Grand Mesa National Forest

The Grand Mesa National Forest is described as the largest flat top mountain in the world!  it was the third forest reserve created in the United States.  It is managed by the Forest Service along with the Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests, all three located on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  The Mesa sits at close to 11,000 feet above sea level and about 6,000 feet above surrounding communities like Grand Junction.  I was told that the fall color on the Grand Mesa was spectacular a week ago by a lady I met while doing laundry at the KOA camp in Silt.  Nothing better than a personal recommendation based on experience.

Once you are close to the Mesa you begin to climb and there are enough pull-outs to satisfy an ambitious photographer.  Often you can see a road below you.

Planted in rows, like a garden.

Morning light just peeking over the mountain.

Lots of pull out spots.  How would you like to drive along with us?

Morning light.

Show off!

We came upon a small reservoir.  Had to stop, of course.  It was just the start of our day.  By the end of the day we would have passed this lovely opportunity and not even stopped.

Tom likes grass as a foreground.

Line 'em up!

As photographers know, the dynamic range in a forest such as this can by very wide.  To distract from the shadows all you need is a sun star.  This one is for Rick, our sun star expert.

Whenever you think that Tom has taken more photographs . . . yes, he has.  Many are shot while he takes the 'shotgun' seat and I drive.  My choice!  Still want to drive along?

My passenger looks up.  Click!

I thought of Karen when I looked down on this.  Would make a lovely quilt patter, don't you think.

How about adding a lake to the quilt?

Close up.

Or an emerald lake. . .

How about a lake with an island?  Oh, Karen, so many opportunities here.

Or one with a lake and a mountain?

We need a theme song . . . something like "come drive for Tom" . . .

 On our way to the Observatory, a point on the end of one of the ridges.  It is a 12 mile, mostly decent dirt road.

Taken from the Observatory with my iPhone.

The wide view.

A more narrow view.  The road leaves from the Observatory and hooks up with I-50.  No thanks, not for me.

We pass these every time we go to Grand Junction.  Look closely and you can see a highway with some semi-trucks right below those mountain elements.  Taken from the Observatory.

Elegant entrance to the men's bathroom.  Not so elegant inside (according to Tom).

Dirt road on the way back from the Observatory.

Overlook from the dirt road to the Observatory.

Riding shotgun with Carol on a dirt road can be challenging!  Tom is up for it.

What?  That is not even an orange leaf!

At this point in the day I am asking myself how much more of this gorgeousness I can handle.  Seriously, we have three more weeks chasing fall colors in Colorado.  Down any dirt road . . .

I may be doomed!!!  I sit here blogging and have the biggest grin going on.

We stop at the Visitor's Center.  Tom jumps out with a grin on his face.  Must be special.

Back on the road again.  Pinch yourself.  You could be in the passenger's seat.

Over the edge.

Tom, you are killing me!!!

This fella was quite friendly and came real close (otherwise I would not have captured this image).  Turns out he or she was interested in some food left behind by a previous person in our parking spot.  I have no idea what kind of bird this is.

View from the top of a short, paved hike (life is not too tough).  This is the Land O' Lakes hike.  You can see Island Lake on the left and I believe that is Ward Lake on the right.

If I am reading the map correctly this is Ward Lake with a smaller piece in the back.

Tom's lake view.

To the right of the lakes above.

Afternoon glow starting.  That is pollution in the distance!

Golden Hour is really settling in.

Up close and personal.  I am told that aspen leaves rustle the way they do because their stems are flat, not that their leaves are shaped any special way.  I have no reason to dispute that.

The day was ending.  I was ready to go home.