long drought. It is estimated that about 50% of aspens have died, and may soon disappear from much of their range.
Aspen trees morph with the seasons: lime-green in the spring, green in summer, dazzling yellows and reds in autumn, white and bare in winter. They are always a joy to be among, and a very photogenic subject. Some of my favorite campsites, especially in the summer and fall, are in clearings among aspen trees.
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