Someone Has to Live Here

Last week my wife and I went driving to see the fall colors. I thought you’d like to see what the trees look like in the Colorado mountains at about the time the first snow dusts the top of the San Juan mountains.

We went up County Rd. 7, through the bottom of Ralph Lauren’s ranch. It tops out at a National Forest trailhead at 9,000′ (2,750m). The scuttlebutt among the locals is that Ralph tried to take the road private. The county replied not only “no” but “no …sir!

It’s a gorgeous take-your-time drive: you don’t even need four-wheel drive this time of year.

Most people can’t really afford to live here unless they work 2-3 (probably part-time) jobs, or are retired. There are a few exceptions to that rule if you’re not independently wealthy: in my case, I brought my job with me. I can work anywhere I can get a good Internet connection, and, well…

Fall Photo Tour

A quick note about the photos: I haven’t done anything to them to change the color, or even crop them. I just reduced the size — to about 11% of the original. I shoot raw on a Canon EOS T3i, giving me about 24MB file sizes, and a 5,184×3,456 image. I took 250 photos this trip (yes, exactly!)

High enough up that we're starting to get a good view

High enough up that we’re starting to get a good view. (Frame 668)

A little wider, to show the road, which is still pretty smooth at this point.

A little wider, to show the road, which is still pretty smooth at this point. (670)

Can't see the top of the mountains.

Can’t see the top of the mountains. (701)

The trees look like they carpet the hillsides.

The trees look like they carpet the hillsides. (750)

Back to the car: we have higher to go!

Back to the car: we have higher to go! (771)

Pure Colorado gold. The trees are 'Quaking aspens', if you didn't already know that.

Pure Colorado gold. The trees are Quaking aspens, if you didn’t already know that. (774)

The road presses ever-higher.

The road presses ever-higher. (777)

The panorama: meadow, hillsides, and mountain.

The panorama: meadow, hillsides, and mountain. This is my favorite shot, and I had this one printed, as noted next. My favorite part is the little specks of gold at the base of the mountain: clumps of aspens standing out among the evergreens. (828)

The 'gallery' print of the previous frame.
The ‘gallery’ print of the previous frame, hanging on the wall. It’s 12×18″ printed on canvas, then wrapped around the frame — the image ends up being on the edges, as you can see here. This first print was purchased by a reader.

I asked the gallery manager if she wanted to sell it there. She blushed and said no: the owner was also out there that day, and has one that’s too similar. They apparently didn’t want mine to compete! But she did say that if they did sell it there, they’d price it at $299.

Close-up of the canvas.

Close-up of the canvas, but it’s pretty hard to see the texture of the canvas. After printing, they put on three coats of archival anti-ultraviolet coating so that it will last for decades.

I do sell prints still: see this page for what’s available.


Yes, I am that much taller than Kit.

Yes, I am that much taller than Kit. We took this trip four days after our 11th anniversary. It was great to take an afternoon off.

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40 Comments on “Someone Has to Live Here

  1. Absolutely beautiful. I have only been in Colorado once but was lucky (smart?) enough to drive through your area. My envy of your space is palapable for me. Keep on sharing, I love it. Thank you.

  2. Beautiful photos, including the last, even on my phone. The foliage was just beginning to turn when we visited Lake City the end of August.

  3. Okay Randy, so far I’ve managed not to be jealous of you living in Colorado, but these pics have pushed me over the edge! 🙂 So beautiful! Thanks for sharing them!

  4. Absolutely breathtaking views! I love fall in VA but now I have an urge to visit Colorado to see this in person! Thanks for sharing Randy!

    We hold this event nearly every year. Come on down! -rc

  5. Love the pics Randy, thanks. I used to live in Denver a couple different times back in the early ’80’s. I’ve also been hiking several places, including up above Nederlands.

    I’m in Ca. now and I get around here as much as I can and get some good pics.

    Why don’t you have a ‘Show me your pics,’ social event?

    (Or do you already? I love your newsletter and am a Premium subscriber, but don’t get much time for other things too often.)

    Anyway, I’ve got some I’d love to share from out here. Thanks for everything, and I do mean everything.

    By social event, I assume you mean gathering together. And that’s the problem: I’m in the middle of nowhere! I think a grand total of two readers have met me for lunch here. One was local …and the other was from Australia! -rc

  6. Well, Randy, you may not have a lot of “money”, but you certainly are wealthy… 😀

    Indeed, Bernard. Indeed I am. -rc

  7. Wonderful photos, Randy, thanks!

    Alberta has lots of aspen too. Edmonton is in a biome called the Aspen Parkland, thus we too have the same brilliant yellows in our fall colours.

    Alberta and Colorado are in the same time zone. Being further south, Colorado would seem to have the advantage that aspens inhabit higher elevations. So you have the wonderful combination of aspen fall colour in mountain landscapes!

    (The quaking or trembling aspen “Populus tremuloides” grows all the way from Alaska and the Yukon Territory to the mountains of Mexico, and east across the continent to the Atlantic. According to Wikipedia it is the most widely distributed tree in North America.)

  8. Instead of a physical get-together, maybe people could send a shot or two of their special views. Or would that overload your computers and take up too much time? I guess on second thought, there could be hard feelings unless you published all the submissions. But if you do decide to do it, I have 2-3 I would love to share with you.

    There are so many photo sharing sites that have optimized software to do it that I’d rather not spend the time to do it all manually. -rc

  9. “You have 14,000 foot mountains there for a backdrop?! -rc”

    As I read someone point out recently, there’s height, and there’s height. There’s height above sea level, which is what I think you mean. Then there’s apparent height, or height above the surrounding plain. I’m not saying that the apparent height of your area is lower than that of New England (or vice versa, for that matter, since I don’t actually know!), but it would be difficult to say without seeing both.

    As far as a “social event” goes, perhaps Jou means “on social media”? Via Flickr or Pinterest, perhaps.

  10. I think you got the better show on your side of the state. The colors aren’t that vibrant on the eastern slope this year.

    What lens do you use?

    I haven’t invested in a “good” lens yet — this was the stock Canon 18-55 zoom. -rc

  11. Really beautiful shots, especially the aspens and the panorama. Someday I’ll take a road trip that will for sure include that road. Someday….

    When? -rc

  12. Nice. You should consider making some of them available as computer wallpaper.

    My concentration is fine art prints, where I can ensure great quality. There are a lot of folks doing wallpaper, and that’s just not my interest. -rc

  13. And now for an opposing point of view…. After living up north for several years, putting up with tree roots ripping up sidewalks, damaging house foundations, branches falling off in storms, sometimes damaging houses and/or cars, and the endless leaves that the law somehow DEMANDS be cleaned up, I was never so happy to get back to Texas where I could see the sky meet the horizon, rather than blocking most of the view. To be sure, the Catskills in New York are pretty with their valleys and mountains, but I’m happy to just visit them. As you say, someone has to live there, and it’s good that it’s you.

    Okay, with that editorial comment, those ARE mighty nice pictures.

    I like it that not everyone wants to live here! Some prefer hot climates like yours (which would kill me), some even prefer colder, or wetter, or whatever. Ocean views are mighty nice too. But this has the right combination of attributes for me, and it’s a good thing that it’s not perfect for everyone. -rc

  14. As beautiful as they are, the pictures don’t quite reflect the magnificence of where you are. My wife Margie and I spent a week hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park several years ago and I am jealous that you get to enjoy that feeling every day of the week. We too have one of our pics hanging in our home and have been asked where we bought it. You’re living the dream Randy.

    Definitely! And yeah, photos never do a place justice. These on-screen photos are nice. The large prints are 10x better. But reality — being there — is at least 10x better than that! -rc

  15. Beautiful pictures. I’ve never had the luxury of living in a place that had “fall”. When I was in California we had Spring, Summer and fog, now here in Arizona we have really Hot and less hot.

    Thank you for the colors.

    I thought Arizona was more like extremely hot and unbearably hot…. -rc

  16. Wow, that’s Colorful….and a good illustration of why I MISS running the Western states. My current Trucking job keeps me mainly north of I-40 and east of I-75 — where most of the people, and traffic, are located.

    Not much color out here, just yet. Saw a single tree turning, in the lowlands of NJ, late last week….and noted a nice outburst of colors in WV yesterday, along the highest points (about 3500′) of the I-77 corridor.

    But I know it won’t be long, as our peak color time is mid to late October….

    Yeah, Colorado is definitely early, thanks to elevation. My house is at 7,500′. We went up to about 9,000′ that day. -rc

  17. The comments above about a photo never being as good as being there has me wondering if you’ve ever tried shooting panoramas. They’re still not nearly the same as being there of course, but they can often do more justice to a landscape than a single shot.

    A bit of hardware is very helpful, and include a panorama head (I use the Nodal Ninja but there are several others) and a tripod. (It’s possible to shoot a panorama without the head and tripod, just hand-holding the camera. However the precision provided by the head and tripod reduces the amount of trimming of the final panorama.)

    Software to stitch the individual shots into the panorama is mandatory. (I use Panorama Factory, but again there are others, e.g., I’m told that Photoshop includes a panorama function.)

    I’m definitely aware of the technique, and the amazing fact that even in a high-resolution art print, you cannot tell where the “seams” are. Truly amazing. I’m just moving one step at a time: I have a demanding day job, and will just have to add in techniques (and tech!) as time allows. That is definitely one thing I’ve already looked at, and will get to “sometime.” -rc

  18. Reminds me of going to British Columbia to visit my mother. Doesn’t matter where, there is nothing as breathtaking as the mountains in the autumn. Beautiful.

  19. Beautiful pics, Randy. Having been raised in NY and schools in CT and MA, I love the fall colors. And congrats to you and Kit on 11 years of living/dealing with each other!
    Of course I will now be hearing John Denver in my head all night!

  20. #750 looks like Hobbiton in the Shire. Same colors. Same mood. And Peter Jackson went all the way to New Zealand to accomplish that! (Albeit, he did it well!)

  21. Really Great pictures of what in my view, is the most beautiful, the southwestern corner, part of a mostly beautiful state. (As I was born in Denver, lived in Cripple Creek, Lakewood, Golden and mostly Grand Junction, I do know some about the state.)

    Here is a FYI to those who may not know: Colorado had Fifty Two Mountains which are over 14,000 feet of elevation.

    Actually, fifty-three. -rc

  22. Nice hat.

    ‘The middle of nowhere’ is equally far from everywhere… 🙂

    A couple years back I purchased a premium subscription for my dying brother-in-law…unfortunately it outlived him (pancreatic cancer…nasty.) But he enjoyed it while he could.

    When I can afford it, I subscribe…unfortunately I don’t expect any sort of turn-around in the economy until at least 2015-18. We’re in a period of major change and none of the ‘old standby’ methods of hiding or fixing social/political problems will work anymore…and no politicians seem capable of seeing that and finding new solutions.

    Sorry to hear Tom didn’t make it. And yeah, I agree the recovery will continue to be slow. As for the hat: it’s a Stetson, though I’m not quite into the “cowboy” style. -rc

  23. Happy Anniversary Randy & Kit!

    Beautiful pictures! I love mountain pictures, but my all time favorite CO picture I’ve seen was an aspen grove after all the leaves had fallen — the carpet of yellow with the contrast of the trees was breathtaking.

  24. I would love to see some of these on a more affordable format, like postcards. Just beautiful but I have a low mostly fixed income.

    I totally understand, but I’m aiming a bit higher. Sorry. -rc

  25. Great pictures. Proof positive that God is the master scene designer. Winter’s coming, though. Hopefully, you’ll share some wintertime pix.

    I don’t see evidence of any “god” here, let alone “proof positive” — just as I don’t see “evidence” of Satan in the photo of molten lava flowing from a volcano. If there was actual concrete evidence of a god involved in creation, you wouldn’t need faith. -rc

  26. Photographer for 55 years and I must say you caught the very essence of the colors of the mountain. Quakies are one of my favorite subjects and these are magnificent. Very well done. Nice picture of the two of you also.

    Thanks, Ace! -rc

  27. Glad to see you got away from the business for a while, away from the ZT and dumb criminals, and got to smell the roses with the missus. I’ve been worked up over enough stories that I’ve wondered why you haven’t cracked yet and started foaming at the mouth. (grin)

    Questions I have:

    1) See any big animals on that trip? My wife loves the Colorado Rockies and the wildlife, and we’ve gotten close to the moose in the parks, bigger than the ones in Maine.

    2) Interesting LACK of colors … on your vehicle! A uniform layer of dirt/mud color, except for the rear window wiper. But I see the taillights and your roof mounted EMT emergency flashers are clear. Was this from driving through mud, or did you get a lot of dust that caked?

    You both look like you’re enjoying yourself! Keep it up!

    1) As I was shooting at one point, I did see something move. I looked up to see a deer crossing the road. One frame captured it. 2) That’s the pretty typical result of a little rain on a dirt road — a fine spray of muddy water that coats everything, especially on the back. I go through the car wash in town fairly often! -rc

  28. Thanks for sharing the great photographs. We have fantastic fall colors in Minnesota also. However, your photos and my recent visit to Wyoming with their golden aspen made me wish I was still living in Colorado.

  29. I’ve always wanted to live out west near the mountains — now I am reminded of why that is. This is some awesome countryside.

    Although, I might be tempted to trace “WASH ME!” on the back window of your car! 😉

    If you lived here, you’d know why no one does that. 🙂 -rc

  30. Love the pics and love your newsletter. Hope to upgrade in the future.

    I have a picture that I won one year during wine festival — original oil — same size/format; it is a view that one gets from one of the local wineries overlooking Okanagan Lake, also fall colours.

  31. And Rick,

    Less than 200 miles to the north of where Randy lives is this awesomly beautiful drive. Almost makes me want to leave the surf, sand and sea of Manhattan Beach, Ca. and return to Grand Junction.

    Colorado National Monument’s 23-mile Rim Rock Drive was built almost entirely using picks, shovels, and sheer muscle strength to remove massive rocks.

    P.S. There are some Fifty mountains in Colo. which are over 14,000 feet

    A comment above notes, “Actually, fifty-three.” I’ve done the drive; one end is less than an hour north, and the other end is two hours north. Definitely worth it. -rc

  32. Beautiful images Randy. Regarding your God comment, who do you suppose put those mountains and trees there, Santa Claus?

    Why so snotty? I think nature put them there, thanks to tectonic activity. Just as science has shown. -rc

  33. When one of those who has been raised (as nearly all “believers” are, and most Atheists were) to believe in their particular god and religion, make comments about THEIR god (like it is the only god around), I always wonder WHICH “god” they are referring to.

    After all, aside from the MANY gods over a Billion people like the Hindus believe in, we humans have, so far, first INVENTED, NAMED and WORSHIPPED 25,000 OTHER gods.

    Something I am thankful for is the percent of we non-believers (most of whom were once believers) is growing at a rapidly growing rate. And so are the number of our organizations. Like “Athests United”, “American Atheists”, “The Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers” and the “Freedom From Religion Foundation”.

  34. Isn’t it interesting HOW people interpret a statement? I noticed that Randy did NOT say that God didn’t put those mountains and trees there, just that it’s not PROOF that God did those thing. Evidence? Sure. Proof? Nope.

    To be fair, while indeed I did not deny the proposition, I did say I did not see evidence or “proof.” Others obviously have other ideas, and that’s a fine thing. -rc

  35. Thanks for posting such gorgeous photos of ‘our’ neck of the woods! You remember my husband Tony, who taught your motorcycle course… he and I live a bit south of you in lovely little Dolores, Colorado. I am stunned and thankful every day for the amazing beauty I am surrounded by. As for the fallen leaves, they make great mulch! Love your canvas gallery print, I’ve been considering doing the same with some of my prints and having seen yours, I love the look. Well done, and thanks again for sharing!

    Thanks, Brenda. My motorcycle course with Tony even made it into Jumbo Joke. The Dolores river canyon is one of my favorite drives. -rc


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