To discover Colorado’s finest autumn splendor, follow the state’s most famous photographer to Ridgway.
Back at the car, I steered into town and grabbed a late lunch at Kate’s Place. Virtually everything served in the cafe is made in-house and the quality ingredients transform lunchtime standbys into sublime meals. I wolfed my house-roasted turkey breast on French bread, then shoved off for the evening segment of my tour: County Road 9 (West Dallas Creek Road), which looks like the entrance to Ralph Lauren’s private ranch (the weathered wooden gate reads “Double RL”) but is actually a public thoroughfare that leads to rolling country covered with aspens.
Five miles west of Ridgway, CR 9 snaked through the most idyllic ranchlands I’d ever seen. Fields of cut hay looked like raked Zen gardens, cows foraged for grass on sagebrush-covered hills, and rustic log fences zippered through golden meadows. The dipping sun cast a sultry red glow on the aspens that covered the hillsides, effecting a radical change in mood from the morning’s earnest yellows. Above it all, the serrated edges of the San Juans framed the scene in granite.
The view from CR 9 included more of Sneffels’ neighbors, yet still the peak stood out, and not just because of its 14,150-foot height. Its symmetry made it regal. Mother Nature may have chiseled its neighbors indiscriminately, but Sneffels received more care. A landscapist couldn’t ask for a more dramatic centerpiece on autumn’s table, I thought as I pressed the shutter button.
And then I put the camera down and let my eyes capture the whole glorious scene, a landscape too vast and too beautiful for any viewfinder to encompass.