Trip Report - Carson Pass, Fall Color

Falling Color (Matt Pritchard) More photos below.

By Jody Pritchard

Of the thirteen holidays my office grants each year, Columbus Day is likely the most random and welcome of them all. Matt was not so fortunate. He took a precious vacation day, and we enjoyed a three day weekend during the Sierra fall color show featuring some of nature’s most colorful actors – Aspens.

We gave the backpacks a break and opted for some laid-back car camping at Kirkwood Lake, just across from our favorite winter ski destination. Since this was the last weekend the campground was open, we nearly had the place to ourselves. There were a few cars in the lot though, and a walk to the waters edge revealed secluded cabins accessible only by boat. We were green with envy. Something tells us these are not the kind of properties that show up online with the MLS! By the way, if you’re selling, we’re interested.

The Great Sierra Spirit granted us bluebird skies and crisp temperatures – perfect for photographing the aspens which coated the Carson Pass area with rich color. And it didn’t take long for us to discover that we were not alone. Hope Valley was teeming with sightseers eager to get that perfect shot. In fact, the sheer number of tourists and parallel parked vehicles along the roadside reminded us of last year’s visit to Yellowstone! The most memorable members of the crowd included a full motorcycle gang, complete with beards, braids, and bunches of black leather.

The crowds were hefty, but Sorenson’s Resort just past the junction of highways 88 and 89 resembled a shopping mall parking lot during the Holidays. The crowds flock for a reason. It seemed to be the epicenter of the fall color phenomenon. Imagining a more picturesque setting for wandering among the Technicolor trees would be difficult. The individual cabins nestle in aspen groves, complete with front porches adorned with Adirondack chairs, meandering creeks, and piles of firewood. Looking around yielded the very definition of cozy.

While appreciating the aspens was easy, we discovered photographing them was not. Books should be written on this subject. How can something so beautiful in person look so lifeless and cheesy in a photo? We tried backlighting, front lighting, wide angles, macros – you name it. While a few photos make us proud, most we’d like to disown. I wonder if our fellow tourists experienced the same issues… or, maybe we’re just aspiring perfectionists.

Regardless, walking through the flutter and whisper of changing aspen leaves far outweighs a snapshot any day. Mark your calendars for next year, and get thee to the Sierra in early October. You will not be disappointed, and you will likely be in good company.

Questions or comments about this trip report? Let us know.