I’m a sucker for Christmas, especially in the mountain towns when I walk by all the bright lights in the swirling snow. Halloween is another favorite, picking pumpkins from a farmer’s field with that first cold, apple fresh crispness in the air. But late September and early October are far away my favorite time of year.
There’s something about the drama of the tilting light, the golden leaves and the first scent of wood smoke that hits straight to my soul. With the shorter days and looming starkness of the landscape, there’s more mystery out there in the world. There’s a new energy, a quickening pace whispering, “Hurry up, we still have so much to do.”
So what will you do? Here are just a few of my favorite options for leaping into a Colorado fall:
Go to a Broncos Game
Given the title of this column, I’m obviously a sucker for all things “Donkeyville.” If I didn’t spend half my time talking football with my friends, I’m not sure we’d talk at all. But even if you don’t care about football, seeing a Broncos game live is an absolutely beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. There’s a timeless glory to the sea of jerseys, the roar of the crowd and that unbelievably green field. And if you wear the jersey of an opposing player, like Tom Brady or Philip Rivers for example, you’ll make plenty of new friends for sure.
Hike a Ski Hill
My dad used to take us hiking under the ski lifts, once pretending to find the same silver quarter again and again until my brother and I were in a frenzy, searching for our own sack of gold. This time of year, it’s a great way to get in shape for the coming ski season, and it feels like a backstage pass, seeing the runs and the empty chairs before they’re all buried in snow. My favorite part of fall hiking, though, is all the places it helps your mind go.
Spend a Weekend at Devil’s Thumb Ranch
One of America’s cross-country skiing Meccas, Devil’s Thumb has miles of trails with breathtaking views. They are just as fun for running, hiking and mountain biking in the fall. Book a cabin for a couple of October nights with someone you love and a couple of furry friends, and celebrate autumn with a fire, a glass of wine and the honeyed alpenglow of the setting sun.
Drive to Salida
I love the Collegiate Peaks of the Sawatch Range. For years, I could see them floating like icebergs through my in-laws’ kitchen window. Escaping Denver—and I-70—for a sunny U.S. 285 drive to Salida is a fast track to the immense beauty of the Rockies, especially once you’re in the shadow of the peaks that tower over the Arkansas River, and winding your way to a cold beer and burrito on the Benson’s Tavern patio.
Buy a Bag of Fresh Roasted Green Chiles
They’re best from roadside stand on Federal Blvd. Peel ‘em (while wearing latex gloves so you don’t burn whatever you touch next, especially your significant other!) then freeze ’em, and you can make amazing stew and searing heuvos rancheros all winter long.
Swim in a Lake
One of the first date weekends my future wife and I took was to a little place she rented near Lake Granby where I sat on the porch pretending to be a writer in a flannel shirt, while she coaxed sweet melodies from the living room piano. In the afternoon, we walked down for a swim in the clear, bracing water, then dried ourselves in the early autumn sun like two beached seals. I highly recommend one last high-altitude dip before all the lakes freeze over.
Get a Dog
Nothing makes every moment of the day—and Rocky Mountain living in particular—more fun than a furry friend. Dogs are nature’s greatest gift to humans—loyal, always upbeat and ready for every outdoor adventure. They cheer you up when you’re down, make the good times more fun and keep you in shape with all the “walkies” they require. There are plenty of instant pals ready and waiting to improve your life at the local animal shelter. Make a commitment to giving one of them a chance to enjoy the wonders of Colorado, and you’ll thank yourself for years.
Now, you’re ready for it to snow!